He's been a high-school bully and one of the few people to stand by the embattled Spider-Man, but now Flash Thompson is taking on a whole new role... he's going off to fight in Iraq. An upcoming storyline in The Amazing Spider-Man shows one of the web-slinger's original classmates joining the army in a very special episode of Peter Parker's adventures. But will Thompson make it out alive? For now, writer Marc Guggenheim (Eli Stone, Green Lantern) isn't saying. The only thing that's certain is that the comic is a respectful look at the experience of being a soldier in Iraq — early copies have already been distributed to soldiers in the field, and they've already written Guggenheim fan mail. Artist Barry Kitson (whose pencils are, characteristically, lovely to look at) put a lot of work into making all the army gear and other details look accurate and convincing. And it looks like Spidey himself winds up over there.
Guggenheim makes a big point of saying, in an interview with the L.A. Times, that he chose to put Flash in Iraq, rather than Afghanistan, because people always show soldiers in Afghanistan to avoid political overtones. Guggenheim didn't want to do a political story, per se, but he also felt like U.S. soldiers in Iraq are underexposed in popular media. I'm not sure how I feel about these sorts of "very special" stories, like the spate of AIDS comics in the early 1990s. It would be better if Flash Thompson hadn't been such a cipher for so long — he was Peter Parker's enemy, but then he became more mature (after fighting in Vietnam, actually) and then he and Peter became friends. And more recently, Flash suffered a weird and somewhat convenient case of amnesia, which made him revert to bullying Peter Parker again. But eventually the amnesiac Flash became Peter's friend again, and even helped hide Parker when he was on the run after the huge "Civil War" storyline. And now he's randomly going off to war. I barely know who this guy is. On the other hand, the pencils (over at the Times site) do look amazing. And there's something cool about seeing the normally New York-based Spidey in a different, even grittier setting. [LA Times]