Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Archaic Spider-Man Reviews: Number 59

Ooh, fear the Emo Spider!

Ah, the black suit. I really liked the first few symbiote suit tales way back before the origin of Venom, but I've never really got the appeal of the normal black suit that Spidey wore after he got rid of the original Secret Wars symbiote. In terms of adding to the story or character, it only really worked in stories like Death of Jean DeWolfe or Kraven's Last Hunt. These were big stories that dealt with the deaths of Spider-Man regulars, and they had a dark tone that complimented the look of the black suit.

Well, with Aunt May shot and dying, and Steve Rogers dead as a... dead person, this would seem, on face value, to be a good time to break out the black threads. Lets just hope that J. Michael Straczynski handles it with his usual skill, and that Jeph Loeb... is more like Long Halloween and less like anything he has ever done for Marvel ever. (see any commentary by Max on Loeb's Hulk)

Read on, you crazy diamonds!

The first slot this week is Back in Black 1/5, and JMS gets going fast. The first page is Peter, MJ and an injured Aunt May on a blood red background. Ron Garney, the penciler, did a good job on this tableaux; the emotions of the characters are perfectly realised. Then comes the most badass double page I have read in quite a while; Peter lays down his Aunt, runs outside and throws a frigging Jeep at the sniper, all while shouting NO MORE! Seriously, the only way you could make that more awesome is if the Jeep was on fire. Fire makes everything better.

Anyway, Peter swings May to the hospital out of costume and leaves her dying on a bed. His plan is to let MJ and the doctors look after his aunt, while he... hits a lot of people. Peter finds a damaged rifle scope lens at the scene of the shooting (after webbing up a random cop) and starts tracking down the sniper. This involves breaking into a warehouse and brutally beating a bunch of gun runners, culminating in the interrogation of their leader.

Wow, apparently grief and anger has made Peter's body go through a new mutation, making him look like a retarded shark. Either that, or the artist fucked up, because Peter has messed up cheekbones, a massive neck and a bad case of Young Blood's disease (Linkara's name for the abject lack of eyes). There's something seriously wrong with his nose, too. The crook is evidently so freaked out by Peter's messed up face he spills the beans, and, in the pay-off ending, Peter goes and recovers his black suit, vowing to kill everyone responsible for Aunt May's injuries. Ok, this is a pretty cool moment, but Peter has set out to avenge loved ones before and chickened out so many times, it's hard to take it seriously. Still, Straczynski delivered what I hoped for – the beginning of a fairly mindless revenge story.

The second slot here is part of Jeph Loeb's Fallen Son series dealing with the death of Steve Rogers, Depression.

Peter's in the neighbourhood graveyard (seriously, everyone seems to be buried in the same place in Marvel) talking to his uncle's grave, when he senses the Rhino nearby, and tackles him. In the carnage, Rhino stumbles backwards and crushes a grave – his mother's grave. I quite liked this moment, Spidey jumping in like he always does but misjudging it completely and making a real mess of it. Of course, the Rhino is angry...

Holy shit, what happened to the Rhino? His eyes are melting, his head looks like it's held on by string and he has a weird circular mark (on his right... his right bicep? I can't tell what part of him that is, but his wrist is coming out of it). It looks like someone forgot to put a coaster under their drink. Wait, I think that's his shoulder? His right hand is bigger than his shoulder or his head? This is a train wreck, and his weird angle tops it off, because he looks like he's falling over.

Ugh. Anyway, Having his ass kicked by Rhino reminds Spidey of... having his ass kicked by the Hulk. Back then he was saved by Captain America, but this time he saves himself using a very similar combo of attacks to those Cap used. This is quite a touching moment, really, as the memory of Cap's strength and determination give Spidey the strength to fight on. Bless.

It turns out that Wolverine was watching the whole fight, having followed Spidey. Peter leaves to be alone on the George Washington Bridge, but Logan follows him, and they have what could almost be called a genial conversation on the nature of grief. It's a little heavy handed and clunky, as well as strange that Spidey is essentially being taught about grieving – he's a grandmaster at it. That said, as far as talky endings go, it could have been a lot worse. In fact, Loeb has done ok with this story in general – what the hells going on here? *checks credit page* 'From an idea by J. Michael Straczynski'

Ah, well that explains it.

The final slot is the first part of The Strange Case Of... I'm not dicking about, that's what it's called. It starts with Spidey in his classic togs tackling a robber... hang on a second, this is a Back in Black story! Something fishy is indeed going on – this is a copycat Spider-Man. Unfortunately, this is hardly the first time Spidey has had imitations running around, so it loses a bit of the impact. How about the Clone Saga? That dude that the Angelo Fortunato Venom killed in the first Marvel Knights arc (Awesome moment)? Or the aforementioned Kraven's Last Hunt? Variety is the spice, guys.

So the copycat was recruited by some shady guy and given Spidey-powers and a costume, and so on. He gets arrested, so Spidey (the real one... probably) pays him a visit to find him horribly mutated. By mutated, I mean he has some random brown goo all over his crotch with random arms coming out of it. Well... it's different, I guess. Anyhoo, Spidey runs the mutated guy to Reed Richards and the hospital, while a group of cops try and lay a trap, and fail hard. In fact, there doesn't seem to be a point for the inclusion of this except the filling up of a page. There's more filler after as Peter takes a sample of fluid to Curt Conners so he can analyse it. Since the greatest scientist in the world is already working on it, this is a bit like flogging a dead horse, and it reeks of a writer filling space. It's not that this is bad writing; it isn't. It's just lazily plotted, and I know a thing or two about laziness. The issue ends on a high though, as the shady bad guy is revealed to be Calvin Zabo, aka Mister Hyde, being all nonchalantly badass.

As for the artwork, this is a pretty good representative of the issue; most of the panels are fine in general with a few very odd bits. In this example, most of the perspective is very well observed, especially the background, but there is something very wrong with Spidey's right arm and leg. Kinda disappointing really, because it's very close to being very good art.

Well, that was AstonSpid numbah 59. Next Issue, Spidey continues on his quest for vengeance, deals with even more copy-cats and has a bust up with the Sandman. Till then, g'night.

-Note: This fortnightly feature usually comes out every second thursday or friday; because I was out of the country I only got to the comic yesterday and so it's about 5 days late. Sorry to my legions of fans out there! On a side note, if you enjoy a review or not, please do comment or give feedback, because it helps us write better stuff (this goes for all posts on the site). Cheers.

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