Welcome True Believers to the first League of Extraordinary Spider-men column hosted by yours truly, Dylan Twipin’ Tano, Comics Bulletin’s resident web head extraordinaire. A lot like mutie Steve Morris’ column X-Wing, each month we are going to be taking a look at the expansive universe that has exploded from a solitary spider bite. I’m talking about the world of Spider-man, or as it has become lately, Spider-men. We’ve got, okay deep breath, Avenging Spider-man, Ultimate Spider-man, Venom, Scarlet Spider, Alpha, Morbius and Superior Spider-man. That’s a month-ful right there, especially with Superior shipping twice a month.
This month continues the theme of change as we have Spocky deciding to go back to college, Venom moved to Philadelphia, another Venom attacked Miles and Scarlet Spider got wolf’d. So Webheads lets swing right into, shall we?
So let’s start off with Marvel’s premier spidey title Superior. We got a wrap up to the Vulture arch as Spock crashed him into the Spider Signal. Wait, where did the spider signal come from? J.J. himself had it erected so he could summon his best pal Spider-man ala Batman in the case of trouble. Of course it was promptly blown up and explained to us readers just how bad of an idea the signal is. Dan Slott is notoriously involved with poking fun at his fan base and I would not be surprised at all if the spot light signal was a joke at the expense of those who thought that Superior was going to take on a Dark Knight tone like it did with the Back in Black storyline.
We also get to learn a bit about Doc Ock’s life pre brain swap, most likely to elicit some sympathy. Vulture’s crew, as it turns out, was made of children. After wantonly beating several up, Spock learns that the horrid truth and we get a tidbit of Octavious’ life as a child where his father would abuse him at the drop of the hat. For the first time since the Sinister Six issue we see Ock flip a switch and ruthlessly attack his foe with malicious intent.
I’ve also been reading the Masterworks Volume One of Amazing Spider-man side by side with Slott’s Superior and I’ve noticed a few similarities. Peter wasn’t always the Parker we know and love. When Ditko was at the helm, we had an arrogant and cynical spider not unlike the Spider-man we have now. We are also getting a lot of short one to two issue story arcs, which mirror the early issues. If Slott wasn’t such a Spidey-phile I’d say it was pure coincidence, but I’m inclined to believe otherwise. As the months progress I’ll probably approach this thought a little more thoroughly, but for now I’m just going to put it out there. Ditko wrote Peter with a lot of “I’ll show thems” and “Who they think they ares,” which isn’t but a hop and a skip from Spock’s villainously overtoned dialogue.
Also all of that was just one issue … holy crap. So Superior comes out twice a month as previously mentioned and the second issue focuses heavily on Ock as Peter. I wonder if this is going to become a regular thing, instead of squeezing both into each issue, they’ll use one issue a month for each. I hope so, that would be a nice little change. After all, a big complaint from fans was the fact that Amazing Spider-man wasn’t just about well … Spider-man, it was also about Peter. In his own way Slott is giving fans just what they wanted. Octavious finds out that Peter never finished his doctorate while everyone else wonders why he is talking like a super villain. Outraged, Ock immediately enrolls at Empire State. Seriously, this is like Peter’s life on fast forward as Spock is going through the same motions we watched Pete go through as he grew up before our eyes. Of course the spider makes an appearance as Massacre breaks out and promptly goes back to being all Massacre-y. Also, for those wondering when Norman Osborn would come back well, look no further. He’s been missing since ASM #697 and he finally pops up at the tail end of this issue.
Throughout both issues, Slott continues to deliver some great dialogue and character interaction. It has never been much of a secret that Slott liked Doc Ock, but now that he is getting a chance to really run with one of his ideas it has really been clicking. The character feels different. As awkward as Ock has always been, in Peter’s body that arrogant confidence finally has a face to match it and it shows. Both Stegman and Camuncoli drew the issues with Spocky in more bulked up and powerful poses. Since Ock is use to a bigger body it is a really nice touch to see the artists get it and really run with it. It is new and refreshing and as you read along you can feel the pace starting to rise into a crescendo. Also, Stegman is having a ball drawing these first couple of issues and I’m actually not looking forward to Ramos coming back. Stegman seems to be a bit better suited for this particular kind of book. I loved Ramos’s slender characters on ASM, but Stegman really has the feel for Spock at this point and it has resulted in a beautiful book.
Enough about the original webhead for now. We’ve got a whole webby family to talk about now! At the end of Venom #30 we left Thompson picking up and moving himself to Philadelphia. As good as the month was, Venom #31 was by far and away my favorite. It felt like a genuine Spider-man story, alternating funny moments, such as when Flash goes out as The Mother Superior of Punishment, with the sorrowful, or we find Flash being stood up by Betty before he leaves. Bunn has been doing a wonderful job this series, making Venom equal parts Spider-man but combining the theatrics of Batman to terrify low level criminals. Declan Shalvey should get a big round of applause of this issue as well. Declan does an amazing job using shadows in this issue to convey mood as we see Flash getting dark shadows around him in tense moments and switching back to a less foreboding feel during joking moments like when Flash meets his neighbors. The issue has a great feel to it, and even now as I have this month’s releases piled on my desk I am tempted to flip through it again. That is the biggest praise I can give a book.
Everything wasn’t so great this month unfortunately. Alpha: Big Time came out this month and while it was great to see a humbled Andy Maguire I still can’t find much I like about the character. It isn’t just the character himself, who immediately dives back into trouble as he apparently punches a dude’s head off after getting 10% of his power back. The writing of Fialkov and the art of Plati felt terribly inconsistent. Especially near the middle of the book when Ocko-Parker arrives to MacGuffin Andy his powers back. The art starts off alright, the opening scene in the cafeteria feeling very minimalist with few lines and broad open panels, but toward the middle it seems to lose focus and the issue suffers from it. When Andy is talking to his Principal for instance the difference in jaw proportion to neck proportion is astounding. Unfortunately it just wasn’t a very good issue all around. Andy comes across as a guy who doesn’t seem to really have learned his lesson the right way, acting more like a teen who has been sent to his room as opposed to a guy who has been humbled by his experience. Also, oddly enough, the art looks great during the last third of the book after Alpha gets his power
Hopping on the train at the mildly enjoyable stop comes Scarlet Spider #14, which seems to be a book that is just getting a lot of failed Spider-man plot lines attached to it. It isn’t a terrible thing. It’s just noticeable. Chris Yost is a stellar writer and the opening pages where Kaine is lying on the ground, bleeding to death and reciting Psalms 23 is particularly poignant. The plot is of course that a werewolf gang from Mexico is after Aracely and eviscerates Kaine in the process. I love comics.
Kaine isn’t done however as he accepts the power of “The Other.” Yup! After several issues of Kaine calling himself a monster he finally looks like one with multiple eyes going up his forehead, a spider emboldened on his chest and crazy sparse hair sticking all over his body. The moments where he is confronting the other are handled really well by Yost. He goes in and peels some layers back of the Kaine onion without falling into a terrible overly morose vibe. I’m interested to see if they keep the whole man-spider look going or if he’ll change in and out of it like some kind of were-spider.
Morbius and Ultimate Spider-man rounded out the month and I have to admit Miles is winning me over. He’s really exemplifying the torn life of being a hero and a kid at the same time as Venom brings the fight to his doorstep, injuring Mr. Morales in the process. We get to see Miles go into kick ass mode though so it was worth it. Admittedly … they used the venom stingers again … perhaps Bendis will try something new soon. Or not.
Keatinge’s Morbius is very tenderly trying to find a solid footing between the overly whiny and being a badass living vampire. I’m hoping it is the later as Michael finally gave into his bloodlust at the end of the issue in a nice payoff. My main concern is that Morbius isn’t the type of character who can typically support his own book. I can’t say I’ve ever met a rabid Morbius fan. The concept is fun, taking Michael and making him an aimless drifter allows for the character to deal with a harsh environment. I hope Keatinge keeps him in this area for a while because it’s a newish take on a anti-hero.
The world of Spider-men is in a state of change. Just about every character is going through some major change at the moment. To quote Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changing.” In not a single series does the real Peter Parker don the tights and sling the webs (Well in the kids comics he does, and the Ultimate Spider-man cartoon). This is the new status quo for webslingers everywhere.
Best of the Best:
- Venom #31
Worst of the worst:
- Alpha: Big Time #1