Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artists: Mark Buckingham (p), Wayne Faucher (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Spider-Man taking the flag that was left behind by the mystery woman at the end of last issue to man who present at the site of a horrific chemical spill in India, that left hundreds dead, and the American company who committed this act got off by paying a fine. We then discover the mystery woman is a goddess who has come to earth to seek vengeance upon the people who killed her worshippers, and she has visited Spider-Man seeking his help. We then join this goddess as she confronts the shady owners of the chemical company, and she finds that the chemical spill wasn't an accident but rather it was the testing of a new chemical agent. We then see Spider-Man arrives on the scene in time to figure out how utterly evil these people are, and we see the lead villain has armed himself with the deadly chemical agent, and is attempting to kill his attackers with it. However during the fight we see the man is accidentally soaked from head to toe in his own chemical agent, and instead of killing him outright, the chemical merges with him and he becomes a sentient virus (don't you just love comic book science). The book ends the this new super-virus getting away, and oddly enough Spider-Man acts like he's accomplished something.
I'm not quite sure about this issue, as there are elements that I found quite enjoyable, such as Spider-Man's opening conversation with Mister Singh, and the mystery woman/goddess proved to be a very interesting ally for Spider-Man to interact with. On the other side of the equation though, we have a villain who is a paper thin evil doer who one expects to see twirling the ends of that weird looking mustache he's sporting. Even worse is the "oh no I'm accidentally been exposed to my own deadly chemicals, and instead of being killed instantly I've gained superpowers" scene that we are treated to in this issue. I hope Paul Jenkins doesn't have plans to use this villain again, as frankly this character's creation is not Paul Jenkins' finest hour, and using him again would only serve to remind me of this moment, when Paul Jenkins threw all creative thought out the window, and paraded out a scene that was tired and clichéd when Stan Lee was busy co-creating the Fantastic Four. There's fun moments in this issue, but there's also scenes where I'm left wondering if Paul Jenkins is even trying to hide the fact that he's pulling ideas out of retirement, hoping we won't notice how utterly familiar they seem.
The one thing that I'll continue to credit Paul Jenkins for is that out of all the writers currently working on Spider-Man, he's the only one who has perfectly captured the character of Peter Parker. I mean his take on the character is self depreciating, without taking on a woe is me approach to the various pitfalls he encounters. His version is awkward when it comes to dealing with other people, but he doesn't come across as socially inept. Now looking at this issue one could point out that Peter Parker's in costume for all but the final three pages of this issue, and as such I'm singing Paul Jenkins' praises on an issue where he doesn't show off this particular skill. However, the nice thing about Paul Jenkins writing is that he gives one a look at what's going through Peter's mind even when he's dressed for action, and as such while the outward dialogue reflects the more outgoing Spider-Man personality, the inner thoughts still reflect Peter Parker. As such we get a fun little scene where Peter figures out he's viewed as a bleeding heart in the super hero community, and this explains why he's the sucker everyone contacts when they need a helping hand. We also get some interesting thoughts on how his spider-sense actually works.
Mark Buckingham is a great artist, and every time I read a story about Paul Jenkins being given a new Spider-Man title I'm a bit saddened by the idea that it does look like Mark Buckingham is being left out in the cold. I realize that Humberto Ramos would bring a sizeable fan base, and that his fans swear up and down that his highly stylized work is perfect for the high energy exploits of Spider-Man. However, Mark Buckingham is a wonderful artist when it comes to detailing the out-of-costume moments of the story, and while his action scenes may not be flashy, they detail the action in a clear, easy to follow manner. He also does a wonderful job of delivering the more surreal aspects that show up in Paul Jenkin's writing, as the shot of Spider-Man's joining of minds after he's hit with the liquid plague is a lovely piece of art. The art also does some strong work on the more comedic aspects of the material, from the opening scene where Spider-Man gets off a rather risqué line when he arrives in the home of Mister Singh, to the fact that the villain's weapon of choice is a super-soggy 2000. I do have to ask if the liquid plague is suppose to be dripping from the roof in that one scene where Spider-Man is creeping along the roof toward the villain?
There's some fun moments in this issue, but when the dust settles I couldn't help but be a little confused by what exactly Spider-Man believed he had accomplished here. I mean the final page tries for a happy ending, but truth be told all that Spider-Man efforts looked to have accomplished is the creation of a dangerous threat. His effort didn't expose the group that engaged in the inhuman testing of a chemical agent on civilian population, and one also has to ask why Spider-Man didn't make any effort to capture the villain as he made his escape. There's also the simple fact that the creation of the sentient virus felt like Paul Jenkins had given up any effort at being creative, as I've seen this super-villain creation scene play out dozens of time before. Now the opening conversation with the yoga master was fun, and the goddess that Spider-Man teams up with is a pretty interesting character, but in the end this book simply didn't have enough good points to make me overlook its weaknesses.
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