ďSpider-Man: The Other--Evolve or Die Part Nine: Evolution"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr. (p), Joe Pimentel (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Finally! With the ninth chapter of "The Other," Straczynski decides itís about time that someone tells us what the bloody thing is actually about, and it turns out to be pseudo-shamanic babble. Curled up in his massive but evidently invisible egg pod, Spider-Man has a near-death vision in which he apparently meets Spiders Man from Alex Rossí Earth X, who then explains the point of the crossover. In tiresome, bludgeoning, detail. Not only is it a horrible iceberg-sized lump of exposition (and more on that below), but the imagery used is woefully misapplied; JMS appears to be going for some kind of literalisation of the ďanimal withinĒ idea and as such has Deodato set the dream-vision-thing in a wooded glade, fitting in nicely with the ideas about nature put forward in the dialogue. However, the spider that bit Peter was, if anything, an urban animal, and as such, the conceit comes across more as something shoe-horned in than a natural (pun intended) fit. Perhaps Iím thinking too hard about this, but if Straczynskiís going to aim for depth by invoking concepts such as totem animals and shamanic spirits, they need to be thought through a bit more thoroughly. This big infodump isnít only conceptually flawed; it plods along in such an exhaustive and pedantic way, hammering away at this whole ďare you spider, or man?Ē thing for so long that Peterís apparent resurrection, the dramatic high point of the comic, and perhaps the crossover as a whole (although to say that "The Other" has any high points would probably count as a defamation of the very concept of a high point), is given ridiculously short thrift. It would be nice to see more reactions from Spideyís friends, family and teammates, but what we get are a couple of hugs, then itís straight to dinner as if nothing has happened. If the creators want this to come across as an important dramatic moment, then they need to give it time to properly sink in, especially as thereís an implication that thereís a sinister edge to Spideyís miraculous return. Chatting with Iron Man about costume improvements does not constitute drama as far as Iím concerned.
Not helping matters one jot is the slightly scrappy art in this issue, which rather fails to convey the appropriate feelings; Deodatoís figures are too stiff and lifeless for the joy and surprise of Peterís return to come across effectively, and the dream-vision-thingie is, as mentioned above, visually bland and unimaginative. As I was writing my Iron Man: The Inevitable review the other day, I wondered what Marvel titles Frazer Irving could be best employed on, and he would have done a fantastic job of this storyline, particularly the more horrific and mystical aspects. However, given that Marvel have put Mike Wieringo on a story about death and the bestial side of human nature, and bother to employ Pat Lee at all, I canít be surprised by their odd artistic decisions.
Itís nice that some point to this mess has finally emerged, but the crossover has hardly improved as a result. The writing has a clumsy pace as Straczynski desperately tries to make up for time wasted following dead-end plot points concerning Morlun and That Robot Guy, and the new ideas introduced arenít particularly compelling. This ďman or monsterĒ thing is better suited to Wolverine or the Hulk than Spider-Man, and furthermore Straczynski and his colleagues have so far failed to make this iteration of the concept stand out from the other times it has been applied to this character (including by JMS himself). All in all, this issue comes across as a last grab for interest and relevance in a painfully superficial storyline. Couldnít they have just given Spidey a new costume and a couple of new powers without dragging us through all this bilge?
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