Editor's Note: Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #2 arrives in stores tomorrow, July 29.
"We Need a Hero"
Marvel's "Dark Reign" event has yielded some so-so plots across their line of comics, occasionally leading to interesting explorations of morality and authority, but often just being an excuse for bad guys to cackle with glee at being in charge. Luckily, this miniseries seems to fall into the former category, at least so far. Brian Reed is using the occasion of having Venom posing as Spider-Man to explore what will happen when a so-called superhero is completely amoral. And the results are pretty fun, in a nasty way.
As of the second issue, Venom-Spidey has left the corpse of a stripper in Mayor J. Jonah Jameson's bed, and sparked a gang war, just as a means of messing with the man who funded his origin as the Scorpion, way back in the Stan Lee/Steve Ditko days. At the same time, a conglomeration of villains that he has wounded (usually by biting off one of their limbs) is gathering and planning against him, although the twist here is that they are led by a psychiatrist who calls himself the Redeemer and wears a Punisher-esque skull mask, intending to not just bring Spider-Man to justice, but to cure his mental illness, and, yes, redeem him.
This last bit is pretty enjoyable, with a good portion of the issue spent on a group therapy session in which the goofy villains complain about getting humiliated, with each one funnier than the last. There's a hippo who was evolved to a human-like state by the High Evolutionary, a Nazi scientist who wears a wolf costume, and best of all, a stand-in for Watchmen's Doctor Manhattan named Doctor Everything, who is participating in the therapy in hopes of re-learning human emotions. He's red instead of blue, sports a "Censored" bar over his naked genitalia, and has removed his own arm so he could fit in with the group.
There's a lot of that kind of humor here, making the book a fun read. And Chris Bachalo's art really finishes the equation, filling pages with exciting, detailed visuals, interesting panel layouts, and a lot of hilarious expressions. He pulls off some nice action, throwing in stuff like Venom-Spidey pausing in the middle of a fight to kiss a pretty girl. And he makes Venom seem pretty scary, looking like a fairly normal Spider-Man at one instant and a toothy, slavering monster the next.
But surprisingly, it's the writing that wins the day here. Reed is having fun with the idea of villain-as-hero, and it's nice to see him treat the character as having a good time being bad without much in the way of angst. It should be interesting to see how it plays out. If we're stuck with this status quo, it's good that we'll be able to get some decent stories out of it.
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