Sunday, November 20, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #668: "Spider-Island" Part 2

***** (five of five stars)

Favorite Quote #1:  "Why in all my years in this city, I never thought I'd -- Parker?!  With Spider-Powers?!  Now I have seen everything."  -- JJJ, Jr.

Favorite Quote #2:  "You were in there with Number Six, huh?  So?  Guy?  Girl?  Bigger than a breadbox?"  "Their identity's a secret.  And I'm very good at keeping secret identities...Peter."  "Touché."  -- Peter and Reed, discussing the mysterious occupant of Lab #6

Shang-Chi helps Peter to his feet, after he got walloped last issue by the Avengers, who mistook him for one of the rampaging Spideys causing trouble in Bryant Park.  Luke Cage sends Peter away, given that the Avengers and FF can't be worried they'll accidentally pummel him (again) as they try to contain the riot.  Dejected, Peter makes his way from the park, where he runs into Norah Winters, who's trying to film herself while reporting on the riot.  She asks Pete to play cameraman for her, but MJ arrives and suggests that Pete do something.  She points out Carlie, who's nearby, taking down some rioters, and Pete gets her drift.  He gives MJ the camera and she records him as he calls on everyday New Yorkers with Spider-Powers to help the Avengers and FF defeat the rioters; he then leads the charge of those who answer the call into Bryant Park.  Meanwhile, in a conversation with his mysterious benefactor, the Jackal reveals that the goal of the riot was spreading the infection.  He then fills Spider-King with spider embryos to help spread the disease outside New York (as we see in "Venom" #6).  After the battle, JJJ, Jr. quarantines New York and asks Horizon Labs to take the lead on investigating the disease.  At the labs, Peter runs into Mr. Fantastic, who's working with the mysterious colleague "Number Six" on a cure.  Reed takes a sample of Peter's DNA and refuses Peter's offer to help, since Number Six is an expert on Parker DNA.  (Dun-dun-DUN!)  Instead, Modell assigns him to go through the NYPD's superhuman evidence locker to retrofit the equipment there for JJJ, Jr.'s "Anti-Spider Patrol."  Meanwhile, Anti-Venom is going around town taking away people's Spider-Powers.  Carlie meets Pete in the locker and reveals to him her hypothesis that the Jackal is behind the infection.  Feeling dumb for not figuring it out himself, he joins Carlie and they go to one of the Jackal's old HQs, on ESU's campus, where they're watched from the shadows...

The Review
I loved this issue.  Loved, loved, loved.  Slott just gives us a damn exciting story.  It was one of those stories where I didn't want to race to the end of the book, because the exciting part wasn't the cliff-hanging ending but the actual story proper.

The Good
1) As a continuity nerd, I was impressed by the references to the tie-in issues.  We saw Norah's conversation with Peter in "Spider-Island:  Deadly Foes," Shang-Chi joining the riot in Bryant Park in "Spider-Island:  Deadly Hands of Kung Fu" #1, and Venom taking on Spider-King in "Venom" #6.  (We even get some background when we see the Jackal injecting Spider-King with the spider embryos he hatches in that issue.)  By showing how those scenes fit into the larger puzzle, it does give you a sense how wide-spread the "Spider-Pocalype" is.  Part of the problem of "Fear Itself" is that the events happening in the tie-in issues were  never seen in the main title; at best, someone made passing reference to them.  By using scenes from the main story in the tie-in issues, the editors are doing a great job of making us feel immersed in the story.  Seriously, applause!

2) On a similar note, JJJ, Jr.'s speech goes a long way of establishing the seriousness of the situation.  I immediately felt the tension as he's speaking, with Ramos giving us excellent images of the quarantine going into place.  Again, it was part of what created the excitement in this issue because it gives you a sense of how totally out of control the situation could get.

3) I though Slott did a great job in using the premise of this event to further the characterization of his cast.  I loved the fact that Peter, who is the epitome of an unsung hero, gets to give the speech that rallies everyday New Yorkers to fight the bad guys.  Awesome!  (Plus, how great is it that he gets to be Spidey without his mask?  Seriously, I can't believe no one thought of this twist before, because it's just so mind-boggling to see Peter swinging through the streets of Manhattan without a mask!)  Returning to characterization, Slott does some really great work here with Carlie and Peter.  I loved how honest he makes their concern for each other, using it to show how close they are.  I've never been a fan of Carlie, but she's really growing on me by leaps and bounds in this arc.  I love that Slott has her, and not Peter or Reed, figure out the Jackal's connection to the events, and that the fact that she's a better Spidey than Peter is inspires him to step up his game.  Slott has used the idea of Peter more seriously embracing his responsibility as Spidey as a major theme lately, and I like how he carries it over here.

4) Speaking of characterization, thank you, Dan Slott, for not giving us the nagging MJ we've seen WAY too often lately but an inspiring MJ who doesn't exhibit a bit of jealous when she compliments how amazing Carlie, who's using her Spider-Powers to fight crime, is.

5) One of the things that I love about Slott is that he never lets a loose end fall.  I love that he's giving us a teaser of the user of Lab #6 at Horizon Labs, particularly given that the individual is familiar with Parker DNA.  Is it Tony Stark?

6) Ramos is on FIRE here.  The riot scenes are spectacular.  Seriously.  He's a major reason why this issue is so exciting, because he gives us such kinetic depictions of the action that you feel like you're actually in the middle of the event. 

8) This issue is funny.  Seriously.  Slott injects a lot of humor into this issue, with Peter "reminding" MJ about how Norah's a reporter for the "Daily Bugle" when MJ suggests in front of Norah that he "do something" and the exchange highlighted in the "Favorite Quote" #2 above.  Slott's always had a great ear for Peter's quips.  A Spidey book, no matter how grim, should be fun, and Slott gets that.

7) I was wondering how Slott was going to de-Spider-ize the population of New York, and I hadn't even thought of Anti-Venom.  Genius.  Of course, I'm now worried for Eddie...

The Bad
Pet Peeve #1:  At no point does Peter, in his civilian garb, fight the Jackal, despite what the cover says!

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