Monday, November 28, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #672: "Spider-Island" Part 6

***** (five of five stars)

Favorite Quote #1:  "YOWZA!  Now that's what I call a Spider-Woman!"  "Standing right here."  "Oops." -- Thing, (the real) Spider-Woman, and Thing, observing MJ's entrance

Favorite Quote #2:  "Ewww.  Stretchy neck.  That really freaks me out."  "No, it doesn't.  You've seen it a billion times."  "So?  You and Spider-Man?"  "Clone.  Just go with it." -- Kaine, Peter, Reed, and Peter, commenting on Peter's appearance at the side of Spider-Man

Favorite Quote #3:  "Wait.  You can't call 'dibs.'"  "Why not?  Why should you always get the best of everything?"  "Can't believe there were times I asked Aunt May for a little brother."  -- Spidey, Kaine, and Spidey, commenting on Kaine calling "dibs" on the stealth suit

Favorite Quote #4:  "C'mon, partner!  Parker Brothers away!"  "That is not our catchphrase.  We'd get sued."  -- Pete and Kaine, again with the banter

Favorite Quote #5:  "Hey, idiot.  Spider-Man never made you special.  Being Peter Parker makes you special!  So nerd up!  Be clever.  Build something!  Get us out of this!"  -- MJ, telling Pete to get his ass in gear and save the day

Favorite Quote #6:  "You said we needed a distribution system?  I have an app for that."  -- Spidey telling Reed he's using the octobots to distribute the cure

Favorite Quote #7:  "Ah!  Not liking this!  Every time this many heroes show up...someone always dies!  Usually a third-guy-from-the-right like me!"  "Focus, Gravity!  No one is dying today!"  "Well, not me!  I've got a brand new baby girl to come home to!"  "Why'd you have to say that, Luke?  Now you've jinxed it!"  -- Gravity, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, discussing why "Fear Itself" sucked

The issue begins with a different perspective on the ending of "Venom" #8, with a conversation between the Secretary of Defense and Steve Rogers' pilot narrating Steve and Venom's battle against the Queen, Venom "killing" the Queen, and the Queen being resurrected as an 28-storey-tall mutated tarantula calling herself "Spider-Queen."  At Horizon Labs, Reed and the Horizon Labs employees are attempting to enter Lab Six after Spidey's battle with the Tarantula.  Spidey has Kaine switch clothes with him (hoping a "half out of it" Eddie Brock doesn't see him unmask) so he doesn't have to explain to the Horizon Labs employees why Spider-Man is standing next to a "scruffier, longer-haired clone version of Peter Parker."  Before Reed et al. can enter, the perimeter alarm sounds.  They rush to investigate, finding MJ, who has led the people who had taken refuge at Our Lady of Saints Church to the safety of Horizon Labs.  Everyone observes that she's the only person left at Stage Two, and Reed hypothesizes it's "from all the years of being so...close...with Mr. Parker."  (Heh.)  They all then return to Lab Six, where they encounter Spider Man and an em-boxer-ed Pete, who sends everyone away so he and Spidey can build an "anti-Queen" suit.  In reality, Pete gives Kaine his stealth suit to block the Spider-Queen's sonic scream and the two head to confront her.  Along the way, they run into Madame Web, who informs Pete that the Spider-Queen is a god now, feeding off the Web of Life.  She reminds Pete that she has foreseen him killing the Spider-Queen, though he insists, as he and Kaine continue on their journey, he'll find another way.  The assembled Marvel Universe heroes protecting the various Spider-Sense Jammers observe the Queen's transformation and subsequent rampage and head to engage her.  Spidey and Kaine get there first, but Pete gets thrown at a wall by the Spider-Queen.  He's saved by MJ, who's with the assembled heroes as they arrive on the scene.  MJ encourages Pete to "nerd up," telling him that the heroes can handle the Spider-Queen but only he can save the day.  Pete has a brain wave and brings MJ to the superhuman evidence locker, where he retrieves Doc Ock's octobots.  The assembled heroes take on the Spider-Queen while MJ and Spidey head to the Empire State Building with the octobots.  Pete puts on Doc Ock's control helmet and dispatches the octobots first to Horizon Labs, where they fill up tubes of the cure, and then throughout the city to begin injecting the mutated tarantulas.  The assembled heroes continue battling the Spider-Queen, and Spidey tells Cap, who's surprised by the arrival of the octobots, that he and the assembled heroes have got to hold the line while Spidey inoculates all the mutated tarantulas.  The Spider-Queen begins losing powers as Pete takes more and more mutated tarantulas off the Web of Life, with MJ protecting him as he does so (and quietly telling him she loves him, which he doesn't hear).  Ms. Marvel and Kaine observe that the Spider-Queen is weaker and, using a move she developed with Spidey, Ms. Marvel hurls Kaine at the Spider-Queen.  He uses his stinger thingees to fly right through her, killing her.  Pete and MJ enjoy a moment on top of the Empire State Building, with Pete observing that everyone got to walk a mile in his shoes and MJ correcting him, telling him that they only got the wall-crawling parts, with everything that matters still being unique to him.  (Awww...)

The Review
So...much...awesomeness.  It was hard not to compare this event to "Fear Itself," given that it did everything "Fear Itself" didn't do.  First, Slott did a masterful job pulling together the plot points of all the previous issues (including the tie-in issues), delivering a conclusion that felt like the logical culmination of the various storylines that ran through his event...whereas "Fear Itself" just sort of ended, ignoring almost all the events happening in the numerous tie-in issues.  Second, Slott used the event to tell a story about the main hero, revealing why he's unique and why's he's the heart and soul of Marvel Comics...whereas Fraction killed his two main heroes.  At the same time, Slott used the various secondary and tertiary characters to great effect, with even Gravity getting in a funny one-liner...whereas everyone in "Fear Itself" just seemed to stand together in a group and watch the events unfold.  Third, Slott sets up several future stories here, everything from where Peter's relationships with Carlie and MJ are going to go to how Kaine is going to find a new place in the world...whereas "Fear Itself" pretty much returned everything to the way it was, but took three epilogue issues to do it.  Finally, as the SEVEN "Favorite Quotes" show, these issues were FUN and exciting...whereas "Fear Itself" was maudlin and dull.  I hated "Fear Itself" and I hate it all the more reading this event and seeing how well it was done.

The Good
1) Wow, the Queen did kill the Jackal, and the heroes killed the Queen.  As Gravity said, I was half expecting someone to die in this issue, because Marvel just can't seem to have an event without killing a hero.  But, Slott only kills the two people who pretty much had to die.  I mean, I don't believe for a minute that the Jackal won't appear again one day, given the number of clones of him that exist.  But, his "death" and the Queen's death both made sense in the context of the story and didn't feel like cheap stunts meant to make the event "mean" something.  (I'm looking at you, Fraction.) 

2) I thought using the conversation between the Secretary of Defense and Steve Rogers' pilot to recap the events of "Venom" #8 was really clever.

3) Um, seriously, Ramos can draw naked Peter Parkers forever in my book. Sexiness!  I'm so glad they put him on this event.  So much of the energy and fun of this event came from him.  I mean, the conversation recapped in "Favorite Quote" #2 was so great in part because of the faces Ramos drew, hilariously conveying Peter's annoyance at Kaine and Kaine's disgust at Reed's "stretchy neck."  Ramos also drew amazing battle scenes, like the one where Gravity, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage have their conversation in "Favorite Quote" #7.  Ramos delivered the whole package, and this event wouldn't have been as amazing without him.

4) Speaking of Peter Parkers plural, I thought everything with Kaine was great in this issue (as you can tell from his prominent role in the extensive "Favorite Quotes" section above).  I don't know how, but I really didn't see coming that Kaine, and not Peter, would fulfill Madame Web's prophecy that "Spider-Man" would kill the Queen.  It seems so obvious now, but the fact that I didn't anticipate it shows just how good Slott is at playing his cards close to his chest, making the reveal all the more exciting.  But even the smaller moments, like the two of them switching costumes at Horizon Labs, were great.  Slott does an amazing job of selling Kaine as a character in his own right, making him similar to Peter in the good ways (sense of humor, sexiness) but also different in intriguing ways (sense of doom, lethalness).  As I've said before, Kaine has always been a hodge-podge character subject to the whims of every new author.  Slott himslf take some liberties here, gives him a relationship more akin to the one Peter had with Ben.  (I certainly don't remember them being this chummy, given that, you know, Kaine was usually trying to kill him.  But, I'm sure as hell not re-reading the "Clone Saga" to fact-check the characterization.)  In the end, though, I'll allow it, because it's giving us a cool new character, an alternate vision of Peter Parker, that should be fun to explore.

5) Slott once again works in previous plot developments, like the octobots from "Amazing Spider-Man" #600 and the stealth suit and Peter working in the nude from "Amazing Spider-Man" #650.  He is just so good at this.  I thought the use of the octobots was particularly inspired.  I was wondering how Slott was going to have Peter cure the infected persons AND defeat the Spider-Queen.  I love that Slott answered both question by tying them together.  Brilliant.  It made perfect sense, since Slott had made sure we understood that the Queen's power came from the Web of Life by mentioning it in several issues.  As such, it didn't come from left field, feeling like a deus ex machina, but instead a logical conclusion to the story.

6) I actually loved MJ's Peter Parker immunity.  Was it a little childishly funny (like Ben thought)?  Yes.  Was it still funny?  Yes.  I can't believe Slott got it past the editors.

7) Speaking of MJ, I love everything about her here.  I loved her saving Peter, I loved her telling him to "nerd up" (and having that inspire him to have the idea that saved the day), I loved her telling Peter she loved him.  Slott hasn't used MJ so well in the past, often portraying her as a nag for most of his tenure.  But, in this arc, he really gives us one of the better characterization of her since "Brand New Day" started and I applaud him for it.  She serves the role she used to serve, propelling Peter into action when his doubts get the better of him.  (She was also the one to send him into the Bryant Park fray in "Amazing Spider-Man" #668.)  I could be all for a Peter-MJ-Carlie love triangle (assuming it's well done).  After all, as it says up top, we're Team MJ here, no matter how much I've started liking Carlie.  You need nothing more than this arc to remind you why.

8) I like how Slott brings in the Queen storyline, probably the last one not to be revisited since "Brand New Day" began.  He also took some of the work that had been done by other authors -- namely, Guggenheim's Raptor story and Kelly's "Grim Hunt" arc -- in revisiting the "Clone Saga" and brought it to a new place, giving us a resurrected and revived Kaine.  We've largely moved past the fallout of the deal with Mephisto that gave us "Brand New Day," but it's always nice to get confirmation that the past is what we thought it was.

9) I thought, given Parker luck, when Peter announced that he was going to save everyone, that MJ was going to die or something.  Instead, Slott actually lets him do it.  It's one of the things that I've liked the most about Slott's run:  he's no longer letting the Parker luck be an excuse for having Peter always face tragic consequences to his heroic actions.  Sometimes, he actually lets Peter get the win.  Awesome.

10) Similarly, I liked that Kaine won the day.  I mean, he even got to swing in front of the flag and that totally makes him a hero!  I also liked that he gave the credit to Peter.  As I've said throughout this arc, I was hoping that the events of "Spider-Island" would mean that people would appreciate Peter more and we definitely see that here.  I mean, you essentially get every Marvel superhero in play JUST to buy Peter time to save the day.  Along those lines, I loved MJ telling Peter that people only got to walk a mile in his wall-crawling shoes, that everything that makes him unique was still his.  Awesome.  It's exactly what I wanted someone to say, though I couldn't quite put my finger on how I wanted it said.  It essentially sums up the whole event, showing that anyone can get Spider-Powers, but only our man Pete can be Spidey.  Slott has focused on his awesomeness before (in "Amazing Spider-Man" #600, in fact, when he uses his brains to defeat Doc Ock).  I'm glad he does it again here.

The Bad
1) We never found out how the Jackal maintained his knowledge of Peter's identity even after the Iron Man/Mr. Fantastic/Dr. Strange mumbo-jumbo.  I feel like this lack of explanation is the biggest oversight of this arc, though I'm wondering if Slott is going to wrap up this loose end in the epilogue.

2) If the Jackal knowing Pete's secret identity is the biggest oversight, the fact that I'm still not sure how the Spider-Sense Jammers created a psychic barrier quarantining New York (that somehow also didn't affect the Queen) is the second biggest.  This one is even more essential to the plot.  I feel like I might get it if I re-read the event, but I feel like Slott probably should've made it a little clearer if, after 20-something issues, I still don't get it.

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