Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New Comics!: The "Spider-Island" Edition #1 (August) (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

I haven't really posted about "Spider-Island" here because I originally made the decision to read the issues in the order they appear in the official "Spider-Island Checklist."  However, given that I often get my comic shipments in the wrong order, it took me a while to build up a quorum of issues to review.  In the end, I decided just to wait until I had all of them and read the whole event at once.  A few notes:

1) I didn't get "SI:  Spider-Girl," "Herc," or "Black Panther" issues.  I don't know why, given that they only account for six issues.  It's just that I'm not particularly a fan of those three characters and, after all, it's almost $20.00 that could be spent on comics with characters I do like.  The completionist in me can't believe I don't care, but I don't, so there we go.

2) I'm still using my normal involved recap style for "Amazing Spider-Man," but I'm going with the quick review for the various tie-in issues and mini-series.  I'll do the editions by months, as noted in the "Spider-Island Checklist."

Now, onto the reviews!

SI:  Cloak & Dagger #1:  OK, I love Cloak and Dagger.  Just like the New Mutants, they were heroes to whom my 14-year-old self totally felt connected, and I to this day have a not insignificant investment in them.  That said, they've never really gotten their due, as Wacker himself notes at the end of this issue.  Their comics were always too dark or too message-y and, despite having a lot of affection for the characters, I just never really enjoyed them.  I was often annoyed by how heavy-handed authors were in handling the sexual tension between them, and we see that this issue, which they spend either squabbling in front of the Avengers or complaining about the other one via thought bubbles.  Also, they were often just too much of do-gooders, with every issue seemingly involving some truly miserable person they were trying to save from a morally bankrupt villain.  They never just, I don't know, beat up a bad guy and went home to watch "The Simpsons."  Cloak always had to obsess over everything, because he was, you know, "darkness," and Dagger had to try to lighten the mood.  It got old.  But, Spencer seems to have hit on a schtick that could actually work in not having us wallow in misery.  Having them form a non-profit, private-investigation firm opens the door to a number of different stories, all of which don't have to be doom and gloom.  In fact, Spencer gives us a taste of fun here.  I loved Tandy trying to argue her way into saving the church by telling the building inspector that she and Cloak are superheroes.  (As a Jersey boy, I agree with you, Tandy:  I miss old New York, too.)  I also thought Cloak attending a seminar at the learning annex to set up their firm was inspired.  It's a sign that Spencer might really be able to make a go at a monthly series, particularly with Rios, who Wacker correctly notes seems to be the perfect person to draw the duo.

You'll notice I didn't said much about "Spider-Island" in this review.  As far as I can tell, the only real connection to the event is showing how the Avengers found Clock and Dagger before using Dagger to teleport to the scene of the riot we saw in "Amazing Spider-Man" #667.  This issue essentially serves as a back-door pilot, but I'm not complaining.

SI:  Deadly Foes #1:  Yay, the Hobgoblin!  I enjoy any issue with the Hobgoblin, which is making me reconsider my decision not to get "SI:  Spider-Girl."  Phil is in prime form this issue, finally deciding to take out Randy Robertson, his rival for the affection of Norah Winters.  Slott and Gage really nail it, though, when they give Randy Spider-Powers, allowing him to fight off Hobgoblin.  I'm always impressed when authors use an event to further the ongoing storyline of their title, like Gillen did with "Fear Itself" (turning Colossus into the Juggernaut and, as a result, ending his relationship with Kitty).  Previously, I figured Phil would one day decide to attack Randy and Peter would conveniently be nearby the fight, allowing him to save Randy just in the nick of time.  Instead, Slott and Gage have Randy save himself using his new Spider-Powers, an awesome plot twist that takes excellent advantage of "Spider-Island."  Plus, Slott and Gage keep everyone in character.  I totally believe that Norah would ignore the pumpkin bombs lying next to her in order to stay focused on the story, and, as such, I totally believe that Randy finally decided enough was enough.

Unfortunately, the Jackal story is an odd jumble.  I had to re-read "Amazing Spider-Man" #666 to try to make sense of it, and I only really fully understood what happened here after reading "Venom" #6.  When I originally read "Amazing Spider-Man" #666, I thought the Jackal calling the guy in the tube, "the real firstborn of this era" meant it was Kaine, since he was the first clone of Peter Parker.  I thought his reference to the creature next to him as, "Parker 3.0.  The misfit.  The reject." meant he was Spidercide, given that he was a failed clone.  I thought any question about their identities was just Slott skipping over some exposition.  However, based on this issue and "Venom" #6, I realize that the creature with the Jackal was Kaine and the guy in the tube was Captain America.  The only reason it even dawned on me that I was confused on this point was because the timeline of the events in this issue -- the Jackal resurrecting Kaine and turning him into the Tarantula -- didn't work if Kaine had really been the guy in the tube in "Amazing Spider-Man" #666.  I think Marvel could've done a little better job making it clear who was who in that issue, given that it took two different tie-in issues to make me realize my initial impression was wrong.  They didn't have to reveal the mystery of Spider-King, but they could've made it clear it was actually a mystery and just not a lack of clarity on the part of Slott.

Moreover, I'm also confused by Kaine's behavior here.  I'm not really sure why Kaine would suddenly view the Jackal as his "family."  Didn't he hate him?  I mean, he hated Ben Reilly just for having a chance at life that he never got, so wouldn't he be even MORE furious at the guy who robbed him of that chance in the first place?  I'm also confused why the Jackal remembers who Spidey is?  Why didn't the Dr. Strange/Iron Man/Mr. Fantastic voodoo work on him?  I'm assuming we're going to get answers to these questions at some point during this arc, but, at this point, I find them more distracting than intriguing.

Finally, I have to say, I'm really over the references to the Gwen Stacy clone, etc.  I've never read that original arc or its subsequent sequels, partly because I've never found it particularly interesting.  But, the authors assume we know A LOT about the clones.  I didn't realize Jackal had made more than one clone of Gwen Stacy.  Are there more?  Or, did they both die here?  Also, is Joyce Delaney the one that had children with Norman Osborn?  Or is that yet another clone?  If so, are we going to see Jackal go after her children, one of whom is incarcerated as a result of him going crazy in "Amazing Spider-Man Presents:  American Son."

Venom #6:  As I mentioned above, my initial response to the revelation that Captain America was Spider-King was, "Wait, what?"  Once I got passed that confusion, in retrospect, I could appreciate how fun this issue was.  I loved Flash having the Lionel Richie song stuck in his head, and I actually found myself singing, "Is it me you're looking for?" with him as he burst onto the scene as Venom.  Also, how do you not love Venom-Dog?  The Betty scenes were a little odd, because Betty, last I checked, was in the hospital because she was assaulted (in "Amazing Spider-Man" #665) and not because she's keeping watch on Flash's father.  Those two things aren't mutually exclusive, but it felt like we had forgotten the assault, which is a key plot point in the "Spider-Island" installments in "Amazing Spider-Man."  (It's why Betty is the one to break the story, because she's at the hospital when everyone appears complaining of their Spider-Powers.)

Spider-Island:  Deadly Hands of Kung Fu #1:  Meh.  I originally decided to get this mini-series because Shang-Chi has played an important role in helping Peter develop a fighting style that compensates for the loss of his Spider-Sense.  As such, I figured Shang-Chi would be pretty deeply connected to the events of "Spider-Island."  Instead, he's got a pretty tangential role here.  Like Cloak and Dagger in "SI:  Cloak & Dagger," his only involvement in the ongoing "Spider-Island" story is his participation in fighting the riot we see in "Amazing Spider-Man" #667.  If you're not a huge Shang-Chi fan, this mini-series looks like it'll be pretty skipable.  We'll see how it goes.

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