Thursday, December 1, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #673: "Spider-Island" Epilogue

*** (three of five stars)

With the Spider-Queen defeated, everyone infected by the Spider-Virus reverts to his human self -- fully naked.  The Avengers and X-Men help Damage Control begin cleaning up the scene of the final battle, and Iron Man confirms that the Queen is indeed dead.  Meanwhile, elsewhere on the site, the Jackal -- who did not die, thanks to having used a clone to deal with the Queen -- directs his clones, dressed as members of Damage Control, to steal pieces of the Spider-Queen's corpse for use in cloning her.  Spidey and MJ chat on the top of the Empire State Building, but Pete is called to Newark Airport to see off Aunt May, whose flight to Boston had been delayed due to the event.  Jay, May, and Pete watch the news, where Mr. Fantastic declares Eddie Brock the "true hero of Spider-Island."  After Jay and May depart, Kaine approaches Pete, revealing that he came to see off Aunt May -- from a distance -- as well.  He tells Peter that he's leaving town, since the Avengers know he "is -- was -- a stone cold killer."  Elsewhere, JJJ, Jr. and Joe Robertson share a drink, with Joe telling JJJ, Jr. he has to give credit to Spidey for saving New York and JJJ, Jr. just promising he'd make a call.  A construction worker sees Spidey webbing across the city and calls to him, telling Spidey that he used to think Spidey was a menace but now he thinks Spidey's "good people."  Pete returns home, where Carlie is waiting.  She tells him she's leaving him for lying to her about being Spider-Man, which she deduced based on how good he was at using his Spider-Powers, and forces him to admit to it before she leaves.  Pete goes straight to Dr. Strange, asking how Carlie could've deduced his identity (since the spell required Pete unmasking himself or being unmasked).  Dr. Strange tells Pete that the "magic whammy" he placed on him no longer works, since Pete revealed himself on the Internet (in "Amazing Spider-Man" #668).  Dr. Strange tells him that everyone still forgets that he was Spidey, but now anyone can learn.  Pete goes directly to Horizon Labs to get a vial of antidote, but runs into Madame Web on the roof.  She tells Pete that "fate" is offering him a reward, allowing him to use the antidote on himself.  Pete declines, saying that it would undermine the responsibility he has to use his gift.  Madame Web bids him farewell, telling him he will suffer a loss in the future.  Pete then goes to find MJ, who had retained her Spider-Powers thanks to her "immunity" (and was the person for whom he went to get the antidote).  Pete gives her the antidote and they talk.  He tells her about Carlie and about how he wishes he could've just once gotten the win (noting that Eddie was getting the credit).  MJ tells him to look at the Empire State Building, which is illuminated in Spidey colors (clearly as a result of JJJ, Jr.'s "call").

The Review
My main problem with this issue is that it feels pretty rushed.  Slott covers A LOT of ground, and the story suffers for it.  He does the best that he can, and it's not like it's not an enjoyable read.  But, the story moves so fast that you wind up skipping over some of the smaller, but still significant, moments while you try to keep track of the larger developments.

The Good
1) The clean-up scenes, with everyone reeling from his nakedness, were good fun.  I thought Clint, Misty, and T'Challa's conversation was particularly well done, given that I'm pretty sure a bunch of superheroes would just more or less stand naked, discussing recent events, while everyone else was somewhat panicked by his lack of pants.  (Angelica peeking through her fingers at Hercules was also great.  I mean, who wouldn't?)

2) I loved Eddie Brock being the hero of "Spider-Island."  As I said in my review of "Amazing Spider-Man" #672, I wanted "Spider-Island" to mean that people respected Spidey more.  Slott does a good job of letting us see that again in this issue, with the construction worker telling him he's good people and the Empire State Building lighting its lights in his honor.  But, at the end of the day, it's still Spidey.  He's never going to be recognized like Captain America, and Slott gets that.  It's just nice that he gave us a few moments before everything returns to normal.

3) I thought the Kaine part was handled well.  I mentioned throughout "Spider-Island" that Kaine's history as a murderous vigilante wasn't exactly something Marvel was going to be able to sweep under the rug like it never happened.  It's nice to see Slott acknowledge that here.  I'm hoping that his title is dedicated to him exploring his past and seeing whether he wants to be a hero in the mold of Spidey or a "hero" in the mold of the Punisher.  I think watching him on that journey could be really interesting.

The Mixed
1) I give Slott all the credit in the world for having SOMEONE figure out a superhero's identity.  Honestly, other than Tim Drake, I think Carlie Cooper is the only character I've seen do so.  However, I'm not entirely sure I buy the way it goes down.  Carlie really can't understand why Peter wouldn't tell her he's Spider-Man?  Comparing him to her criminal father and super-villain best friend feels like a serious stretch, particularly for someone as smart as Carlie.  Although I'm definitely Team MJ, I'm hoping that it's not this simple, that Carlie comes to her senses and realizes that Pete had a good reason to keep his identity secret.  Otherwise, it's a fairly ignominous end to a character I had finally started to like.  Moreover, it would seem almost a shame that we're not going to get to see Pete make a choice between Carlie and MJ.  I can't believe I'm saying that, but it's true.  I don't want him to chose MJ by default.  We'll see how it goes, I guess.

2) Speaking of Carlie, we find ourselves, when you take a step back, at essentially a pre-"Brand New Day" equilibrium here, or, to some extent,  even a pre-"Civil War" equilibrium.  The only people who know Peter is Spidey are the people to whom he's unmasked, but, now, the Dr. Strange/Iron Man/Mr. Fantastic mumbo-jumbo no longer works.  Carlie Cooper is gone and MJ is in the picture again.  It's not exactly the same, obviously; it's not like the deal with Mephisto was undone and Pete is suddenly married to MJ again.  But, if Pete were to get together with MJ again, it would be really difficult to distinguish this status quo from the previous one.  I actually like that Slott's toying with us in this way…but it's again something that we flash past as Slott's trying to put all the pieces in place.  (We don't even get Dr. Strange, just his astral projection, to learn about the defused mumbo-jumbo.)

The Bad
1) The revelation that the Jackal was still alive is exactly what I mean when I say that this issue feels rushed.  We see and hear him for only four panels.  It's a pretty big deal that the Jackal managed to survive "Spider-Island" and an even bigger deal that he essentially manipulated events so that he could harvest the Queen's DNA.  But, in his rush to move through the other plot items he's decided to raise in this issue, Slott presents all that information in just those four panels.   It undermines some of the credit that I gave Slott in my last review for killing the Jackal and the Queen, even if I knew they'd eventually return. 

2) We damn well better see JJJ, Jr. face SOME sort of repercussions for his actions, given that he escaped trying to assassinate Massacre without apparently even a slap on the wrist.  Slott makes no mention of Smythe here.  I'm assuming JJJ, Jr. didn't kill him or even the NYPD wouldn't have been able to let him leave the emergency center to meet Joe for a drink.  But, even if JJJ, Jr. isn't going to face some sort of scrutiny for his actions, Slott probably needs at some point to let us know that JJJ, Jr. is not, in fact, a murderer.

3) I know Slott's doing it to keep us reading, but I hated the stuff with Madame Web and Pete's upcoming loss.  I feel like we're meant to believe it's going to be Aunt May or MJ (or maybe Jay), and suddenly we ARE in the old status quo again, where the book is all about the danger Peter's loved ones face.  I trust Slott enough not to fall into the trap of constantly threatening us with their fates…but I trust him a little less after this issue.  Fingers crossed.

Final Thoughts
As I mention above, Slott really puts us in an interesting place at the end of this event.  He delivers us the Queen (one of the last open question marks from the "Brand New Day" change), returns Peter's Spider-Sense, ends the power of the "magic whammy," ditches Carlie, brings back MJ, and resurrects Kaine.  Suddenly, everything looks a lot different, a lot like it used to look, before "Brand New Day," before "Civil War."

I'm actually excited about most of the changes.  I think the "Scarlet Spider" series is going to be awesome, and I'm really glad Pete's Spider-Sense is back (particularly given its union with Pete's Spider-Fu).  I wasn't a fan of the mumbo-jumbo (even though it also accomplished something that had to be done, re-secreting Peter's identity) and I'm anxious to see how MJ fits into the coming months.  However, I'm less excited about some of the changes.  As I said above, I think Carlie is getting a raw deal if this issue is the last we see of her, particularly since she had actually started to grow on me, and I find Madame Web's vague warnings about Pete's upcoming loss to be more annoying than intriguing, paritcularly because they harken to the days of Aunt May and Mary Jane constantly being threatened (more or less the whole reason we got "Brand New Day" in the first place).

However, at the end of the day, I can live with some mild disappointment.  This event was a textbook example of how events are supposed to work.  These sort of cross-over extravaganzas started because it was fun to see the various superheroes interact with each other and work toward defeating a common enemy.  It's amazing the extent that writers have forgotten that they still need to tell a story that readers want to read (and understand).  The problem with "Fear Itself" was that it was too big to comprehend, with too many heroes and too many villains, and the story wasn't sufficiently interesting to make you want to put in the work of following everyone.  Slott returns us to the glory days of cross-over events.  By keeping the focus on Spidey, the story was easy to follow, even if you got all the tie-in issues, and, most importantly, fun and interesting to read.  Slott changed the entire status quo of Spidey's world, but it was easy not to realize that and just enjoy the fun.  "Amazing Spider-Man" is a stronger book because of it and when was the last time you could say that a cross-over event made a title better

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