Sunday, March 20, 2016

Amazing Spider-Man #5 (HERE BE SPOILERS!)

First, I have to say, this issue is one of the best drawn ones that I've ever read.  Seriously.  I've never been Camuncoli's biggest fan, generally preferring Ramos to him during the era when they were switching responsibilities on the title.  But, his style just keeps improving to my eye.  For me, a great example of this talent is the shot where the Zodiac is standing in front of an Egyptian statue at the British Museum:  Scorpio is in the front, pointing the Zodiac Key and ordering his "colleagues" into battle.  Camuncoli brings a great perspective to this "shot," conveying a cinematic sensibility that we see throughout the issue.

The bad news is that the plot is virtually incoherent.  Peter realizes that Zodiac set up the fake bases around the world because it merely wanted S.H.I.E.L.D. to train its satellites on them.  Apparently, Zodiac could then piggy-back onto the satellites to create a scan of the entire planet, something only S.H.I.E.L.D. has the power to do.  Again, this part just made no sense to me.  With the later revelation that Scorpio was searching for some sort of cup hidden in the Rosetta Stone, I don't understand how this "scan" would've revealed that.  What type of "scan" was it?  Thermal?  How could any scan find a cup?  At any rate, Peter identifies London as the place where the Zodiac stopped searching, and he scrambles everyone there in the hope that they're not too late.

(Along the way, I should add, Mockingbird randomly punches Spidey for pulling them off the mission to help Aunt May last issue, even though she also tells him that it was the right thing to do.  Yeah, I don't get it either.)

In London, Peter and S.H.I.E.L.D. are discussing how long it'll take them to get access to London's CCTV system to track the Zodiac when suddenly the group's hit on the British Museum comes full screen.  As Nick scrambles the team, Peter asks Sanjani and Anna Maria how they got that information, and they inform him that PI's nanotech "somehow" got released into London's CCTV system and interacted with it.  Peter is furious, but Torch convinces him to focus on the mission.  He also warns him that he's burning the candle at both ends, something that I was hoping would become the theme of this series.

Everyone converges on the British Museum, where Scorpio is using the Key to track down the item that he wants to steal.  (When a security guard frets about the damage, Peter again offers to use his money to fix everything.  The guard has to remind him that he can't replace priceless artifacts...because apparently Peter is an idiot)  Scorpio finally arrives at the Rosetta Stone and cuts it open to find something that looks like the Holy Grail, though Slott doesn't explain what it is in this issue.  His goal achieved, Scorpio activates the same poisonous hollow teeth in the remaining Zodiac members that he used to kill Leo, and Peter goes to save them (letting Scorpio escape).

Later, Peter returns to PI and fires Sanjani for insubordination.  Of course, he can't actually do that, because they're partners.  Peter announces that he's buying her shares, though, again, I'm not sure how he can do that if she doesn't want to sell them.  Sanjani tries to explain all that to him, but he just screams at her, and she leaves, because women are supposed to accept what men say when men scream.  (Seriously, between the way that he speaks to Sanjani here and his treatment of the Human Torch in issue #2, I really, really don't like this Peter.)  Also, did I mention that Sanjani insists that it wasn't her that released the nanobots?  Can I just tell you how tired I am of this dance?  I mean, seriously, the one time that Sanjani allegedly didn't do something is the one time that Peter actually takes action against her?  Ugh.  Let's just keep going.

The issue ends with Nick Fury and Peter giving a press conference, where Nick announces that Zodiac has been dismantled.  Again, this part makes no sense to me.  If we've learned nothing, we've learned that Scorpio controls Zodiac.  In fact, the Zodiac members may actually just be clones of him.  As such, how does stopping his minions equate to dismantling Zodiac?  Also, did they manage to retrieve Peter's WebWare?  Aren't there still Zodiac scientists out there somewhere trying to hack into it?  Or, were they all stopped when S.H.I.E.L.D. invaded the bases?  Given how important that plot has been for the last five issues, it would've been nice to get some clarity on that.  Later, Peter has a holographic conversation with PI's chief shareholder, Mr. Jacobs, someone that I scarcely remember from the first issue.  But, Slott shows the reader that he's (of course) Scorpio as he tells Peter that he has big plans for PI.

Honestly, I just don't know what to say here.  I know that Slott is excited about telling these global stories, but they're just not making sense.  I can't even really put together the threads of the last few issues to form a coherent narrative.  Originally, Peter and S.H.I.E.L.D. were after the Zodiac because they stole some of Parker Industries' most secure servers and, seizing on an opportunity, Peter's WebWare device.  Why did they do that?  I still don't know.  Did Scorpio intend to use the servers to run the scan somehow, but he couldn't crack into them, so he had to go with S.H.I.E.L.D.'s satellites?  Or, did he know that Spider-Man and S.H.I.E.L.D. would come after them, so he used it as a way to force a situation where he could access the satellites?  It seems a stretch, even for a guy with psychics on his team.  Plus, we learn in this issue that he could've likely broken into the servers on his own given that he's the chief shareholder of the company.  It's all just terribly sloppy.  The server and WebWare part of the story seem to have nothing to do with Scorpio's actual goal of getting a scan of the planet.  To make matters worse, we're nowhere near an answer to these questions.  Slott is starting a new arc next issue, so we're just left with Scorpio sitting in his apartment, talking to Peter, with the Grail sitting in his Zodiac room (something that we can see because he's nonchalantly left open the door to it while he's talking to Peter).

Honestly, I'd give this issue one star if not for Camuncoli's art.  Slott has to focus on the basics in this next arc, because this sprawling mess of a first arc has me hoping that we ditch this whole "worldwide" shtick soon.  It's probably not how he wants me to feel, but there we go.

** (two of five stars)

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