Slott is so desperate to create a tone here -- though I'm still not quite sure what tone it is -- that I'm again left hardly recognizing Peter Parker.
First, Slott is trying way too hard to turn Peter into Iron Man. We open the issue with one of his female employees feeding him dumplings on the rooftop of Parker Industries in Shanghai. Seriously. It's hard to say that anything about this scene -- including Peter's casual misogyny when he assumes that Min's mother, not her father, made the dumplings -- feels like Peter. In fact, even Slott trying to highlight his misogyny is awkward, showing how much he's trying to force the story where it doesn't go naturally. I'm still not sure why he wants to force it there, but it's clear that he does.
Second, the focus on China is starting to feel less like a way to demonstrate Peter's newly global reach and more like "Transformers: Age of Extinction" and its pandering to a billion-person market. I could live with that if the characters didn't feel like they were stock characters from 1970s kung-fu films. First, we've got idealistic but dangerous Phillip Chang, Parker Industries' "lead researcher in the field of renewable energy." He totally nonchalantly tells Peter and his investor, Mr. Qinghao, that he believes in an eco-friendly China "whatever the cost." Dun-dun-DUN! No, he's not going to be a bad guy at all. Then, we've got stern and xenophobic Dr. Wu, decrying the foreigners "snooping" around Parker Industries (from the first issue) and calling in the cops without Peter's permission. When Peter tells Wu that S.H.I.E.L.D. was on the case, Wu informs Peter that he doesn't get to make that call. Um, I think that he does, actually? If he doesn't, I'm not sure what "Chief Executive Officer" means anymore. Moreover, if Peter doesn't get to make the call, it doesn't mean that Wu does. Wu later bitches out Peter when he pulls Wu off his own research to study a patch that Mr. Negative put on a construction worker to control him. (We'll get to that part.) For a guy living in a quasi-totalitarian society, he doesn't really seem to get how hierarchies work.
But, it's the Mr. Negative story that serves as the actual focus of the issue. Cloak and Dagger are still under the effects of his possession, though I can't quite remember when that happened. ("Spider-Island?") They break into the ship transporting him to China, though he's in his Mr. Li persona at the time. (I still wish that Marvel would decide if Li does, or doesn't, know that he's Mr. Negative.) Apparently, Mr. Negative has lost his powers, though again I have no idea when or how that happened. (Seriously, an editor's note might have been useful here.) Dagger injects Li with a drug called "shade" that Mr. Negative developed to mimic those powers, and it turns him back into Mr. Negative. At the end of the issue, Cloak and Dagger then break into PI and use Cloak's portal to allow Mr. Negative to take possession of Peter. It certainly doesn't bode well.
Although the Mr. Negative parts of this issue were fine, again, the Peter parts are just awful. Slott needs to stop trying to turn him into an international playboy and let him run Parker Industries in a way consistent with his personality, a personality that probably doesn't result in rooftop dumpling-feedings. Seriously, you can actually run a company without acting like a douchebag, even though Slott doesn't apparently believe that to be true. It also wouldn't hurt if he stopped changing Peter's supporting cast every issue. In other words, after six issues, it's time to settle down a bit here.
** (two of five stars)