THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (Vol. 1 #35) REVIEW


One look at that cover, and you know Marvel will answer our most burning Brand New Day question: why is Jackpot walking out of Giant Spider-Man’s birth canal?

Oh, and we also learn her identity.

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (35)
“A Tale of Two Jackpots”
WRITER: Marc Guggenheim
PENCILS: Mike McKone
INKS: Andy Lanning
COLORS: Jeromy Cox w/ Sotocolor
LETTERS: Cory Petit


PLOT:

After foiling a robbery by Blindside, a villain who blinds victims with neurotoxin, Spider-Man and Jackpot enjoy a rooftop coffee. Peter has Betty Brant run a fingerprint test on Jackpot’s cup, and learns her identity: Alana Jobson.

Yes, THE Alana Jobson.

Spidey breaks into Alana’s apartment, rummages through her stuff, and finds performance-enhancing drugs in her drawer. Alana returns home, none too happy to find Spidey invading her bedroom. Spider-Man turns the accusations back on her, demanding an explanation for the drugs. She saya she uses a cocktail of hormones and steroids to mimic super powers in order to play hero. She bought the “Jackpot” identity and Superhuman Registration Act license from Sara Ehret, a real supherhuman who changed her mind about living the hero’s life after completing her training.

Spider-Man, disgusted, makes Alana surrender her file on Walter Declun, the mogul who owns the company responsible for Blindside’s toxin. Armed with an antidote to the toxin, Spidey visits Blindside at his home address, but finds the villainess Commanda, Blindside’s girlfriend, also there. Jackpot barges in to rescue our overwhelmed hero, but takes a hit from Blindside. After the fight, Blindside’s toxin interacts with the drugs in Jackpot’s system, killing her.

Spider-Man blames Sara Ehret, and tells her with power and training comes responsibility. Spidey swings away, leaving Sara to stare guiltily at her Jackpot costume.

THOUGHTS:

I once cared about Jackpot. Stop looking at me like that; I’m serious. The last moments of Marc Guggenheim’s initial story arc left me intrigued, because it made two things clear: the Mary Jane resemblance was a red herring, and whatever was going on was more complicated than a simple secret identity. But then the Braintrust left that thread to dangle for the better part of a year. Excluding a Secret Invasion miniseries about which I’ve heard nothing good, we haven’t seen Jackpot since. I mention this because it means, rather than the anger this issue would have induced had I still given a crap, I just feel aching boredom.

The concept sounds good: a super heroine sells her identity to a more enthusiastic rookie, the rookie’s recklessness causes the deaths of others and ultimately herself, and the original heroine learns a lesson about passing her responsibility to others. I see nothing inherently wrong with that. What Guggenheim did wrong was he dressed the story up as a “mystery,” but failed to satisfy the expectations that style of presentation creates in readers.

Mystery readers don’t mind a surprising resolution, but they like to think that, had they only looked over the clues more carefully, they could have deduced the answer themselves. I used to read Encyclopedia Brown stories, and part of the fun was that forehead-smacking sensation of failing to notice that one detail that was the key to the whole puzzle. Of course, there’s no way readers could have guessed Jackpot’s identity as Alana Jobson regardless of their perceptiveness because that name had never appeared in the comics until this issue. I don’t know how folks following this plotline could feel satisfied to learn that the “mystery” hero they’ve wondered about since last May is someone they’ve never heard of. Worse, she was unmasked only to be killed a few pages later by another character they’ve never seen before!

Cramming this single-story-arc-shaped peg into a ongoing-mystery-subplot-shaped hole meant dragging it out far past its welcome. Also, the Mary Jane resemblance ultimately served no purpose other than to draw attention to a character uninteresting on her own merits. It doesn’t even make sense, because Sara Ehret was the MJ fan, not Alana. I get that Alana would keep up Sara’s mannerisms to fool the public and the government, but why keep saying “tiger” in her thought balloons and when alone?

The over-the-top editor’s notes just add insult to insult, because they undermine the appropriate tone for this sort of story. Also, some captions outright patronize the reader, such as when Steve Wacker explains an allusion to Oedipus in the same way he defined “DNC” in the political backup story to “New Ways to Die.” Whatever happened to providing readers with enough context to understand a term on their own, or just letting the initiated look it up? Will the Marvel editors spoon feed their audience every reference a nine-year-old might not get? If so, I’m glad I won’t be buying any more issues.

That’s right; after two years reviewing this title, I’m finished. It’s hard enough to read Amazing Spider-Man these days, let alone waste hours of my week trying to analyze something that panders to children and illiterates.

RATING:
1.5 webheads out of 5. Marvel could have charged me four dollars for a booklet of blank pages and a brown crayon with which to draw my own turds, and it would be slightly more entertaining than this.

REVIEWED BY: CrazyChris
 

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