If you don’t know me, I’m a co-host of the Spider-Man Crawl Space Podcast, an administrator on the message board, the writer of Spider-Man: Crawl Space, and former reviewer of Amazing Spider-Man (among many other titles, back around pre-Civil War era). But none of these things is the reason I’m filling in for Mr. Bailey on this review. No, the reason you’re hearing from me is that I am a fan of Morbius. One of the biggest, some might say. My original username on this very board (and many others) was, in fact, Morbius. As such, I was extremely excited to see ol’ disco shirt returning to the pages of ASM, and begged Brad and Michael shamelessly to let me step in here for one issue and give my two cents. After certain photographs were brought up, the two graciously acquiesced. So you’re stuck with me for one issue. But fear not! Michael Bailey shall return for ASM #623!
MORBIUS FACT: Morbius has not appeared in a Spider-Man comic since 2004’s Spectacular Spider-Man #14. Since then, he has appeared in a Legion of Monsters: Morbius one shot, Marvel Zombies 3 and 4 (both written by this issue’s writer, Fred Van Lente), and is currently appearing in Punisher. Van Lente will reportedly carry Morbius’ story from here into Marvel Zombies 5.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #622
Title: “It Is The Life”
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Joe Quinones
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Spider-Man (in mask only) is furious with Black Cat (also birthday-suited up) for selling the vial of his blood they recovered from Mr. Negative last issue. He dresses up in a ridiculous imitation-goth outfit and heads into the vampire-wannabe club she sold it to in hopes of recovering it. Inside he meets a hypnotic woman who knows all about him and leads him directly to the vial’s current owner: Morbius, The Living Vampire. Spidey sneaks into Morbius’ current lair to retrieve the blood, but once inside, he hears the psychic suggestions of the woman from the club telling him to invite her in. As Morbius wakes up, in walks the mystery woman – none other than Martine Bancroft, Morbius’ undead former lover. Martine simply wants to get back together with Morbius, who’s having none of it. Spidey grabs a wooden stake that was evidently just lying around, but thinks better of stabbing whichever of the vamps he was thinking of stabbing. But, Morbius gives him no choice, as he pushes Martine back onto Spidey’s stake, killing her. Morbius then explains to Spidey that he only bought the vial of blood because he thought its healing properties might be able to help his friend, Jack Russell aka Werewolf by Night, who was infected with the zombie virus during Marvel Zombies 4. Morbius realizes he shouldn’t have taken the blood without permission and smashes the vial, but Spidey is sympathetic and pulls up his sleeve to make another donation.
My oh my. When I pick an issue to review, I sure pick a ticking bomb, don’t I? I’d love to just gloss over that first page and pretend it never happened. But I have a feeling you guys aren’t going to let me, are you? Ok, let’s just get it out: they’ve finally gone way too far. Talking about having a sex buddies relationship with Peter mentioning he doesn’t want her to see him with his mask off is one thing…but showing the two in bed wearing only their masks? Are we trying to launch a new Marvel Kink line with this (which reminds me – what is that white fluid splattered on the cover? It looks nothing like any webbing I’ve ever seen)? Really, it’s just incredibly tasteless. Incredibly. And I know we’ve beaten this dead horse into ground chuck, but really – this comic is “Rated A.” That means “All Ages,” according to Mr. Wacker himself. This is simply inappropriate for All Ages. If Wolverine slicing up some goons warrants a parental advisory, then can I get a T+ for some kinky mask sex?
Ok, moving on….daggone it, no, I can’t move on yet. Still on the first page is the worst characterization yet for the Black Cat. She’s certainly gone through the wringer since her reappearance as Spidey’s kinky sex buddy, but now she’s selling Spidey’s blood? Really? Really? I don’t have anything more to say to that. If that behavior makes sense to you, then you and I have irreconcilably different views of Felicia Hardy.
Now, what do you say we talk about what I came here to talk about, huh? Morbius! The Living Vampire returns! Well, for a minute, anyway. This is basically a small beat between Marvel Zombies mini-series, which poor Morbius seems permanently exiled to for the most part. This issue is actually more about Martine. And oh, oh Martine…
A little background: Back in Morbius: The Living Vampire #1, Martine Bancroft, the woman Michael Morbius loved (and was loved by) died tragically. But, this was a supernatural series, so she was never destined to stay gone for long. Only about a year later, Martine was brought back to life by a page from the Darkhold. The Darkhold is, well, a bad book. Don’t use it. You’ll get screwed. Just as Morbius did – Martine came back to life like he wanted, but she came back cold and emotionless. She could not feel a thing. Thus, the curse of the Darkhold.
Now, did any of that sound like I was saying she was turned into a vampire? No? Well, there’s a reason for that – she wasn’t! Martine Bancroft, until this issue, was not a vampire. Undead, yes. Vampire, no. Now, would it be possible to bring her back as a vampire, because there was a great story purpose for it and we could explain how she got that way later? Absolutely, I’d be totally up for that. But that’s not what happened. She was brought back for her first appearance in over a decade merely to die. So…what was the point?
What a huge, huge disappointment. Admittedly, most of the issue wasn’t bad. Most of it was just some fairly decent filler. But what stood out STOOD OUT. This issue will probably be more remembered for that awful, awful first page than it ever will for Morbius’ appearance. And I imagine the only reason to bring back Martine was to give Morbius fans a thrill. The problem is those are exactly the same people who will A) know she is not a vampire, and B) be ticked off that she was killed for no reason. In the end, only this issue’s failures were memorable.
2 out of 5
But wait, there’s more! This issue had two stories in it, by two different creative teams. So, without further ado…
Title: “Stages of Grief”
Writer: Greg Weisman
Artist: Luke Ross
Color Artist: Rob Schwager
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Flash Thompson, ever the maverick, goes through the 5 stages of grief backwards. First comes acceptance, as he races to victory in a wheelchair race. Next is depression, as he gives up on trying to walk on his prosthetics. Then bargaining, telling Peter he needs to get Spider-Man to talk to the superheroes for him, get his legs back and he’ll be a superhero. Anger comes when Spider-Man tells him he’s talked to everyone he can trust, and he can’t help. And denial inevitably comes as he almost enrolls in an extremely shady via-email program to give him cybernetic limbs in exchange for indentured service.
Thankfully, Flash has good friends, particularly Peter Parker. Peter organizes a birthday party for Flash with all his old friends, and I do mean all. Even the beautiful Sha Shan is in attendance, and she has a surprise. She is Flash’s new physical trainer. After seeing all his old friends, seeing his father having gotten his AA 1-year chip, and going through some physical therapy with drill sergeant Sha Shan, Flash finally arrives at Stage Zero: Grace.
Well. Now that’s what I call a refreshing pallet cleanser. I’ll be honest, not everything was perfect here. There were things I’d consider a slight misstep here or there. But this is such a good read that none of it really matters. Greg Weisman, creator and Executive Producer of the Spectacular Spider-Man TV show for those of you living under a rock, steps into the comics arena and shows us exactly why he was the man to shepherd Spidey’s world to the small screen in the first place – because he’s simply damn good. He’s got such a great handle on this world and these characters, and knows just how to tug at the heart-strings. Even more impressive, it seems effortless for him to move from the high school versions of these characters on his show to the current-continuity comic book versions, which are really quite different for some of them, most especially Flash.
And let’s talk about this art for a minute, huh? Luke Ross is a personal favorite of mine. He could draw Spider-Man (or Captain America or Green Lantern) all day long and I’d just keep staring at it. These are some particularly gorgeous pages, though. I dare say the best of his I’ve ever seen. And no small credit for the beauty of this art goes to colorist Rob Schwager. The style here was fantastic, and just fit the story so well. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say, this is a pretty comic book.
After an entirely lackluster Morbius story, this second feature lets you put down your comic with a smile on your face. It seems stories starring Flash Thompson are destined to be the best stories of the Brand New Day, if this and Marc Guggenheim’s original 2008 issue are any indication. But no matter who the star of the story is, I think we’d all love to see the name Greg Weisman back in these pages soon and often.
5 out of 5