“The Spider and the Shield!”

Writer: Karl Kesel

Penciler: Paulo Siqueira

Inker: Paulo Siqueira

Colorist: Fabio D’Auria

“Make Mine Marvel!”

Writer: Kurt Busiek

Penciler: Pat Olliffe

Inker: Pat Olliffe

Colorist: Steve Buccellato

Cover Art: Marcos Martin and Javier Rodriguez

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

A double shot of untold stories of Spider-Man’s past, this annual combines a Spidey/Captain America team-up with a story by the old crew from Untold Tales of Spider-Man.  It’s a nostalgia hoe-down!

The Plot

“The Spider and the Shield!”: Spider-Man and Captain America thwart a bank robbery by the Sandman.  Scientists from the future arrive to take out the Sandman, who is supposedly about to lead to the deaths of 27% of the world’s population.  Spidey and Cap battle these time warriors over Sandman’s life, with the heroes on the side of keeping him alive.  The time warriors inadvertently trigger disaster, but they all team up to stop it before it gets out of control.

“Make Mine Marvel!”: Spider-Man battles The Human Top, a battle which is witnessed by one Stan Lee.  Stan invites Spider-Man to become involved in a comic based on his adventures.  After the comic is announced, Spidey visits Marvel’s offices and discovers that he hadn’t though it through well enough.  The Human Top attacks, but Spidey saves the day.  Spidey decides to cut ties with Stan for the safety of his employees, but Stan goes ahead with the plan to publish the comic anyway.

The Good

What a fun couple of stories!

I’ll start with the artwork – it’s very good!  I’m not a big fan of Pat Olliffe’s work, but I have to admire the consistency and workmanship that he always brings to the table.  There are a few panels that just don’t look right, but overall it’s a solid job.  Paulo Siqueira, on the other hand, deserves some major kudos on this one.  His work is energetic, illustrative, and consistent.  The solidity of his linework is remarkable.  I really hope we get to see more of his work in upcoming issues of the main title.

The story of “The Spider and the Shield!” is great.  The idea of time-traveling scientists from the future is a concept that has been done to death, but this is a fresh take.  For starters, basing the characters’ names and powers on well-known scientists of yesteryear was a clever touch.  The story is simple at first, but develops as the issue goes on.  I won’t give it away, but it was pretty cool.  The meeting of Spider-Man and Captain American also carries some weight for both characters, which is good to see.  I’m ambivalent about the implied retcon at the end, but it worked as what it was.  The story is a full 22 pages, and I feel like this was so good it should have been in the main title.  Annuals and one-shots have a tendency to be pieces of crap, but this story was a real gem.

About those future scientists … I want to see more of them!  Very rarely do I get so interested in characters from a one-off story, especially one in an annual, but I would really like to see these guys come back somewhere down the line.  The fact that there are more like them in the future only sweetens the deal.  Make it happen, Marvel!

While I didn’t enjoy “Make Mine Marvel!” as much, there were some neat things about the story.  Using the idea that Marvel Comics exists as an entity in the Marvel Universe – one that goes back to the Lee/Kirby run of Fantastic Four – has always been hokey, but when used correctly it can be very cute.  It’s used a little too heavily here, but nonetheless it was fun to see.  The ongoing plot thread about the Human Top’s name was a clever wink and nod to the fans as well.

The Bad

One of the fun things about Untold Tales of Spider-Man was the introduction of new villains.  For this story, though, Busiek decided to use an already-existing character (albeit in an earlier incarnation).  I would have liked to see them go in a different direction.

“Make Mine Marvel!” felt like a 5-page concept stretched into 15 pages.  It simply sat on the page in spots, which is a shame because these guys have produced some fun stories.  I don’t know how fans of Untold Tales of Spider-Man will react to this – I have read only small amounts of that series – but I felt let down by this one.

The Ugly

The letters page was cringe-inducing.  It was at best lame and unfunny and at worst an insult and slap in the face to the fans of yesteryear.  Thankfully, you can just skip it.

The Bottom Line

This issue is worth buying for the first story, while the second story may just be for diehards.  Still, it’s much better than the slop currently in the main titles.  If you love comics without all the darkness that seems to have infected the Marvel Universe and DC Universe, check this one out.  4 out of 5 webheads.

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