Spider-Man must join with The Fantastic Four to fight a … “Crisis on Campus!”
WRITER: Christos N. Gage
ARTIST: Mario Alberti
Your new miniseries reviewer, reporting for duty. Comment below, but remember: this is my first time, so please be gentle.
Dr. Doom is at ESU for a peace conference with Latveria’s neighbors and the Fantastic Four are on campus to provide Doom with security (against their better judgment). It’s Peter Parker’s school, too, which means that Spider-Man is not far away when Namor attacks campus seeking revenge against Doom for past betrayals. Doom body swaps with the Torch and retaliates against Namor. At Spider-Man’s suggestion, Torch (in Doom’s body) goes on TV and behaves embarrassingly. When Doom learns of the humiliation, he ends his fight and swaps bodies back to go save face. Namor leaves, gratified at Doom’s humbling, and a Dr. Doom from the future appears in Latveria, providing portents of things to come.
WHAT I LIKED:
When doing a flashback miniseries like this, especially one with chapters from various time eras, one main thing I’m looking for is a nod to continuity placement, such as context clues telling me where this story might fit, but even just references to semi-recent events are good. Thanks to dialogue, we know this story takes place a month after the FF/Daredevil/Doom fight of Fantastic Four #s 39 and 40. We also know it is shortly after Peter started at ESU and that Gwen is still giving him the cold shoulder after his recent distracted behavior due to Aunt May’s ill health (which I believe was the Master Planner story of ASM #s 31-33). There are also several other references to specific goings-on in the characters’ lives. That was all awesome. Gage gets kudoes for continuity.
Also, while telling a good chapter by itself, we need a believable plot thread that is going to be long-term and tie together the otherwise disparate events. Like with the previous Spidey/X-Men mini, this receives a small allusion on the last page, just enough to make you wonder, a hook to bring you back next time.
So those structural notes aside, let’s look at the story itself. Peter Parker’s and Johnny Storm’s out-of-costume rivalry is given a healthy dose here. We see Gwen Stacy’s interest in Peter blossoming in spite of herself. The battle in the air between Doom-possessed Torch and Namor hearkened back to the Sub-Mariner’s historic battles with the previous man of fire. Spidey and Torch-in-Doom taking advantage of their wisecracking skills was corny but fun. Also, the opening scene where General Ross forces the Fantastic Four into the position of working for Doom was excellent, with Doom’s immense arrogance, and everyone else’s revulsion at the idea. The portable TV Spidey brings in is huge and retro-looking.
I also liked the action aspect of the art. The fight scenes were great. There’s a two-page spread with Namor fighting Torch and all the other characters surrounding that is just beautiful, but…
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
Also the art. To be more specific, the art when Alberti is drawing human faces of established characters. He does layouts and action and costumes all well enough. In fact, his Dr. Doom mask was great. But Reed Richards looked nothing like he should, and the same goes for Peter Parker and in some panels Johnny Storm. Most of the time, the characters look like they’re the stunt doubles for the real guys (Spaceballs fans, raise your hands).
Namor brings with him an entire batallion of Atlantean soldiers AND Giganto, the flipping whale that ate Jonah, complete with arms and legs. My question is: How did he get all the way to Empire State University without causing a ruckus that would have pulled out the FF, the Avengers, AND the X-Men?
Speaking of Namor’s army and sea monster, they were useless. They didn’t do anything. He brought them across New York City and then they all just stood there while Namor did the fighting. They didn’t even tussle with Spidey. In The Fantastic Four #4, Giganto was a huge threat that Ben Grimm risked his life to stop. Now, he’s just decoration.
While I praised this scene for its execution, I also have to say that putting the method for FF and Dr. Doom on ESU campus with Peter Parker was a bit contrived. Maybe I should have expected it, but still.
How easy is it for Doom to body swap? Doesn’t he need big machines? Here, he just gives Torch the evil eye and ZOOP! he done swapped their souls.
Despite my art problems and other nitpicks, I did really like this issue. It was basically exactly what I was looking for. Gage is following a similar plot structure to that used in Spider-Man/X-Men, but I don’t fault him for that. It worked in 2008; it can work here.
RATING: 4 out of 5 miniwebs
Thanks for reading. I’ll have more miniseries reviews coming your way soon.