“Origin of the Species, Part 3”

Writer: Mark Waid

Penciler: Paul Azaceta

Inker: Paul Azaceta

Colorist: Javier Rodriguez

“Spidey Sundays”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciler: Marcos Martin

Inker: Marcos Martin

Colorist: Muntsa Vicente

Cover Art: Marco Djurdjevic

Variant Cover: Chris Bachalo and Tim Townsend

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

I’ve been busier than expected lately, so you’ll have to live without scans this time!  Besides, this review is late enough as it is …

The Plot

Mayhem has gripped the city, including random women claiming to be the mother of the baby Spider-Man is carrying.  Spidey is attacked by more villains, including the Vulture, Freak, and the Rhino.  Carlie is accosted by Tombstone and wonders about Peter after he’s not found in the rubble of the Coffee Bean.  She’s followed by Tombstone later.  Doctor Octopus is revealed to be working with an unknown partner.  Mary Jane gets Lily to safety, and Harry leaves to enact his own plan.  Mysterio attacks, but Spider-Man escapes.  Spidey hands the baby off to Harry and continues to fight, but Harry reveals that the baby has died – causing Spider-Man to fly into a fit of rage.  As the webslinger leaves, “Harry” reveals that he is, in fact, the Chameleon!

The Good

Like last issue, Waid keeps the action moving at a very fast and solid pace, occasionally breaking up the action with small plot and character moments.  This is a great way to pace the issue, because it provides enough breathers to allow the action to sink in and creates variety.

A multitude of villains are thrown at Spidey, making him fight on the ground, in the air, and on rooftops.  The variety in the types of enemies and situations was impressive for the limited amount of space.  Somehow, in the space of 22 pages, Waid managed to find room for four different attacking villains (and two behind the scenes, plus one stalker!), including giving the Rhino a scene with Spider-Man to call back to their previous encounter.

There are three  surprises in this issue that must be mentioned – and perhaps go hand-in-hand.  The first is that Doctor Octopus is working with a mysterious partner of some kind.  While the partner is shown in shadow the entire time, we can see that it’s a guy in a green business suit.  Doc Ock explains the “octo-tracer” he placed on Spider-Man (more on this later) to the partner while speaking cordially with him, indicating that they’ve been working together the entire time.  The second surprise is a Mysterio fake out with the baby.  It’s an absolute “what the hell” moment, and it works in context.  Had Mysterio been shown earlier in the issue, it would have no impact, but having the fishbowl-headed one as yet unrevealed made this a convincing trick.  The third surprise comes at the end of the issue.  Spider-Man hands the baby to Harry, who later tearily tells Spidey that the baby has died.  After Spidey swings off in a rage, “Harry” pulls off his mask and reveals himself to be the Chameleon.

This presents a whole host of questions, and perhaps a theory.  How long has the Chameleon been standing in for Harry?  Well, this issue seems to indicate that it’s been for the entire arc.  Harry went from the Coffee Bean to the panic room with others, so we know that was the same person the entire time.  Judging from Harry’s strange behavior in the panic room, I think we’re supposed to think that it was the Chameleon in that scene, which means he’s been the Harry we’ve seen throughout the arc.  If that’s the case, where is Harry?  Could he be Doc Ock’s partner … ?

The Bad

You know how, when you play a crappy video game with terrible controls like the Tomb Raider games, you eventually become used to the shoddiness and get good at the game?  The art in this issue is like that.  It’s bad, no doubt, but it’s the kind of bad that I’m so used to by now that I’ve adjusted to it.  Azaceta still has no idea how to draw human beings – which is a problem in a fictional universe populated almost entirely by human beings – and the flat inking and coloring make me wonder if he has a small child do them to save time.  However, I’m so used to his awful artwork that I’ve reached the point of general apathy.  I still suspect that Wacker and Waid owe a large gambling debt to this guy or something, because I have no idea what they see in him to continue to give him such cushy gigs.

While I’ve been impressed by Waid’s storytelling in the last couple of issues, there are a few nagging problems.  The octo-tracer is the biggest one for me.  Let’s be straight – the octo-tracer is a lazy plot device.  Despite doing a reasonable job of explaining why Spider-Man would be unable to escape at the end of the first issue of the arc, Waid shoehorned this explanation into the story.  The logistic are also iffy.  Spider-Man’s spider-sense is accurate enough to be able to determine that the tracer is placed on his body, yet the story presents it in such a way that shows that Spidey has no idea that it’s even there.  They go through the pretense of showing his spider-sense buzzing in the panel, but it’s not enough.

Carlie Cooper is grating on my last nerve.  She’s a shrill, annoying harpy of a character that only exists to appease some kind of bullet point on a checklist in somebody’s office.  I couldn’t care less about her subplot, which is the type of melodramatic claptrap from the Silver Age that writers and editors love to complain about in interviews, yet hypocritically fall back on whenever they need to pad an issue and fill space.  (Perusing that release dates for future issues, the solicit text for The Amazing Spider-Man #646 claims that someone will die.  I’m crossing my fingers and hoping it’s Carlie!)

The Ugly

That Chris Bachalo variant.  Do I even need to explain this one?

The Bottom Line

Despite its flaws, I liked this issue.  The artwork is still pretty terrible, but the story has me engaged and very interested.  The twist at the end was a game-changer that pushes the issue over the top, and since I’m in a generous mood, I’ll give this 4 out of 5 webheads.

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