“Origin of the Species, Part 4”

Writer: Mark Waid

Artists: Paul Azaceta and Matthew Southworth

Colorist: Javier Rodriguez

“Spidey Sundays”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciler: Marcos Martin

Inker: Marcos Martin

Colorist: Muntsa Vicente

Cover Art: Marco Djurdjevic

Variant Cover: Bryan Hitch and Paul Mounts (NOT Paolo Rivera, as the issue itself claims)

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

The Plot

Spider-Man goes on a bitter, angry rampage against the villains that pursued him in the previous issues.  Harry Osborn retrieves his Green Goblin paraphernalia.  Tombstone tails Carlie to the location of Mary Jane and Lily, but Lily uses her Goblin glider to defeat him.  Spider-Man interrogates some villains to discover who is behind the plot and where he is located.  At Kravinoff Mansion, Spider-Man encounters a scared Chameleon, who tells Spidey that the baby is alive and was kidnapped by the Lizard.

The Good

Waid begins to pay off the tension created in previous issues here by having Spider-Man come to grips with his failure from last issue.  Of course, Spidey is completely misguided in his quest, because the death of the baby is fabricated, but from a dramatic irony point of view this is solidly constructed.  We, as the audience, are completely aware that the baby is alive, but the groups of characters all believe different things – Spider-Man thinks the baby is dead, Lily and Mary Jane think the baby is alive and with Spider-Man, Doctor Octopus believes the baby is alive and with the Chameleon, etc.

The artwork is somewhat improved from previous outings.  I honestly can’t tell if the majority of the artwork is made up of breakdowns by Azaceta and inks by Southworth, or if the art on those pages is all Southworth.  Either way, the first three-quarters or so of the book is a welcome improvement in quality.

Although the sequence is brief – it’s only two panels – the bit with Harry retrieving his Green Goblin stuff was the most interesting segment of the issue.  Could we be witnessing the birth of a new, heroic Green Goblin?  There hasn’t been a hero Goblin since Tom DeFalco’s short, fantastic Green Goblin from the mid 90s (which featured Phil Urich, the nephew of then-Daily Bugle and current Front Line writer Ben Urich, as the Goblin).  Perhaps he is only out for some kind of revenge?  Either way, I welcome some kind of major shakeup for Harry, because his lack of importance to the ongoing story is one of the major disappointments of Brand New Day.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the bulk of the issue failed to interest me.  The biggest problem is the overused “Spidey gets pissed” plotline.  Mainly, whenever Spidey gets in one of these dark moods, it gets eerily close to the “I AM THE SPIDER” period from the 90s.  Spider-Man is a character that is well-developed enough to be capable of more than two emotional states, but writers always default to either “happy-go-lucky” or “the Punisher in a Spider-Man costume.”  That’s just lazy, incompetent scripting.  Spider-Man’s goals also seem to have no rhyme or reason beyond making him look dark and menacing.  He doesn’t even interrogate the Shocker near the end so much as he simply lets Shocker spill his guts to avoid being killed.  Waid also manages to find time to pay off the money issue from the beginning of the arc, having Peter quietly trade his photography equipment for stolen lab materials.  Let me repeat that: Spider-Man breaks into a lab, steals material and makes webbing with it, and leaves some photography stuff – which is probably a pretty inequitable trade in favor of Spider-Man – behind as “payment.”  That is not Spider-Man.  If the writers want to go write Batman, GO WRITE BATMAN.

The twist at the end is more annoying than it is interesting.  First of all, we have no reason to believe that this is even true, which saps its effectiveness as an ending.  This is especially true if, at the beginning of next issue, they simply handwave the revelation away as a lie.  Secondly, if it is indeed true, it just reminds me of how shitty “Shed” was.  Do we really need to go back to that again?

I haven’t mentioned the Spidey Sundays strips a whole lot in my reviews, mainly because they hardly register a blip on the radar most of the time.  Now that the storyline is finished, it’s a good time to just come out and say it: the entire thing sucked.  I love Stan Lee’s writing to death – regardless of how much the current establishment loves to slag him in interviews and attempt to undermine his contributions to comic book history at every opportunity – but this was a poor effort.  There were occasional moments that were funny, like the mention of Red Hulk and the scene between Spidey and the Fantastic Four, but otherwise it made for a dumb story.  The artwork was also very underwhelming.  Stan (Ever notice how we always refer to people like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby by their first names rather than their last names?  Take notes, Wacker and Brevoort.) gave Marcos Martin plenty of opportunities to experiment, but Martin dropped the ball and turned in very pedestrian work.  His style was ill-suited to this story, and it shows.

The Tombstone subplot went absolutely nowhere.  In fact, it went less than nowhere.  The entire thing was completely contrived for the purpose of cramming in more unwanted Carlie Cooper appearances.  Speaking of which …

The Ugly

I don’t even have the capacity for words anymore with regards to THIS annoying topic, so I’ll just post this here and let you add your own commentary:

The Bottom Line

Like Grim Hunt before it, The Origin of Species is turning into a story that shows flashes of excellence, but ultimately falls apart under its own weight.  I’m more than ready for the era of the Brain Trust / Webheads to end at this point.  2 out of 5 webheads.

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