THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #654.1 Review


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #654.1

“Flashpoint”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Humberto Ramos

Inker: Carlos Cuevas

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

“Coming Up In Amazing Spider-Man”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Stefano Caselli

Inker: ???

Colorist: ???

Cover Art: Paolo Siqueira

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

And now, for something a little different …

From the very beginning, it was clear that this issue would essentially be Venom #0 – a prelude to the upcoming ongoing by Rick Remender and Tony Moore.  As such, CrazyChris decided to take pity on me and help out on the review, Marvel Team-Up style!

Hey everyone! When I offered to review the ongoing Venom series, I had no idea who would be under the costume or what I was in for. Anyhow, let’s review this thing, symbiotic-style!

Due to some unforeseen technical problems (in other words, my scanner has gremlins), I can’t add any scans at the moment.  I’ll update this review with some scans tomorrow.  Sorry!

The Plot

Newly minted government operative Flash Thompson, the new Venom, begins his infiltration of the group Ultimatum at a swanky party attended by financial movers and shakers from around the globe.  He plants a tracking device on a countess and then returns to base to be separated from the symbiote, which he must do within 48 hours of putting it on.  Back home in Brooklyn, Betty arrives to inform Flash that Marla Jameson has just died and that he needs to speak to and console Peter.  Flash heads to the Coffee Bean to meet Peter, but he sees Peter with Mary Jane (and not Carlie Cooper) and becomes angry.  His boss General Dodge calls and informs Flash of another mission, and soon Flash is skydiving into Turkey to save Yusef Kassim, an Arab banker that he met at the party that opened the story.  Flash successfully infiltrates the base and gets Kassim, but Flag-Smasher successfully blows up Flash’s symbiote legs, causing Flash to lose concentration and allow the symbiote to fully take over.  The Venomed-out Flash slaughters the goons and bites Flag-Smasher’s arm off, allowing him to escape with Kassim.  Later, Kassim lies to cover Flash to his superiors, and it’s discovered that the symbiote did not completely separate from him after the mission.  Returning home, Flash is scolded by Betty for missing the funeral and not talking to Peter, but she quickly changes face when Flash promises to try to be a better man.

There is also a two-page teaser for upcoming Spider-Man stories that appears to have been drawn by Stefano Caselli, though no credits are given.

The Good

Um … the book was $2.99?

I agree with you, Gerard, that this issue does little if anything well, but I see it as one of the rare comics that transcend mere awfulness and enter so-stupid-it’s-funny territory. Does that justify buying the issue? No. Readers, please don’t take anything I say as a suggestion to go see this for yourself. It’s not worth it. But for those of us who HAVE to read this in order to review it, there’s some fun to be had marveling at how utterly dumb it is.

For example, after Flash Venoms-out — no, wait. I can’t even finish that sentence. Come on, “Venom-out?” Is that what it’s called, now? Did this issue coin that? I can’t even say it without feeling dumber. Anyway, (deep breath) after Flash Venoms-out (ugh), Flag Smasher says he’ll blow his hostage apart with a detonator and asks Flash if he understands. Venomed-out Flash replies “Ssssory, we’re just a big dumb jock. Give usss a sssec to wrap our head around it.” Did I mention Venom talks like Stegron, now? Then Venom-Flash bites Flag Smasher’s arm off, spits it out, and says it doesn’t count as cannibalism because he didn’t swallow. Seriously, Flash freaking Thompson is doing this. Yes, it utterly obliterates any dignity this character ever had, yet I can’t get mad about it. It’s so pitifully stupid that I can only laugh.

One moment actually made me laugh out loud. A little earlier in the issue, Flash jumps from a plane and starts gliding with these purple bat wing flaps in his armpits. The image is so ridiculous that I did that thing where you laugh abruptly and open your mouth too late so it comes out as a buzzing raspberry sound. Other than that, though, I like design of Flash’s normal, non-Venomed-out costume. It might be the coolest variant on the black Spider-Man suit ever.

I agree with you that that design of the “special ops” Venom is actually pretty cool, though Ramos doesn’t do a good job drawing it.  Tony Moore will do a much better job when Venom begins next month.

The Bad

Man oh man, where do I start with this one?  The problems begin right from the cover to the issue.  The cover depicts a rather enormous, Gargan-esque Venom swinging behind Spider-Man.  It’s not a bad drawing – in fact, I kind of like it for what it is.  The problem is that (a) no such event occurs in the issue, (b) the Venom design shown is not used in the issue, with Ramos instead using a more Brock-like design, and (c) Spider-Man doesn’t even appear in the goddamn issue!  In fact, Peter himself only appears in a single panel.  This is supposed to be The Amazing Spider-Man, right?  Anyway, enough of that … if I’m going to nitpick that much, we’ll be here all day.

The opening of the issue isn’t terrible, but it seems awfully familiar to me, as if I’ve seen it before …

Oh, right.  It’s basically the opening scene of the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger action/comedy True LiesHarry Tasker Flash sneaks into a party, pretends to be somebody important, mingles with foreign dignitaries and financiers, and dances with the chick secretly working for the bad guys.  The only difference is that Slott outright tells us that Juno Skinner Countess Bianca Demonico is working for the bad guys, sucking any mystery out of the character.  Sadly, this is the best part of the issue.

Really, the biggest problem with the issue is that for a story about Flash as the new Venom, the story gives no real reason why any of this makes any sense, and the character resembles neither Flash nor Venom for most of the story.  Flash is terribly out of character here, as his characterization is all over the map even when completely separated from the symbiote.  Slott attempts to cover this up with heavy-handed use of football talk, but it fails miserably and becomes annoying very quickly.  Why does Flash, being the huge Spidey fanatic that he is, agree to be bonded to the alien symbiote worn by one of Spider-Man’s mortal enemies?  Why is the government using a stolen symbiote as a weapon to begin with?  Why is a winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, somebody that has been on television, in newspapers, and all over the Internet fairly recently, making no attempt to conceal his identity while purportedly working undercover at a swanky dinner party?  And where the hell is Spider-Man during all of this?  This IS The Amazing Spider-Man, right?

Though there were no really outstanding positives, I wasn’t convinced that this was a bad issue until I reached the last few pages of the story.  First, Flash’s legs are blown off by the Flag-Smasher, and though he can assumedly regenerate them with the symbiote, Flash loses control and goes full-on Venom.  Then, he mercilessly slaughters the mooks and bites off the Flag-Smasher’s freaking arm, spitting it out afterwards.  (Rated 9 and Up!)  Not only is the art on these pages the worst in an already unevenly-illustrated issue, but Flash suddenly takes a dive into villain territory from which he never recovers.  Although we learn that the symbiote is only 1% bonded to him at this point – and thus, logically, he should still be Flash with only the slightest twinge of evil in his heart – he is shown having no remorse whatsoever for what he did and hides the truth from his superiors.  This doesn’t inspire me to want to read about his adventures on a monthly basis.

The final indignity comes courtesy of Bertone’s nemesis Betty Brant, who once again proves that she is in fact a horrible person.  Betty gets annoyed with Flash for missing Marla Jameson’s funeral – despite the fact that she never actually told him any details about it – and claims that people were asking about him.  Wait … what?  Why would people be looking for Flash Thompson at Marla’s funeral?  Flash barely had any relationship with the Jameson family at all.  As it is, it already strains credibility that multiple people would be wondering where he is at an emotionally-charged event like a funeral.  I could see that making sense if, say, John Jameson hadn’t attended, but Flash Thompson?  Additionally, where does Betty come off getting on his case about this to begin with?  There’s no particularly compelling reason why he needed to attend the funeral in the first place, and getting angry with him about not talking to Peter seems disingenuous given that Betty has a much closer relationship to Peter.  Really, this scene was contrived solely to generate some false drama.

I agree with your points about Slott’s poor characterization of Flash, and I would that add his habit of comparing his missions to football comes off as extremely inappropriate given the context. I get that Flash is a soldier and it’s his job to kill people, but you’d think after losing his legs he wouldn’t nonchalantly put war in the same category as high school sports. He’s literally thinking about scoring touchdowns while shooting three men in the head and strangling a fourth with a wire. I don’t know if Slott was trying to “keep it light” or if he just can’t write well enough to make Flash sound like Flash without having him constantly allude to football, but by golly there isn’t an ounce of sincerity in this issue.

The art doesn’t help. There’s another scene where Flash tries to get out of his wheel chair but falls on his face because he forgot he doesn’t have legs any more. I think Slott was attempting an emotional moment to show us how dire Flash’s life has become in contrast with the liberation the symbiote gives him, but Ramos’s style has no subtlety so it comes off as a tasteless slapstick image.

Also, I’m surprised that you didn’t talk more about Flash joining the list of people who just ADORE Carlie Cooper. It’s so great that Peter FINALLY has a reliable gal and all his ducks in a row, eh Gerard?

YOU BASTARD.  You just had to remind me of that, didn’t you?  I swear, my mind must have blocked that Carlie Cooper bit out to spare me the pain and anguish, but you just felt the need to remind me.

The Ugly

The entire concept of Marvel’s “Point One” books is supposedly to provide a good jumping-on point for new readers.  Viewing the book from that angle, this issue fails in every conceivable fashion.

Not only is the Amazing Spider-Man nowhere to be found in this “new-reader-friendly” issue of The Amazing Spider-Man, but Peter Parker only shows up for a single panel.  Let me reiterate: in an issue designed solely to appeal to new readers, the main character of the series only appears in a single panel.  This issue is basically a pilot story for the new Venom, which flies in the face of the entire Point One initiative.  It’s like sending your kid to a basketball camp in which the only sport they ever discuss is racquetball.

Also, for a book that’s supposed to be easy to pick up for somebody unfamiliar with the current goings-on in the title, this issue is submerged up to the neck in the series’ current continuity and status quo.  Marla Jameson’s death – which occurred only last issue – is a major plot point, and it’s the only motivation behind Betty’s actions in this issue.  This may as well be The Amazing Spider-Man #655, because the story seems to have continued straight from last issue.  Except that it isn’t, because Spider-Man is nowhere to be seen.

It’s like Marvel doesn’t know its waltz from its cha cha!

I see what you did there.

The Bottom Line

I really tried to enjoy the issue, but I just couldn’t.  It’s a sloppily written, sloppily drawn mess slapped together to advertise another series and squeeze an extra three bucks out of the readers.  0.5 out of 5 webheads.

I don’t know what I’d rate this. It’s bad, but kind of fun at the same time. If I had any emotional investment in these characters, I’d hate what’s being done to them, but that ship sank years ago. I can get no madder at this than one could get mad at the kid who falls off the swing set and poops himself. It’s a little pathetic and a lot funny. I won’t contest Gerard’s rating, but give it an extra .1 on me.

This reminds me of that Wicker Man remake with Nicholas Cage: it’s so shitty that it’s unintentionally funny, yet it’s impossible to actually recommend on that basis alone.  NOOOOO!!!  NOT THE BEEEEES!!!
 

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