Everything’s coming up Spidey! He’s newly published in the American Science Journal, his inventions are benefiting both his costumed persona and the world, and best of all-a formerly deceased friend has returned from the dead! (As a villain)
“The Return of Anti-Venom-Part One: The Ghost of Jean DeWolff”
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inked by Klaus Janson
Colored by Matt Hollingsworth
Lettered by VC’s Joe Carmagna
“Infested Stage 4: Out of Nowhere”
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Emma Rios and Javier Rodriguez
Colored by Edgar Delgado
“Thanks…But No Thanks”
Written by Todd DeZago
Illustrated by Todd Nauck
Colored Chris Sotomayor
Assistant Editor: Ellie Pyle
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
Editor in Chief: Axel Alonso
Chief Creative Officer: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley
Executive Producer: Alan Fine
THE PLOT(s): Spider-Man and Anti-Venom are beleaguered by a new vigilante called “The Wraith”, who appears to be Jean DeWolff. Jackal’s experiments come across Cloack and Dagger. Spidey tries to be nice around New York but is met with the nastier side of the population.
LONG STORY SHORT: Anti-Venom goes after Martin Li a.k.a Mr. Negative, for he knows his secret identity as the underworld crime boss. Spider-Man, who doesn’t, intervenes. Anti-Venom still cancels out Spidey’s powers, leaving him unconscious.
MY THOUGHTS: With the return of Dan Slott comes the return of mixed emotions ranging from positive to resoundingly negative. There are several things that make this a really cool and intriguing story, however the issue is beset with things like bad dialogue and plot contrivances which could have easily been fixed or nixed. Overall I think it’s a decent issue, but at times you just want to ask “Just what is going on in Slott’s mind when he writes this?”
This issue was so polarizing to me, that it can be split up into two sections divided by their dichotomous nature.
GOOD IDEA: Slott nail’s Eddie Brock’s character here and he shows a real solid grasp of his personality. Eddie has always had that type of self-righteous, holier-than-thou tone in his speech, mixed with modern sensibilities and a believable voice. Whether hero or villain, the character always sees himself on the side of the angels, and you believe that Eddie believes he was saved to be a sort of “spirit of vengeance” for the people.
I like Eddie Brock. I wish he were still Venom, but he’s basically doing the same Lethal Protector stuff he did in the classic 90s, albeit in a different colored costume and a prefix added to his name. Whether you like or dislike Venom, I think he was handled pretty well for the most part in this issue. It was also a nice touch for him to be the first person to witness “Jean DeWolff” as it was her killer which brought Brock to prominence in the Spider-Man titles and gave him the reason for his being.
BAD IDEA: “My name is Eddie Brock.
In another life, I was cast in shadow and nothing more than a monster.
But fate had a higher calling for me. I’ve been reborn as the light which will lead you all out of the darkness.
For all the poisons that plague this Earth, I am your ANTI-VENOM.”
If you were to think that this sounded like an intro box for an Anti-Venom ongoing, you’d be right in my book. But it isn’t. It’s Brock’s inner monologue caption boxes as he is going after Mr. Negative’s men. This may just be me, but I can’t stand when people talk like this to themselves. No one ever goes around their daily lives thinking to themselves “My name is *insert name here*. I did this, then I did that, and now I’m doing this right now.” It’s exposition in the worst way. That’s what the introductory captions are meant for. Since the 80s I know the Spider-Books began with the box that read “While attending a demonstration in radiology, student Peter Parker was bitten by a spider doused with radioactive rays…” and so forth. That was there for any new readers and it served as a general sort of intro to lead into the issue. Sort of like an intro to a TV show. In this case, it fails when the character is thinking of exposition they already know to themselves for no particular reason. It’s not just Slott that employs this at times; Geoff Johns is possibly the worst offender of it. He was the writer that I first recognized kept having the characters exposit really basic and obvious information to themselves for the purposes of a possible new reader. It’s not even as though important information is given through that first panel. We see how Anti-Venom views himself, but we immediately are reminded of this through his actions. Basically, the entire first panel was completely pointless, and while it doesn’t ruin the issue or anything it really does drag it’s class and prestige down.
GOOD IDEA: A cool thing about Peter dating a forensic investigator is that he can learn of new crimes in an honest way that isn’t suspicious, which really helps his life as Spider-Man. With him no longer working at the Bugle, going in and asking Robbie or Ben information on anything is no longer a wholly logical option, and it gives Carlie some nice usage as well. So in that aspect, the relationship is a good idea.
BAD IDEA: That aspect however is overshadowed by the fact that the relationship feels unnatural in most every other sense. First off, Carlie’s hair is darker and slightly longer than the last we saw it when it was much shorter than the time before in #660. Granted she could have always gotten it cut and I’m willing to accept that. But the frequent hair coloring is ridiculous. Second point, with the two of them moving in together it really does put the stamp on the “FORCED” checkbox with how it is written. It doesn’t matter a damn bit that Carlie isn’t Mary Jane, if she is Peter’s live-in girlfriend then we need to feel as though their relationship justifies the close intimacy that the action of living together should represent. Now I will throw my hands up and admit that I have yet to move in with a girlfriend, so the significance may not be as integral to the overall story as I’m making it out to be. But by having Peter wake up to Carlie, her saying how proud she is of Peter and calling him “Honey”, she literally is being put on the same level relationship-ratio-wise as Mary Jane. It rings very hollow and begs the question as to why we’re wasting time with this relationship anyway. If we don’t feel Peter and Carlie’s affection for each other, why is their relationship given panel-space? Peter barely thinks about her on his own time, his own activities in his civillain persona superceed any concern for her activities, and in general Carlie just does not register a blip on Peter’s radar unless he’s remembering that she’s his girlfriend. Again, I never moved in with any of my girlfriends but I’m under the assumption that such a move requires a span of about four-to-six months for the relationship to grow so that such a step is justified. If it tends less, than cool. Whatever. But then that just makes Carlie window dressing and makes her nothing more than “the girlfriend”. In this day and age the hero’s love interest should never be more than just “the girlfriend”, and if they are the relationship needs to be made more interesting, the character needs to be made more interesting, or you might as well just kill them off.
GOOD IDEA: Peter relishing in his scientific achievements being publicly recognized was nice to see. Deep down, this should be the thing he would rather have in his list of achievements because it’s something that’s always been his innate specialty before he got his Spider-Powers. It was fun to see him published in the American Science Journal and I like that his public rep. is built up over an honest thing he’s done.
I also liked that Aunt May was reacting just as much as Peter was. Both of them feeling pride in Peter’s accomplishments as a scientist made you feel good because it resonates with the core person that he is.
BAD IDEA: I did think Peter was acting a little overtly jubilant to the point of coming off as juvenile in his reactions to being published. It’s a small, preferential thing but I think it could have been done a bit better in that it didn’t make Peter come off as a bit of a kid.
For the most part though, the issue was alright. Slott’s dialogue tends to grate on me when characters are being serious, but there are times when I do like his sarcastic Spidey. Lines like “Perfect. Looks like Brock’s tinfoil hat is receiving all kinds of crazy today.” gave me chuckles, and it comes off naturally. One thing that died on its butt for me though was Aunt May giving Peter the “Go get ’em Tiger” moment near the end. For one it doesn’t ring true of the same woman who would cry at the mere thought of Peter walking the streets at night. It rings true of JMS’ Aunt May, but the majority of JMS’ Aunt May knew Peter was Spider-Man. Second, I can appreciate the dilemma Slott puts Peter in by having Anti-Venom go bat-squeak right in front of him as May’s being wheeled off to the hospital. The scene is undercut however by having May know of Peter’s plight through the phone call. Look at that scene, the conversation with Peter and Jay isn’t on speaker phone. May’s in her late 70s at least and she’s dying again. There’s no way through Jay’s dialogue she could hear him and know what was going through his head. The only way this makes sense is if she actually does end up dying because it would add a sense of poignancy to her final appearance. But that won’t happen, so it’s pathos unearned. Again, ruin the issue it doesn’t but it turns an attractive looking person wearing nice clothes into an attractive looking person wearing like he/she didn’t bathe and have been wearing the same clothes from the previous day.
“Infested Stage 4” was nowhere near as interesting as the last stage. A guy with Spider-Powers fights Cloak and Dagger. Check please. “Thanks…But No Thanks” sees the return of Todd DeZago to the Spider-Books which was fun for me personally because his Sensational Spider-Man run with Mike Wieringo helped get me into collecting. Unfortunately I think the story (drawn by Todd Nauck) was a bit lacking. Spidey basically goes through town trying to right wrongs but ends up mistaking normal situations for crimes being committed. He goes home questioning why he does what he does, never learning that he saved an old man’s life. It wasn’t so much that I thought this were bad, as it was that the story as a whole was rather negative. People make mistakes, do we really need to harp on that more than necessary? It did enforce the stereotype that people in New York City are rude, ill-mannered and stubborn which I think was inadvertent even though Spidey mentions it at one point. I actually think this story was decent in essence, I just didn’t really care to read it. Maybe if I’m in a more sympathetic mood, feeling as though no one appreciates me…*checks for comments below*
Overall this was an okay issue but some “Slott-isms” kept me from enjoying it more. If I were pretentious enough to assume how Slott approaches writing this title (and I am) it would seem to me as though he approaches the issues as though they were what he likes to read.What he likes to read, I think from reading his ASM work, is stuff from the late 70s and early 80s. The thing about that is that the modern sensibilities don’t filter through that type of nostalgia and thus the dialogue and exposition gets bogged into mediocrity. It’s not bad, but it’s not as good as it can be, which could be great. It’s simply “okay”.
Rating :2.5/5 webs.
*With apologies to the Animaniacs*