It hits the fan when the Spider-epidemic reaches critical! Manhattan is swept by criminals in Spider-Costumes, and only the Avengers, New Avengers and Future Foundation can stop them from wrecking havoc. But hold on…where is Spidey?
Spider-Island Part One: “The Amazing Spider-Manhattan”
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
Inked by Carlos Cuevas
Colored by Edgar Delgado
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
THE PLOT: Carlie reveals to Peter that she now has Spider Powers, just as the Jackal besets upon New York several gangsters and criminals in different Spider-Man costumes all with Spidey’s abilities.
LONG STORY SHORT: Carlie swings off to help out, and Spider-Man chases after her. He joins the heroes, but is mistaken from a crook in disguised and gets knocked unconscious.
MY THOUGHTS: This is one of those issues where I’m wondering if I’m the right person to be reading this title, let alone review it.
I quickly think back to why I am in the first place, because hey-I really like Spider-Man and have been following him fairly consistently for over 15 years. But this is one of those times where I put the book down and think that this just isn’t for me. Even with the notion that every issue is a reader’s first, even with the notion that this book is trying to appeal towards a broader audience, even with reconciling the fact that it’s Spider-Man, I still can’t get over how shoddy the writing gets to be at times. This is one of those times.
Again, with Dan Slott the plot is fine. We see Peter learn that Carlie has powers, crooks wreck havoc, and Carlie and Peter jump into action. Various reactions are documented, from MJ to JJ. That’s a perfectly fine story for an issue. But again, with Dan Slott, it’s the execution that just kills me every time. I’m so tired of ragging on the guy, but I lying to myself if I didn’t say that this comic reads as though it were written for four year olds. In a sense it is, but for that to be the sole target audience makes this thing hard as heck to enjoy.
Carlie gets a certain spotlight in this issue, and it leads to one of the more annoying appearances of her character. I’ve said it before, I don’t have any bias against the character, and in this issue she’s meant to be written as an ironic joke. Even still, it seemed as though her character was codified to have Peter make “Springtime for Hitler” reaction faces and give the book a belly of laughs at his expense. One of the bigger problems I have with this is how both Peter and Carlie react to her having Spider-Powers. I like that she wants to become a hero with them, but the two aren’t really reacting as though a major crisis in their relationship has just occurred. Not to say that this is automatically a bad thing, but Peter holds off testing Carlie to find out the origins of her powers so he can drive Aunt May to the airport. Wouldn’t that be seriously low on the priority list, especially since he’s worried he gave her a “spidery transmitted disease”? (which while a logical train of thought really sickens me in suggestion) Carlie goes along with the idea as though Peter’s her father, instead of possibly testing her powers out more or going out to look for crimes. Granted, these amount to suggestions I have for the book, but again it’s because the actual scene of characterization are so unbelievable. If Mary Jane had Spider Powers, would Peter blow her off to take May to the airport? If so, would MJ stand for that?
It’s stuff like that which grates on me, but even more was the dialogue. Carlie’s last line to Peter before the scene ends is “Alll right. Boy, when you’re a super hero, all this secret identity stuff blows. I should be out on patrol or something. That’d be awesome!”Again, not saying that this is an impossible reaction to getting powers, but it’s the equivalent to how a child would react. They would concentrate on the possibilities rather than the possible danger of just what having Spider-Powers means. And I’m not suggesting that this book can’t be fun or that Spider-Island shouldn’t explore the wonderful opportunities having Spider-Powers presents itself, but this is really unbelievable to me that she would not only jump for joy but that she would also be willing to forget about it in order to drive someone to the airport. Perhaps it’s a sign that she really loves Peter, but more so than that, it makes her out to be a tool. So the two of them have no excuse.
Madame Web in this story bugged me too. (ba-dum DISH) It is rare for a clairvoyant character who knows everything but says nothing to be anything but annoying, and she just conformed to the trope. I really disliked the way she spoke, and while it’s fair to say that her role in Spider-Island may be revealed to have serious weight, she came off in this issue as a big part pooper, having a blank look on her face and speaking in riddles for no apparent reason. If she knows about everything that’s happening was meant to happen and refuses to prevent any of it, why is she there in the first place? Shang Chi doesn’t need her to point out where he needs to be. At the end of the issue, she refers to the chaos as “Spider-Island”, which is on the same level as referring to previous city-wide events as “Maximum Carnage” or “The Clone Saga” as though it were common knowledge to refer to it as such. It’s too expositional, too complacent for the reader, and too unbelievable for the character. In time, the crisis may be referred as “Spider-Island” by the media and she might call it that because of it, but in this issue’s context it comes off as lazy writing.
I really don’t like being negative about Spider-Man these days, and this review feels as though it’ll bum out the people who enjoyed it. Luckily there were some good aspects like that I took away from it. I liked how Ramos had Carlie looking in this issue. Her design has been a point of contention with people as it’s been inconsistent for several issues, but this to me is how I would prefer to see the character from story to story. I liked Mary Jane’s reference to the Clone Saga. I also liked the Avengers/New Avengers/Future Foundation’s immediate response to the threat. Several times in Spider-Man history, the other heroes are just not there for a good while, and it’s completely unbelievable. The heroes appearing right away both added credibility and brought urgency to the threat.
I wish I could be as complimentary to the art as I’ve always like Humberto Ramos. I thought he killed it in the Paul Jenkins classic “Death in the Family” from Peter Parker: Spider-Man vol.2, and I’ve liked him on the title. I can’t lie with this issue however, by the second half of the book, it was hard for me to completely distinguish certain characters and images from each other. It may be due to the coloring, but some images were hard to make out, while others really didn’t look very good. While I like how Carlie appeared in this for the most part, the panel where she dubs herself “Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Cop!” does not look good at all anatomically. The upper half of her body looks as though it had been snapped in half compared to the lower part, and her arms look way too long. Her right arms also bleeds into the image of the taxi, hiding it from the overall shot of her body and really making it tough to make out. A cool thing of either Ramos or colorist Edgar Delgado is that Carlie’s infamous tattoo is in a lot of the shots in this issue, including this panel. But the overall image, as well as the double page splash with the super heroes that followed looked really shoddy. Again, I’m a big Ramos fan. I had the privilege of seeing him at SDCC and regret missing out on getting a sketch from him there. But this to me isn’t one of his stronger outings, and I don’t like saying that.
Lastly, come on. Nobody recognizes the actual Spider-Man’s voice from the fake ones? Weren’t they wondering where the real one was the whole time? I can let the Ms. Marvel thing slide, but when Spidey is standing still, not attacking anyone and yelling that he’s the one and only, to have the Thing haul off and slug him is an insult to intelligence. Besides having known each other since Amazing Spider-Man #1 and being on the same team for months, they saw each other yesterday! Peter saying to Ben “It’s me!” shouldn’t be impossible to realize. Again, it wasn’t out of characterization but for a cheap cliffhanger where we wonder how Spider-Man can get back on the good side of the heroes. Shang Chi will obviously clear things up in a matter of pages, and this will have been a pointless fake out.
After last issue I was genuinely interested in Spider-Island. But it’s as I said before, the kids gloves are knitted too tight with this issue. Mistaken Identity is in a cartoon’s bag of tricks for a plot, and this is supposed to be a flagship title. Am I still interested? Kinda, but this was a waste to me.