Stories used to actually end at “the end,” but that’s not how we do things in the Marvel age of comics. It’s epilogue time! As you might expect, ASM #673 is essentially just for a lot of loosely connected “aftermath” scenes. There are some nice moments to be found, and plenty that’ll be quite relevant to the future, but I’d rather see a story’s loose ends get tied up, you know, in the story…
Spider Island Epilogue: Naked City
Words by Dan Slott
Pencils by Stefano Caselli
Colors by Frank Martin
Letters by Joe Caramagna
It’s the morning after everyone in New York City turned into giant spiders, and everyone knows they’re in a comic book. Okay, we’re not talking Deadpool-levels of awareness here, but it’s borderline, and as someone who got into webcomics as a teenager, I can confidently say I would prefer never to read “har har, we’re in a comic” jokes again. Acknowledging that people mysteriously still have glasses and headbands despite being otherwise naked, and then explaining it with “we live in a world where Hulk grows ten times his size and his pants stay on” sort of falls flat when you consider that Slott could have just not written the glasses and headbands in the first place. I read this as an acknowledgement of how over the top this event has been, and a little attempt at justification. It didn’t work on me.
But I do have to admit, there’s a sense of calm that I found pleasant while reading through all these little scenarios. Switching from Ramos to Caselli for this issue really helped with that, and I’m not just saying so because I find Caselli’s art infinitely more appealing. His solid anatomy, clean lines and ability to be expressive without exaggerating are all far more suited to the subdued tone of the epilogue compared to the main event’s nonstop action. And I have to specifically mention his rendition of MJ in this issue, which I think is top notch adorable.
I Really, Really, Really (Really) Hate Clones
Part of what bugs me about this whole epilogue business is that we didn’t need most of it to know what’s going on. All things clone, for example, were predictable. Did anyone actually think that the Jackal was dead? It’s not just a meaningless question in the context of the story, it’s meaningless from a reader’s perspective too. The character has reached a point where he is literally impossible to kill. I don’t mean it would be impossible for Spidey to kill him, I mean even a writer could not do it. He will literally never again be anything but an expendable clone in any appearance, regardless of whether anyone believes otherwise.
Everybody knew that Kaine was going to be the new Scarlet Spider, so the setup we got for that didn’t accomplish much either. One thing I did find entertaining about this scene was the notion that Kaine can’t hang around in New York because the Avengers know he was a “stone-cold killer.” Yeah, the Avengers have never had anything to do with killers, right? Snikt!
At any rate, it really defies logic in a way only Marvel can accomplish that Kaine’s the one doing this. Similar to the arbitrary accessories folks kept at the beginning of the issue, it’s almost like the creative team is manufacturing a problem just so they can comment on it here. Kaine can’t stay because he was Kaine, even though he’s now Ben Reilly. So… why isn’t he Ben Reilly? Is there any point in asking anymore? I just want to know why everyone at Marvel thinks it would kill them to give fans what they want for once, instead of half what they want but with a twist. I don’t even care about this because I’m not one of the Ben fans who’s been clamoring for his return, but I do know their pain. This bothers me on principle.
I Know I’m Forgetting Something…
It would be unsportsmanlike of me to express glee over Carlie, right? It just feels like gloating at this point. To be honest, I was actually a bit of a doubter. I thought that Slott was going to pull some crap out of nowhere to keep Peter and Carlie together, and I was pleasantly surprised that he handled it the way he did.
I truly believe this needed to happen in as non-biased a manner as I can. Yeah, I hate Carlie as much as everybody else, but I’m going to pretend I don’t for a second to say this: Slott, thank you. Thank you for giving this character enough credit after all the times you’ve tried to convince us of her greatness. Thank you for writing a member of Peter’s supporting cast as smart enough to put it all together, and not to accept any ridiculous excuses, and to show the proper indignance at being lied to by someone who’s supposed to be close to her.
Do I believe that this means we’re entering a new era of properly addressing all the problems that this steadfast obsession with the secret identity has created? Well, no, I won’t go that far. But this is a step forward. It’s an acknowledgement, for once, that Peter really should not be able to get away with this. I’m not even going to get started on the towering inanity of the excuse we were given for how the “mind wipe” spell was “weakened.” By now, I’m so used to Spidey’s creative team giving me magical crap that makes no sense and ignores continuity that I just can’t muster the energy to care.
I Was Wondering When You Were Going to Bring This Ride to a Complete Stop.
If it seems like this review is a bit meandering, it’s because it is. There’s more to be said, I suppose. Madame Web is still Madame Web, with all of the mystical nonsense that includes. A construction worker stops Spidey to admit that he understands now, “you’re no different from me or anybody else,” in what I thought was a genuinely touching if not particularly necessary scene. Peter grabs a cure from Horizon from MJ, and while it’s nice to end with the two of them side by side again, the thrill of that only worked on me once—sorry Slott, no more easy As outta me! The fact is that there’s just not very much actual story here, so if my review’s a disjointed collection of scenes, it’s just rolling along at the issue’s pace.
But there is one thing that caught me enough to serve as a closer. I couldn’t help but smile when Peter dismissed the notion of using the cure on himself without the slightest hesitation. I was successfully misled into thinking that was what he’d grabbed it for, and that I was going to have to put up with yet another dramatic Spidey-almost-quit scene. It wasn’t his words that I found so inspiring. It was that, as frustrating as things seem sometimes, it’s nice to know that Marvel’s let this character retain at least some of the progress he’s made over the decades.
- After six straight issues of Ramos, getting Caselli on the book is a welcome relief.
- Everything about the long-overdue truth and breakup scene was handled perfectly.
- Mostly just unnecessary fluff to drag Spider Island on for one more issue.
- That stupid Hulk joke.