Wait, what was that last one again?
“Spider-Island Epilogue: The Naked City”
Story bt Dan Slott
Art by Stefano Caselli
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
THE PLOT: In the aftermath of Spider Island, New York begins its acclimation with normal, everyday life. Kaine leaves for New York to start anew, and Eddie Brock is given public credit with curing the citizens of the Spider Virus. Jackal has survived as well.
LONG STORY SHORT: Carlie reveals to Peter that she’s figured out his identity and promptly dumps him. Peter goes to Doctor Strange for an explanation on why the mind block didn’t work, and Strange explains that he blew it once he went on television revealing to have powers. Peter’s back to square one with his identity. He takes a vial of the cure and gives it to Mary Jane, who shows him how appreciative New York is of Spider-Man by pointing him in the direction of the Empire State Building, lit up with red and white.
MY THOUGHTS: The feelings I have for this issue may seem at first to simply reflect on the fact that it’s legitimately the end of Spider Island, but honest to God I felt as though this was the best issue out of the whole arc. The wrap up scenes, while not always brilliantly written, were handled with skill and the emotions felt by the characters came off as humane and believable. While there were questionable and downright conflictive beats meant to just be sound bites for the cameras so-to-speak, I felt that the personality of Peter, Mary Jane and the others was all there when it counted. It makes me feel a bit better about Spider Island as a story, and while it may not win any Eisners or anything, this final issue solidifies it as amusing and entertaining filler all the same.
Beginning with the art, Caselli returns after Ramos takes a well earned break from the title upon completing six solid issues with massive fight scenes and characters galore. I may’ve been iffy on some issues art-wise over others, but no one can deny the amount of man hours and effort Ramos clearly poured into this arc. Caselli’s return presents us a well earned breather from the hyperactive story and artwork, and everything looks great. I really like his style, and though there were a few minor gripes such as Aunt May looking like Norah Winters, I dug it for the most part. I love how he draws Spider-Man’s costume, especially his gloves which look like a real suit that was sewn and constructed with actual fabric as opposed to spray painting a male figure. It’s artists like Caselli and Todd Nauck that bring a sense of fun believability in their artwork while still making it look fantastic and appealing. Same goes for the incidental characters. The workers at Horizon Labs all have unique fashion styles to them while looking very contemporary and realistic. His anatomy is great too, drawing both Peter and Spider-Man to be strong, athletic looking people without making them be too big and muscular. Probably the best thing I can say about Caselli’s art for this particular issue is that the entire beginning sequence is one big nudity joke, yet we get zero shots that are served for the male gaze in terms of gorging on the female anatomy. THIS is how you do it. People are naked, that’s a fact. Despite this, neither Carlie nor Misty Knight are given a pornographer’s POV in terms of panel appeal. Bravo Mr. Caselli, bravo indeed.
Unfortunately the writing didn’t match the art’s sense of taste when it came to the situation at hand. With one of the most densely populated cities on the planet having its citizen’s being mostly sans clothing, there’s going to have to be a joke or two about the nudity. I did find Slott’s take on it to be a bit childish. This might be my perspective on nudity considering my politics, or even that I’m a former art student who gazed and drew both naked men and women for hours at a time several days a week. Whatever the case may be, the people all freaking out about the nudity felt silly to me, as though they haven’t seen the human body before. I’m willing to see that as a personal take rather than a scripting flaw though. I did like Hawkeye’s explanation for why he, T’challa and Misty Knight were not freaking out about being naked being that they’re always in skin tight clothing most of the time anyway. That explanation was good.
What was not good however, and this is a scripting flaw, was Slott’s explanation as to why certain design aspects remained for the newly reformed victims of the Jackal’s virus. Black Panther comments on how he’s lost his beard, yet keeps his haircut. Misty Knight has her headband, and Carlie has her glasses, hairstyle neatly folded and her tattoo. When this is questioned, Hawkeye says “Hulk keeps his pants, just roll with it.”
That’s a very bad way to write oneself out of what is clearly a logic problem. It’s also one of the several deadly sins of writing. Writers should never point out the flaws or plot holes in their stories by way of characters or otherwise, only to do nothing about it or have it not mean anything. Slott, not Hawkeye, basically says to the reader “Stop thinking about things that don’t make sense and read the comic.” I can chuckle with the Hulk comment because that’s a fair comparison, but Slott is the one writing the issue here. Slott is in control of the rules and nature of the story. Slott has made these design aspects stick for no reason, and essentially mocked the reader for recognizing them as the flaws they are. Why not just have everything the way it would be? Carlie has no more tattoo, is missing her glasses and her hair in down. How hard would that be? Again, the only way this could be salvaged is if it’s part of some grand master plan by a mad scientist down the line, and if that’s the case then that’s pretty ridiculous.
Similarly, like fellow reviewer and personal rival Erik Lexie had commented on, the revelation that the Jackal is still alive has set in stone the utter worthlessness of the character. At this point who really cares that he survived? He seemingly can’t die because he has clones of clones of clones, but that idea in itself was irritating back in the 90s. I suppose it was better that we learn he survived now instead of later, where some readers’ facepalms would slap even harder. As it stands, the purpose of the scene is all that it shows. There’s no real excitement that the Jackal will plague Peter once again, at least none that I feel. All I hope for is an explanation for how he survived the very first time back in Maximum Cloneage…
Before getting into the good stuff, let’s address the scene with Kaine’s departure. While it wasn’t all that subtle, I sort of liked him wearing Ben’s blue hoodie (not strictly the same one, but same model) as both a nod of remembrance of his roots and a foreshadowing of things to come. There’s still issues with the character, like how exactly did his scars disappear and why is he so friendly all of a sudden. Seriously, why is he acting like Ben? Is this a personality change brought upon by his third or so death? The biggest problem with the scene came from Peter’s line when he said “Hey, that’s my Aunt, not yours. You had a tube, remember?” DID HE LEARN NOTHING FROM THE CLONE SAGA AND BEN REILLY?! What happened to all that regret he felt when he forbade Ben from being with Aunt May (actress) when she died? What happened to all that venegeance he felt after Kaine sacrificed himself for him in Grim Hunt? What happened to the whole “brothers” aspect that was present in the very last issue? He’s pulling “Mine, not yours” jokes now? That really grates me because it’s quite callous of Peter to say glibly, and right afterwards he asks why Kaine is leaving when they can patrol the streets together. If that one line was cut out, the scene would’ve been great. The way it is now makes Peter look like an inconsiderate jerk, and while that can be used to good effect in some cases it’s inexcusable in this case.
I digress. The following scenes were the parts of the book I felt sang and were done the best out of the entirety of Spider Island. 1) The scene with Robbie and Jonah was great. After this massive crisis, the two news guys comment on it together as the old friends they are. It had great characterization and was done short and sweet but well enough to feel longer than it actually was. 2) The scene with the construction worker Elio, while a bit awkward upon first reading, was nice as well. The reason it was a bit dissonating at first was that every issue had seemed to go for the relatability factor of Spider-Man and his relationship to the city, but this one felt as though it were needed and was pulled off nicely.
Rounding out 3) we get to the breakup with Carlie. This was my favorite scene in the issue, and again it’s not because I especially dislike the character. I do dislike the relationship, and a big factor to that was that Peter never gave two rats about Carlie in the first place. They got together basically because she bullied him into it, aside from science they have very little in common, and Peter never gives her any thought when he by himself. As was stated in the review for the last issue, after Carlie transformed, Peter forgot about her completely. He didn’t even call her or check up on her after the crisis was over, he spent time with Mary Jane and went to see Aunt May, and as Carlie points out he didn’t even stop to realize that she was leaving him at first, as though he really didn’t care. Now I don’t have a problem with Peter’s distant role in the relationship, and it’s similar to why I really like the character of Matt Murdock. As an example, Matt Murdock is an extremely flawed human being, and that has nothing to do with his life as a super hero. When it comes to relationships, Matt can barely keep his head on straight and goes straight for what he wants, at the cost of others. He went after Karen Page by pretending to be his fictitious twin brother and kissing her upon sight whilst still in a relationship with the Black Window, IN FRONT of the Black Widow. He blackmailed Heather Glenn into accepting his marriage proposal just so he could have stability in his life, and ignored her completely when she became an alcoholic who later committed suicide. He verbally and emotionally abused Glorianna O’Breen when he was going crazy (Although in fairness…he was going crazy) and he cheated on his blind, comatose wife after reconciling their differences through the threat of divorce. Matt Murdock in simple terms is a straight up bastard, but I love that about him because it’s human and believable. It’s the same reason I love James Bond, who has an utter contempt and hatred of women. These inherent flaws sculpt the three dimensional spectrum which make these characters come to life and feel worthwhile. Not every hero is completely a good person even if they try to, just like we’re all not 100% good as hard as we may try. For this reason, I felt it was a novel idea to have Spider-Man be in a relationship for a little while, then have the woman find out his identity (which admittedly should be far from impossible) and promptly dump him. When I first read it, I wished Carlie had vented more about Peter lying to her. Re-reading it, you get the sense that she mulled certain things over and just said what she felt needed to be said before she slammed the door in his face. In talking it over with friends, some think that Peter and Carlie will be back together eventually as Marvel really likes the two of them together. I don’t see that as possible in any believable reality. Carlie and her whole relationship with Spider-Man was a means to an end, and the end was to have this scene showing how lousy Spider-Man’s personal life can be. It’s simple and cheap, but it does work for me because it is so simple. Plus, although he and Mary Jane may not get together for a long while she does outweigh Carlie by quite a lot even though the two now have two things in common. The difference is that Mary Jane is Mary Jane. She’s a Stan Lee/John Romita classic who will never die. Carlie Cooper is three years old compared to Mary Jane’s 45. The former is fleeting while the latter will forever have resonance with Spider-Man and readers alike. Plus, any dope who’s anatomically correct can copulate. Spider-Island has shown us how intimately connected Peter and MJ will always be whether MJ has powers or Peter’s in a relationship. The character and her bond towards Spider-Man is that strong. It’s the strength of that character which fades Carlie out completely, even if she won’t necessarily be leaving the supporting cast. In any case, the scene was great and I applaud Slott for reaching the logical conclusion to the Peter/Carlie relationship finally.
However, the last problem I had with this issue was the biggest and farthest reaching.
So the big reason why the psychic blind spot is now gone is because Peter was shown on camera to have Spider Powers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the case of the blind spot that he had to specifically reveal himself to be Spider-Man? All other clues would lead to misdirection. Peter never said “I am Spider-Man”, he revealed his powers in a context where it wasn’t abnormal. Basically, all those times where people would have clues that he’s Spider-Man only to not come to the conclusion due to the blind spot was thrown out of the window for just that reason. Peter said “I found out that I’ve got spider powers too!”, with “I’ve got” being the adjective clause which precipitates the concept that this isn’t stringent to any other occurrences beyond the then-present at that specific time. It’s seriously picking and choosing what works and what doesn’t in violation of the set rules. I suppose I shouldn’t complain now that the psychic blind spot is now gone, but that was an unbelievable reasoning for it. The whole idea was stupid to begin with.
Lastly, again like Erik I was taken in for the idea that Peter was ready to give up his powers. I was reading to set the comic on fire, but Slott suckered me good and I was very happy with the renouncing of his Spider-Powers as anything worth giving away. That felt more like Peter than the scene with him giving up the fight for no reason did in the last issue. With that, and Mary Jane’s blase’ “Sorry.” at the knowledge that Peter and Carlie are no more, the issue ends on a nice note with the Empire State Building lit up. (One quick question, what reason is there for the ESB to be referred to by Peter and MJ as their place?)
So overall, despite several bumps in the road this issue delivered. It ends Spider Island on a high note, and keeps me interested in what’s to come for the future of ASM.