It’s back to Big Time as usual now that Spider Island’s over, despite that this new story contains plenty of reminders. We’ve seen a lot of new takes on old villains lately, so it’s no surprise we’re hearing from Vulture again. This time he seems to have his own vulture posse going, in an issue that’s a little light on content but offers up potential for an intriguing new mystery.
Words by Dan Slott
Pencils by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks by Klaus Janson
Colors by Frank D’Armata
Letters by Joe Caramanga
There’s an elephant in this comic I simply must address. There’s no obvious place to insert this into a review, so I’m going to get it out of the way first thing, short and sweet: I did not appreciate the “occupy Spider-Island” joke. This is not related to my personal feelings on that particular protest movement, which I’m not going to divulge here because obviously a Spider-Man review isn’t the place. That’s my whole point: neither is a Spider-Man comic. It’s fairly clear that this joke represents one prevalent view about the protests, and regardless of whether I agree with that view or not it’s something I would really prefer not to read about in my super hero tales; I want to escape from reality and big issues in this stuff, not be reminded of it. But that’s quite enough about that. I just thought it was lame and it left a sour taste in my mouth for the rest of the issue.
Let’s talk about something happier: The amazing Spider-Man is the world’s greatest super hero. Boldly appearing overtop of the book’s title, that proclamation made me smile, as it really emphasizes the aspect of the Big Time era that I have actually been enjoying. Spider-Man is a great hero, certainly the greatest for me, and he deserves to be recognized as such. Of course a figure like him should and will always draw controversy, and Slott’s making sure to remind us that not everyone is going to suddenly love Spidey just because he’s finally gotten some legit recognition. But the spider-comics feel like a celebration of the character lately, and that’s something I’m absolutely into. With a legacy like his, he absolutely deserves that superlative header, and I hope it’s going to keep showing up on future covers.
Yep. That’s me. Licensed Avenger.
Annoying joke notwithstanding, it’s a pretty amusing and highly believable notion that young people are flocking to New York City in the wake of Spider-Island hoping to get some spider powers of their own. I have to admit that I’d be tempted myself. Who hasn’t wanted to try web slinging every now and then?
Unfortunately the representation we’re given of these youngsters is not terribly relateable. Mitchell (soon to be Michael), a stereotypical “goth” kid, is obviously a Misguided Youth. Since he has black clothes, tattoos, gauged ears and an edgy haircut, his response to Randy Robertson’s offer of help from Youth Outreach Unlimited is “what a tool.” It’s a little too perfect for me that he is picked to become a member of the Vulture Goth Squad by similarly adorned young people with an angel theme: they change his name to Michael so that he will fit in with Lucifer, Gabriel, and… “Angela Death.” I can’t make this stuff up; apparently only Dan Slott can. Really? “Angela Death?” There’s a point where campy overflows into pure stupid, and this is it.
So far, this team steals stuff, and they do it from high rise locales what with the whole flying bit. There’s also been a rash of dead kids who fell from great heights, and presumably all looked like extras from a Rob Zombie video, which the police assume must all be jumpers. There’s a hilarious scene where Carlie tries to convince her chief that one such body wasn’t a suicide, and when she points out that he’s too far from the only structure he could have jumped from in the area, she gets chewed out. It’s a fact of virtually all fiction: if high-ranking police officers are jerks, then they are also stupid and treat any smart officer’s thoughts with outright contempt. If they aren’t jerks, then they are smart. It’s what I like to call the Die Hard Rule.
Meanwhile Peter’s looking into these crimes himself, and he’s arrived at the conclusion that the perpetrators could be Spider Island victims he missed. I’m a little baffled on that one, since anyone he missed should be a giant spider right now. Unless… wait a minute. Is Slott trying to tell us that Peter’s been sharing toothbrushes with more folks than we thought?!
Seriously though, what I do like about this mystery and its potential, despite a few nonsensical elements (and really, love it or hate it, we should all expect that from Slott stories by now), is that we might get to see Peter and Carlie work together on this in a way that makes sense, gives the characters credit, and treats Carlie like a real character instead of an editorial force. It would have been a much stronger approach to this character to have her put the secret identity together first, then have her start working with Peter, and then start to create some romantic tension if that was where they wanted to go and readers liked it. But what’s done is done, and I’ll be interested to see if, now that last issue delivered us a highly warranted and well executed break up scene, I and the other Carlie haters can start to warm up to her a little as she and Peter tackle a case together with his secret out.
I’m far less interested in the two pages we got of the Phil Urich barbarian Hobgoblin, Kingpin, and the “inside man” at Horizon, Tiberius Stone. It was probably building up to something that’s going to play into this story later on, but it’s so brief and disconnected from the last issue that I just found it distracting. I remember when we used to focus on one story per issue, and I kind of miss that strategy. Nevermind that I hate fire sword bat-wing Hobby in the first place.
As a general rule, I’m usually not huge on the way that Slott writes Peter, but I think he often writes a great Spidey. This issue’s encounter with the NYPD really shows why. Slott’s good at quips, which is sometimes surprising given that he also comes up with stuff like “Angela Death.” I smiled when he asked what he was in trouble for: “Not getting shot?” and I chuckled at, “what’s it look like? I’m voiding your warranty.” But I laughed my ass off at the panel to the left there. That’s probably my vote for Slott’s best line of spider dialogue yet, and reminds me of some of the classics from the Spectacular Spider-Man TV series.
Art-wise, I think Camuncoli does a perfectly decent job. I was hoping for a bit more Caselli, because I really think he’s quite possibly the best artist to touch ASM in recent years, but I’ll take this “Ca-i” artist and I won’t find anything to complain about. I don’t find much particularly distinctive about his style, but I do greatly appreciate his skill at rendering action scenes. The encounter with the spider-patrol is extremely well portrayed, creating a firm sense of space with each panel, and his poses for Spidey as a combatant are fluid and dynamic. What I really want at this point is some stability: give me a good artist for a few straight arcs, please! If it’s Canuncoli, that’s fine with me. If it was Caselli, that’d be even better. But pick someone who does it well and stick with them. Having a good artist who sticks around for a while is a really important part of keeping a story engaging over several weeks, at least for me.
Whether the artist stays the same or not, there’s potential for a good story here. Some people aren’t too keen on the Vulture, and he’s certainly not one of the more interesting Spidey rogues as a character, that’s for sure. But sometimes you just need a villain with his own place in the character’s mythos, and a good story to go along with him. As an opening, we didn’t get anything spectacular here but it had some enjoyable moments and nothing that bothered me too severely. But Slott will need to pick up the pace, and deliver a lot of solid action and plot twisting to keep this arc going strong as it progresses.
- Terrific Spidey quips, one of Slott’s strong points as an ASM writer.
- Solid art from Camuncoli that shines during the action scene.
- Plenty of potential set up for a more interesting Peter-Carlie scenario and hopefully a decent Vulture story.
- “Occupy” protest joking. Keep those politics out of my comics, please!
- The Vulture Goth Squad… especially “Angela Death.” It actually hurts my brain to write it.