Déjà vu all over again. Well, this situation sure feels familiar. Much like Brian Bradley and butters, I too began my comic book reviewing career a year ago this month. However, in the course of that year, my book got canceled (to the cheer of many) so I took over someone else’s book. Now my tenure on the latter book is coming to an end as well (on account of no Spidey), so I’ve taken over the Avenging Spider-Man reviews until that gets canceled as well (at which point I’ll just have to steal another book).
But you’re not here to read about me. You’re hear to read about Spidey.
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Joe “Joe Mad” Madureira
Color Art: Ferran Daniel
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Joe “Joe Mad”Madureira
Variant Cover Art: Humberto Ramos
Spidey Team-Up: Red Hulk (General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross)
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
DISCLAIMER: Normally when I take over a book, I make it a point to go back and get the issues belonging to the current arc, even if they have already been reviewed. I do this to get a good grasp on the story. That said, Avenging Spider-Man #1 was going for ridiculous prices at my two LCSs, and the world of digital copies scare me, so I only got Avenging Spider-Man #2 as my frame of reference. I apologize if that skews my review in any way.
THE PLOT: Following last issue’s cliffhanger, in which Red Hulk was stabbed in the heart by the Molan champion Ra’ktar, Spidey takes Jameson and makes their escape on some sort of “mole mule” all the way back to Subterranea, leaving Rulk behind. Spidey means to go back for him and the captured Mole Man, but Jameson keeps giving him a hard time.
As they argue, the Molan warriors catch up to them, meaning to wipe out the Moloids. Jonah rides off, but Spider-Man stands up to Ra’ktar. Spidey receives a brutal beating from the Molan champion, and before Ra’ktar can deliver the final strike, Spidey webs up a sharp piece of rock (the same kind that makes up the blade of Molan weapons) and swings it with enough speed to slice Ra’ktar’s girdle (“Heeee is NOT wearing underpants”).
Having shamed Ra’ktar in battle, Spidey is declared the victor according to Molan law, and Ra’ktar is chained up. Meanwhile, Rulk finally heals up and shows up to find that Spidey has formed a truce with the Molans. Back at the surface, Jonah is chiding the other Avengers when they see Spidey and Rulk come out from underground. Rulk admits that Spidey alone save the day and jumps away. Jameson scolds Spidey for not doing something about Mole Man, to which Spidey replies that maybe a little kindness goes a long way. Underground, Mole Man ponders a new attack on the surface.
GENERAL THOUGHTS (get it? Because Rulk is a general? Ah, forget it): Avenging Spider-Man #3 is a pretty enjoyable issue. The first thing that any reader will notice is the amazing art by Joe Madureira. I’ve seen some of his previous art, and he does not disappoint in this issue, or at any point during this arc. It’s animated but without becoming too stylized, and it sets the tone for the overall storyline. It goes without saying that this book is a spiritual successor to that beloved book Marvel Team-Up, and thus we don’t get a very deep storyline but rather something light-hearted. It works just fine.
In issue #2, we saw how easily Rulk was taken down by Ra’ktar. That’s not easy task, so going in the reader expects Spidey to defeat his foe with something other than brute strength. His battle with Ra’ktar is the highlight of the issue. Not only is it visually beautiful (you can feel the intensity of every punch and every kick delivered by Ra’ktar thanks to the excellent art department) but it reinforces several themes that are standard Spider-Man fare. You know Spidey is not backing off, and he’ll fight until he can fight no more. He was unable to hold on to the sharp rock-blades with his hands, so he webs a rock-blade and starts to swing and slice. That, to me, reinforces the unconventional way Spidey fights his battles.
The next thing that follows is Spidey realizing that all he managed to do was exposing Ra’ktar’s royal jewels. At this point he thinks he’s lost, but then unexpectedly Ra’ktar’s allies turn on him. Call it Parker luck or just dumb luck, but that’s classic Spidey comedy.
Speaking of comedy, another classic theme that is brought on is the old-couple relationship of Spidey and Jameson. Jonah flying off the handle with Spidey is good for a few laughs. Of course, the main team-up in this issue is not forgotten, with Spidey managing to cool down an enraged Red Hulk a few times. These character moments are very much appreciated and worked out really well.
So, all in all, I consider this a very good issue. So what’s the problem? Well, I like Joe Mad’s pencils. I like Ferran Daniel’s colors. I like Zeb Well’s writing. I’m particularly enjoying his Carnage stuff. So why didn’t this issue engage me like it should’ve? I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that. By comparison, issue #2 was very strongly written and had me anticipating the finale. The only conclusion I can reach is that the resolution wasn’t as gripping as it could’ve been, but I don’t know how they could’ve done it better. I’ll just leave it at that. I’m rambling on at this point.
FAVORITE LINES: (when Spidey is trying to get Red Hulk to calm down after Ra’ktar mocks him)
SPIDER-MAN: Easy, big fella. We’ve got a truce to protect. You can let it go, right? I mean it doesn’t look like you really got hurt at all…
RED HULK: Grrr….
SPIDER-MAN: Oh, *your feelings*? Your feelings got hurt?
RED HULK: Shut up.
VERDICT: Like I said, Avenging Spider-Man #3 is very well-written. Art is some of the best stuff I’ve seen in comics. It’s just very hard to recommend, probably because of its light-hearted nature, but if you’re just looking for a good story, then I think you’ll enjoy this. 3 Webheads out of 5.
Some clarifications are in order: Someone asked when this story would take place. I can answer that: before Fear Itself. Spidey having his Spider-sense is a goof. Also, the “free” digital copies (free, my foot!) expire a year from the cover dates, not the day of as implied on an earlier review.
Also, follow Brian Bradley for the lulz!
~My Two Cents