Round One of Spider-Man’s Spectacular Anniversary was a total knockout, so of COURSE I was looking forward to these two issues which brings back another beloved Spider-Man alumni, Tom DeFalco of Spider-Girl fame, to tell another tale for the web-head. How does he do with Round Two in comparison to Round One? Significantly worse.
Sensational Spider-Man #33.1 & #33.2: Monsters!
Writer: Tom DeFalco
Artist: Carlo Barberi
Inks: Walden Wong
Colors: Antonio Fabela
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Cover: Simone Bianchi
Editors: Tom Brennan, Stephen Wacker
Story: In a Carlie Cooper centric story, we have NYPD Officer Cooper discover a slave trafficking ring during a fight between Spider-Man and Nu-Vulture. Believing this is her ticket to becoming a detective, she pursues the case even after the FBI take over the case in the form of Special Agent Devonshire and Special Agent Casio. She decides to enlist her photographer friend, Peter Parker, to aid her in trying to dig up some information on Red-Ray Shipping that provided the containers used to transport the slaves to America. While visiting the victims at INS Detention Center, Carlie learns they will all be shipped back home where they were kidnapped from the first place. While there, she is tailed by both Nu-Vulture and Agent Devonshire. Devonshire reports Carlie to her lieutenant who tells Carlie to stay away from the case or face demotion, but she is unable to let it go because the slave victims face deportation back to a dangerous country if she can’t help them.
Meeting up with Peter, he shares with Carlie that the shipping company is part of the Russian Mafia and is run by Balik Vorski, the same man who has just been conspiring with Agent Devonshire to assassinate Carlie Cooper. A couple hours later, Peter bails on Carlie and Spider-Man soon foils an assassination on Carlie’s life, but Carlie runs into Nu-Vulture. Nu-Vulture gives Carlie some information to help her, but the arrival of Spider-Man interferes and he ends up dropping Carlie from the sky as a distraction so he can escape.
Both Carlie and Spider-Man try to dig up more information via turning to sources like Devonshire’s partner, Casio, and Nu-Vulture’s lead. However, the victims are still deported and the FBI investigation, lead by Devonshire, finds Vorski innocent of all crimes. However, in a dark swing of justice, both Devonshire and Vorski are visited by Nu-Vulture and never heard from again.
Thoughts: In a story celebrating fifty years of Spider-Man, is it not a little weird that both the cops and Spider-Man fail to deliver justice? Still, the darker ending gave a bit of flavor to this otherwise bland tale that was looking really rough at the end of the first issue. In fact, if we’re on the topic of Spider-Man’s presence in this story, he’s painted in a rather poor light due to Carlie’s opinion of him. Though not overly fond of Peter in current comics, due to the breakup, she seems to have a higher opinion post break-up than in this story. She’s tolerant of his vigilante works and willing to work with Peter now that she knows his heart is in the right place. To add insult to injury, this story ends with you knowing that Spider-Man’s failed the victims just as much as Carlie did; when Nu-Vulture is the hero of your story, then you have a problem with your story.
In my last review, I praised Roger Stern for writing what could be a Spider-Man tale from any time with the right tinkering and his ability to write in modern times well. I don’t think DeFalco has updated to writing modern titles well- I’ve never been drawn to his most recent stuff from any publisher- but he has penned some great things in the past. I really have no clue what went through his head that made him think Carlie Cooper was the perfect protagonist for a celebratory story of Spider-Man’s history since she is one of the most hated partners Peter ever had. He does nothing to really make her more charming- especially when she spends so much time putting Spider-Man down. Even making her the underdog and the people’s champion does little to help Ms. Cooper become likable. Maybe he was trying to prove he could write a good Carlie Cooper story, but he doesn’t really succeed at that either- it’s rather average at best. Perhaps he drew a short straw at a retreat or lost a bet?
Flipping over to the art team, there isn’t much to brag about there. The covers come off as weird to me, but they’re OK I guess. Even though I like the art style that people like Humberto Ramos and J. Scott Campbell play with, Carlo Barberi’s art feels the poor man’s version of that style. When Nu-Vulture is vomiting, it looks god-awful, and Barberi goes way too wild with the webbing. Maybe if this had been Spider-Man Noir, where Peter never had good control over his webbing, it’d be OK but in this story, Peter has been Spider-Man for years and isn’t rolling with a lot of cash either at this time. I’m not overly fond of the way he draws Spidey in action either, but it’s not drawn poorly- there is a cool web technique on display early in issue two though. The best thing I can come up with is Barberi draws a cute Cooper, but it’s hard not to. The colorist is on fire in this book, though. Antonio Fabela sets some good moods with his colors and shadows and really helps bring some weight to DeFalco’s darker script.
Verdict: I do have to give props to DeFalco for his second issue. By the end of chapter one I was ready to burn this comic and bury the ashes. While this is also one of the better portrayals of Carlie Cooper in Spider-Man’s history, she’s still an unlikable character no matter how hard DeFalco tries. The second chapter is a huge step-up from “burn this book” in story telling terms, but it’s still bland. I really did enjoy Fabela’s coloring, so that adds to the pro side. Unfortunately, the rest of it is cons- including the ending that gave this story its little “umph”. It’s a shame, but we have a great one and done from Stern to celebrate Spider-Man with. Here’s to Web of Spider-Man’s return being more triumphant than Sensational’s.