Avenging Spider-Man Annual #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Pencils: Brad Walker
Inks: John Livesay
Colors: Chris Sotomayor
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover: Patch Zircher & Marte Gracia
Spidey Team-up: The Thing (Ben Grimm)
***WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD***
PLOT: Spider-Man is not having a good day. He’s trying to get around New York City without web-slinging but is constantly bullied (both as Peter Parker and Spidey) by angry New Yorkers. Ben Grimm is similarly having a tough time baby-sitting the Richards children.
Two losers, Frankie and Spags, are using a metal detector in Central Park in hopes of finding “valuable junk” left behind during superhero fights when they stumble upon a device of unknown origin which produces an aggression-enhancing energy field (in other words, it makes people start attacking each other for no reason). On their way to exchange it for cash with a local thug, Frankie and Spags get Spidey’s attention, but as our hero pursues them, he gets in an altercation with an angry Thing, who wants Spidey to pay up money owed from a poker game.
In the ensuing melee, Frankie reverses the energy field so that everybody loves each other instead. He realizes the error of his ways and has the Thing smash the device. With everything back to normal, the Thing takes care of the criminals while Spidey webs up Frankie and Spags. Then Spidey webs away, with a newfound appreciation for New Yorkers.
THOUGHTS: I don’t know much about writer Rob Williams, except that he did an excellent one-shot during the Shadowland crossover featuring Ghost Rider and had a stint writing that character’s more recent (albeit short-lived) ongoing. The man, however, clearly understands what Spider-Man is all about, as demonstrated by the written prologue at the end of the annual. He recognizes that Spidey is the “everyman” hero and why he’s so beloved by many.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop this story from being very sub-par on several levels. It has a clever idea in that there probably should be lots of alien junk leftover from the thousands of superhero fights that have taken place in New York over decades, but the worse that comes out of it is a Manhattan slightly angrier than usual.
The issue begins with Peter Parker being shoved out of the subway. The impetus was that, after Peter comments on how he has a meeting at the Daily Bugle, this butch woman sees it fit to push him off because “print media’s obsolete” (don’t get me started on that). I’m not a New Yorker. I don’t know if this kinda thing is a regular occurrence there, but I found this scene a bit weird. Instead of helping the story start properly and move along, it made me pause and think “What right does she have to do something like that?” To be clear, the fact that bad things happen to our hero doesn’t bother me, just the random nature of this instance.
The Thing is the book’s guest star, but he doesn’t actually team up with Spidey until almost the very end. For the majority of the story, he’s more of an obstacle that complicates a matter that otherwise would’ve wrapped up faster. He also just happens to be nearby when all the mayhem starts to take place. That is to say, the story never really calls for the Thing’s appearance; Williams could’ve just as easily used, say, Wolverine (since he’s also Spidey’s poker buddy) and the story would’ve worked out about the same. The Thing is also written in the most obvious way possible, complete with catchphrases and references to Yancy Street and his origin.
I did appreciate, however, the appearance of Franklin and Valeria Richards. I did find humorous that Valeria correctly deduces what’s going on but is still affected by the violence-enhancing field.
Brothers Frankie and Spags are a little hilarious. One basically lives in his own little world while the other is always making sure his brother comes back to his senses. The resolution is a bit weird: Spidey webs them up and leaves them to the cops despite them not really having committed any sort of crime. He apparently regains his affection for New York after watching them work out their differences. I had to re-read this part a few times to make sure I understood it correctly. Needless to say, the morale of the story doesn’t quite come across as clearly as it needs to be.
We do get a bunch of funny lines from the characters, especially from Spidey. Nothing terribly laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it made it easier to get through the plot. It also helps to have the excellent art of Brad Walker.
At the end of the day, I just question why this story was made into the annual. Nothing really stands out that makes me think “annual material.” I don’t think it warranted the extra page count (or inherent higher price tag of $4.99).
VALERIA: [to Spider-Man] Leave Uncle Ben alone! He’s plainly having his inherent aggressive tendencies enhanced by some form of nefarious artificial external energy field! We need to find the projector of said field before people get badly hurt! That said, touch my uncle again and we’ll rip your freaking head off!
SPIDER-MAN: [reflecting] You made me punch one of my super hero buddies. I never do that. (Not unless there’s a Civil War on, anyway. Or the occasional Secret War. Or a minor, easily clarified misunderstanding.)
VERDICT: Avenging Spider-Man Annual #1 has great lines and excellent pencils, but the rest of the issue has glaring problems. Writer Rob Williams has a good grasp of Spider-Man’s character, but the Thing is only present for the sake of having a guest star. The plot is fairly simple for an annual, and the opening and ending scenes are confusing. Ultimately, while it’s obvious Williams has a genuine love for Spider-Man and his kindness and sacrifice, the story he was trying to tell doesn’t adequately demonstrate those traits. 2 Webheads out of 5.
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~My Two Cents