Octo-Spidey, SHIELD and the Saints all try to capture the Chameleon while the Hulk rampages on the Helicarrier.
Avenging Spider-man #21
Writer: Christopher Yost
Artist: Marco Checchetto
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Art: Paolo Riveria & Joe Riveria
Spoilers to follow after the break:
The Plot: Hulk battles the Russian super villains giving Ock time to wonder if he should let death-touch dude kill Hulk. However that proves moot when Hulk shrugs off his power and smashes him. This leads to an airplane firing on the Helicarrier which causes Hulk to fall to Earth as the scenes lifted from the Avengers movie count the past two issues climbs into double digits.
Octo-Spidey is about to lose to lightsaber dude when Nick Fury 2.0 shows up to save the day. Meanwhile the Helicarrier is having trouble with the fighter jet and Hawkeye & Widow are dealing with generic thugs. Chameleon is trying to escape wearing the face of the psychologist he killed last issue (literally, think Silence of the Lambs) but Widow recognizes him and we get an interesting moment where they converse in Russian about the secrets he knows.
Spidey’s fight intersects with Widow’s fight causing Ock to realize the villains are here to assassinate the Chameleon. Hawkeye is less concerned with that motivation than Ock and takes out lightsaber dude in a way that reminds me why I love Hawkeye. Hulk then returns to attack the Russians as well giving Octo-Spidey an opportunity to get Chameleon alone.
Octo-Spidey wonders when Chameleon became a psychopath and gets stabbed in the neck for his troubles. Chameleon ponders stealing Spidey’s identity next in an ironic moment but death touch dude returns. Ock has had enough and beats the hell out of death touch dude revealing him to be a walking corpse under his mask. Once he finishes with him, Ock casually backhands Chameleon into unconsciousness. Ock then uses the Russian’s teleport tech to fake an escape onto the Russian fighter jet just as the Helicarrier blows it up leaving Chameleon presumed dead but of course he actually sent both Chameleon and death touch dude to his undersea lab where he is holding the rest of the Sinister Six prisoner.
Critical Thoughts: There is not a lot to say about this issue. There are a lot of characters and a lot of action but its all superficial fight scene stuff for the most part. That’s fine as far as it goes but it feels like more could have been done.
Last issue I mentioned there were set-ups for intriguing character interactions and we didn’t get any of that. There is no mention at all of Ock’s near fatal history with Hulk when they meet. There’s no sign of Chameleon recognizing this Spidey is an imposter, which I thought there was a possibility of since Ock was no doubt going to imprison him with the rest of the Sinister Six so I thought it was a case where someone could figure it out (at least partially) but then not be in a position to tell anyone. Heck I think I’d have settled for a “Your different somehow . . .” and then bam! Ock punches him before he can figure out anymore. But instead we get nothing but a little irony on Chameleon gloating about wanting to steal the identity of hero whose identity has already been stolen. Also, Taskmaster was in one panel last issue and then never shows up at all this issue so what was the point of even showing him last issue?
Even the stuff done this issue with Chameleon is interesting as far as it goes but it never gets beyond teases. Chameleon and Widow having a secret connection because they both used to be Russian spies feels like something that could true to the characters and lead to an interesting story. But the way it is done here it seems more like a token shout out to them being Russian than an actual plot point, and given the nature of this book and its rotating second cast-member it is obviously not going to be followed up on anytime soon.
Ditto, we get Ock questioning why Chameleon is such a psycho in this issue, which is another good question that goes unanswered. Although that is less disconcerting because the Chameleon has been portrayed with a wildly different persona over the years from simpering coward to obsessive lunatic to calculating master planner. Overall it’s not hard to fit those pieces together–the Modok’s 13 miniseries/trade did just that the last time a writer wanted to reset Chameleon from crazy person to efficient spy and that same explanation could work again although having him go full Hannibal Lector is still a bit much.
Grade C+. It’s fast-paced and has a few good moments–even a laugh or two with Phil Coulson—but overall this is mostly a surface level story albeit a serviceable one.