Like the first arc of Avenging Spider-Man? You’ll love this. Didn’t like the first arc of Avenging Spider-Man? You’ll probably still love this, because it’s that good. And best of all – PETER PARKER’S BACK!
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Joe Madureira
Colorist: Peter Steigerwald
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Artists: Madureira and Steigerwald
Variant Covers: Ramos, Campbell, Simonson, Perkins
Assistant Editors: Ellie Pyle & Jennifer M. Smith
Editors: Stephen Wacker & Jeanine Schaefer
Group Editor: Nick Lowe
THE STORY: Elektra assassins her way to the heavily guarded tomb of Bullseye. The Kingpin is told by “The Arbiter” that the body has been recovered, but he is being challenged for leadership of The Hand and must destroy a reanimated Bullseye bent on his death. Wolverine almost has a heart-to-heart with Spider-Man after getting heated in battle, but they are interrupted when Elektra shows up for Logan’s help. The two go off together and fight Lady Bullseye before The Kingpin reveals that they are all on the same side – Elektra has enlisted Wolverine’s help to PROTECT him. The Arbiter meets with the other three Arbiters who appear to be terrifying demons.
MY THOUGHTS: Mostly pure joy, that’s my thoughts. This comic touches on so many things I enjoy in a certain corner of the Marvel Universe and throws them in a blender, while playing wonderfully to the strengths of Zeb Wells and Joe Mad.
First up let’s talk about what you wouldn’t think is the main event but totally is for me – PETER FREAKING PARKER! There’s a note on the recap page that says “This story takes place awhile back. Like, at least, before last October. So don’t get all out of sorts about continuity.” Now, on a normal day in a normal comic, the ‘go screw yourselves, continuity nerds’ mentality would tick me right off. But here it provides a wonderful chance to see our old friend Peter again, even if fairly briefly. And this is the very best of Zeb Wells’ Peter Parker. There’s a panel from the Wells/Mad Avenging Spider-Man arc that I have saved on my phone because it made me laugh so hard where Spidey makes a Kool-Aid Man reference to Red Hulk. That kind of humor is what we get here. Sure, if this was a Spider-Man solo book I’d want to see the character taken more seriously, but in this few-page appearance in a multi-team-up book that isn’t even his own, I am more than happy to have Spidey just be laugh-out-loud funny. I wish I either had a scanner or could find more of those pages on the web to show you, but you can see the very first couple of panels with Spidey from the issue, and the bit about the swords and sheets cracked me up. It’s times like these when I remember just how much I miss Peter Parker, and this is just the great comic relief side to his personality – we all know there’s MUCH more to miss than just this.
Then there’s Elektra. Let me tell you, whatever my problems with some of his other work (“Shed,” specifically), I think Zeb Wells has the best take on Elektra in the business. I first saw him write her in the “Dark Reign: Elektra” mini-series of a few years ago, and even though I wasn’t really expecting it to be much, it turned out to be the first time I thought an Elektra solo book really WORKED. She’s a great character but, in my opinion, most attempts to make her solo have fallen rather flat. Wells, on the other hand, is able to give us a truly dangerous version of Elektra who is very light on words but not without personality. It’s the hardest kind of character to write – someone who barely speaks. It’s hard to make them still a character without resorting to silliness and physical comedy. But Wells has mastered the quiet assassin and the fantastic take from his mini-series continues into this book, enriching it all the more.
And of course we have two more great Daredevil characters in the mix – Kingpin and Lady Bullseye. Wells’ Kingpin is every bit the restrained Kingpin you expect until he’s made angry – then Joe Mad gets a chance to portray a huge man just outright crushing ninjas to death. And Lady Bullseye comes seemingly out of nowhere near the end of this issue and goes right about the business of further proving how well Zeb Wells and Joe Mad do with dangerous, powerful women. Along with our three heroes, I think these two villainous characters add a lot of flavor to this story, putting it squarely in that Daredevil-esque world of ninja noir.
And finally, the promise of a reanimated Bullseye? Well, knowing what we’ve learned just recently, I’m not sure that’s possible unless this story is going to be totally OUT of continuity rather than just in the recent past, but it’s still a tantalizingly cool thought nonetheless. I don’t know if the story will actually deliver that, but it’s really just one extra awesome idea to think about in the swirl of awesome that this issue already is.
As good as all that writing is, Joe Mad definitely brings it on the pencils here as well. His work isn’t always my favorite since I tend to lean more towards the realistic than the cartoony, but his kinetic and expressive style fits this story like a custom-made glove. Everything from Spider-Man trying to quietly replace a sword on the wall to Wolverine and Elektra flying through the air jumps off the page and MOVES. Frankly, even his still panels are great here, showing that even at his current veteran superstar status he has not stopped evolving and improving, which is damned impressive and worth celebrating. All in all this is a perfect writer-artist team for this story, and it truly sings because of the synthesis.
GRADE: A+ This issue isn’t going to rival Watchmen for thoughtful superhero examinations, but it did everything it set out to do flawlessly and left me impressed and smiling when it was done, to a degree I never expected. If that isn’t an A+ then I don’t know what is.