Writer: Joe Keatinge
Artists: Valentine de Landro and Felix Ruiz
Color Artist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: David Lopez
Editorial Assistant: Devin Lewis
Editor: Sana Amanat
Senior Editor: Stephen Wacker
THE STORY: After Morb, Otto, and Modell got their clocks cleaned last issue, Superior Spidey monologues for a full page about how they have to become…SUPERIOR. Seriously. This means giving Morbius a new costume and designing a device to keep Nikoleta Harrow from messing with Otto’s spider-sense. Meanwhile Harrow-ette finishes a “bootleg Nullifier” for The Rose, which it turns out isn’t nearly as powerful as an Ultimate Nullifier (though they called it that last issue) and will only kill a few thousand people in a smaller area. Making it, ya know, a bomb. Superior Spidey and Morb find and confront she of the purple cape and huge metal gloves, but oh no! They’ve played right into her huge metal hands! She teleports Morbius to Brownsville and The Rose sets off his bomb. Ok, the “Nullifier.”
MY THOUGHTS: Let’s start from the top. “Hi, my name’s Morbius and I’ve just accepted, question-free, a new costume from Spider-Man, a guy who starts our EVERY meeting by kicking me in the face and most recently created a device to subdue me so he could kidnap me. This costume is REALLY freaking padded, but I’m going to go ahead and trust that Spider-Man didn’t put any covert tech inside that he might use to subdue me or control me in the future, even though that would be terribly easy to do. By the way, I’m a super-genius.”
“Hi, my name’s Otto Oct…I mean Peter Parker, and I’ve just accepted, without even examining it, a device that will neutralize my spider-sense from Michael Morbius, a vampire who rather hates me a lot. Without even looking at the specs, I’m going to attach this device right to my ear and trust that A) it doesn’t do anything else, and B) it’s a GOOD idea to shut off my spider-sense around Morbius. By the way, I’m a super-genius, too.”
I don’t know if you guys see a pattern here, but it sure seems like we want certain things to happen quickly (Morbius gets a new costume and Spider-Man stops Harrow from messing with his spider-sense), so we’re just going to let our main characters act like complete morons to facilitate that. These guys are literally both described as super-geniuses within this very issue, but it seems like the ends are meant to justify the means here, and characters be damned. That’s a really good way to make readers not give a damn about what you write, by the way.
And, still not leaving these first few pages yet, I feel like I would pay Marvel real money at this point if they’d promise no one would ever say the word “superior” in one of their comics again. Or at least not for a few months, ok? Seriously, this has really gotten past ridiculous. And that’s not even the only bad part about that page (click on the image to the left to read it). With this entire page of Spider-Man giving an overwrought villain monologue, it’s getting to where even Morbius knows Spider-Man well enough to see that THIS probably isn’t him. And Morbius doesn’t know Spider-Man that well. There’s suspension of disbelief, but then there’s Otto going around acting like this all over the damn Marvel Universe and no one saying, “Ya know, it’s a bit off that he’s recently taken to talking like a 1960s comic book villain. And hey, didn’t that change occur right around the time he started brutalizing villains and Big Brothering the whole city and palling around with J. Jonah Jameson? On a totally unrelated topic, you remember how almost everybody we’ve ever known has been possessed or otherwise body-jacked at some point? Crazy.”
Moving on, finally – A BOOTLEG NULLIFIER? SERIOUSLY?! Is lying to readers to build false interest not seen as a bad thing anymore? The solicitations said “The Rose has an Ultimate Nullifier in Brownsville.” But solicitations can be wrong, true. What should definitely be able to be trusted is the comic book itself, in which on the last page of last issue they called it a damn Ultimate Nullifier! Now, if you’re not familiar with this device, here’s a definition from Comic Vine:
“The Ultimate Nullifier is a device that can eliminate from existence anything that the bearer chooses. It is powerful enough to destroy entire timelines if the bearer is of sufficient intellect and power.“
That, my friends, is what we were promised. A device that, as Comic Vine also notes, “Is the only known object known to inspire fear in Galactus.” GALACTUS. What are we given instead? I quote from Nikoleta Harrow in the issue itself: “Not a fraction as powerful as an actual Nullifier…you’ll be good to annihilate thousands of lives.” Awesome, so just to review, what you’re telling me is: YOU BUILT A BOMB. Yes, The Rose truly is brilliant and diabolical! A villain only comic books could give us! Unlike other terrorists, he has…a bomb!
And on this comic’s way to completely disappointing the reader with that little revelation, Nikoleta Harrow tosses off a piece of dialogue that I’m sure is supposed to sound impressive, but very much is not. She says: “An Ultimate Nullifier just seems so – I dunno – passe? I feel like everyone has one these days. I could certainly make you something more…modern?” Ok sure, so what you’re saying is a device that can take out whole timelines, even destroy the universe, and makes Galactus shake in his gigantic purple space boots is something that “everyone has.” At best, this is a really, really poor attempt to make this new villain sound cool, and at worst it’s very much like something that was discussed on a recent Crawlspace Podcast – the devaluing of a supervillain. When Tombstone was beaten off-panel by the Superior Spider-Man, Josh Bertone argued that this is how a good villain slides to a C-lister. The same thing can be said here. An Ultimate Nullifier is one of those huge concepts that should only be touched on rare occasion because it is SO powerful. And you’re saying it’s passe? Everyone has one? I can’t see how that could possibly help any storyline as much as it hurts others and the potential for others. Frankly it’s sloppy, selfish, and very near-sighted writing.
Nikoleta Harrow herself also continues to be very, very annoying. She does nothing but steal a few things and build a pretty standard bomb out of them, but she keeps spouting these asinine things like the one I just talked about, and when she’s fighting Morbius and Spider-Man she says, “I have to admit, this almost resembles a fight. Still, you’re both so quaint.” You’re both so quaint. Yeah, here’s a brand new character that’s done nothing to prove herself. She wears comically large metal gauntlets and a purple cape and keeps mouthing off about how she’s so much more advanced and she’s the future. A note to the creative team: show, don’t tell. Because when a character comes in like this, it’s just really freaking annoying and I’m currently hoping she dies from her own bomb.
A NOTE ABOUT AR: Some time ago I downloaded Marvel’s AR app and used it once or twice but generally found I didn’t want to be interrupted in my reading experience by interviews and whatnot, so it never really caught on with me. But when I noticed an AR sign on a panel of this issue, I thought, “As a reviewer, maybe I should take a look at this so I can review the AR content as well.” So I did. The one single AR panel in this issue brings up a short video that has the page (and a few other random panels) floating around uncolored and then colored with important sounding music in the background. I kept waiting for this intro to giveway to someone telling me about something, or just any sort of actual CONTENT. But it never did. Just a short little piece of floaty art and important sounding music. And again, this is the only AR content in the issue. Frankly, if this is what AR has devolved to, I think we’ll be alright without it.
GRADE: D- This issue was by and large very, very bad, though the fight scene wasn’t awful so that brings it up from a solid F. The art, like last issue, was an unfortunate low-point for de Landro, who I usually enjoy.