Slott & Gage: Writers
THE PLOT: Intrepid reporter Betty Brant calls in her ex boyfriend Agent Venom a.k.a. Flash Thompson to investigate the sudden reappearance of the Crime Master. Elsewhere, Parker Industries has opened up for business. With Eli Wertham in his employ, and his investors the Jamesons happy, Peterpus is on top of the world as well as Anna Maria. Unfortunately they’re interrupted by a call from Ock’s minions reporting an appearance by Venom, whom he’s never met before.
LONG STORY SHORT: The so-called Crime Master turns out to be a random goon who bought the identity from the Hobgoblin. SpOck isn’t interested in him however. He attacks Venom, and despite Flash revealing himself and reminding him that he’s his biggest fan, SpOck goes in for the kill. TBC.
MY THOUGHTS: Hahaha…I didn’t like this.
I will admit to having built up an inherent bias against Slott’s writing, as it’s hard for me to distinguish his storytelling techniques from a giddy fanboy playing with his toys. That’s not fair to someone who’s a legitimate professional writer and has been for years, so I’ve often had to re-evaluate what I think makes for a good comic and an entertaining read. At the same time I like to think I have reasons for liking and not liking things, and what I typically don’t like about Slott’s style is ever-present in this issue. This story is almost totally made up of exposition from start to finish. In every scene characters are spouting off dialogue full of information that we already know. Rarely do the characters talk with informing someone of their attributes or someone else’s attributes or what’s been going on in their lives or what’s going on at that very moment. Throughout all of those scenes, none of what’s being discussed are things we as readers have not been made aware of. It’s annoying and doesn’t make for an interesting comic. I think there’s an unspoken appeal to comic writers (and perhaps fans as well) to have characters constantly refer to different things from the past, but the way in which one does it can either come off as interesting or fun or annoying and time wasting.
The weaknesses reveal themselves at the very beginning. Flash and Betty trade expository dialogue, and most of it comes with the acknowledgment that they already know what they’re being told. I understand that what they’re discussing occurred in another title, but when I was a kid and my mother was still alive that’s what the back of the front cover pages were for. They informed the reader of things they’d have to know in order to full get the context of what was to follow in the issue. In my opinion, reminding the reader that Peterpus is starting up Parker Industries is not as necessary as informing the reader on who the Crime Master is and how he was related to Betty and Flash. That way instead of wasting everyone’s time (including the characters’) with reminding us through clunky dialogue, we could get more and potentially better written character interactions between two former lovers.
As it reads now, the characters come off looking dumb. Betty in particular is incredibly unlikable. This is nothing new, but in this scene specifically I really did not enjoy her. She’s bitter, angsty and sardonic in a way that isn’t honest. As I recall she’s mad because Flash is Venom and he didn’t tell her as soon as he could have, but he did eventually tell her. I don’t know, did he really do anything wrong? Say what you will about Carlie Cooper, at least she got over her anger at Peter being Spider-Man pretty fast. Betty’s bitching and moaning about talking to Flash despite the fact that she called him. Why didn’t she just try and find Spider-Man if she thought this was going to be such a problem? The art in this scene by Ramos is really good as it shows her body language in how disgusted she is at Flash, but I don’t like that she’s disgusted because that’s not an appropriate way to feel about him. I can understand it if she was uneasy or weirded out like Carlie was, but she’s acting like he’s a scumbag. It’s one of those oft-repeated tropes of modern writing where the female character is mad at a protagonist unjustifiably. It’s not as though he’s lying to her now. He’s being upfront about everything and she enlisted him, so she has no real cause to act indignant.
I think the only real revelation we learned in the issue was Cardiac working at Parker Industries. His interaction with Aunt May in how he was surprised when he thought she might know of his double identity leads me to question if his costumed life is public knowledge or not. Was he ever arrested?
The Anna Maria scene wasn’t something I cared for either. It showed an utter lack of morality and ethics, and I don’t know what Slott was thinking when he wrote it. I mean, MAKING GLOW-IN-THE-DARK SUSHI FOR NIGHTCLUBS? Where does Marconi get off thinking she can just do that? Especially as she describes how she went about it, she genetically engineered certain fish to have what they biologically shouldn’t have for the sake of man’s own entertainment. PETA’s gonna be all over her ass.
As for the graphic sex scene that wasn’t in any way graphic…I don’t know. I don’t really care to be honest. I’m over debating the morality of sex in Spider-Man, and even if what Ock is doing is ethically abhorrent, that doesn’t change my opinion on the character any more than killing Massacre did. This is also one of those times where I don’t think sex was explicitly implied to be the only course of action in the scene. For one thing, it’s too pornographic in setting. Who really decides to have impromptu sex at their place of business on the dirty floor of their sterile aquarium? Logistically speaking, a panel of them hopping to a closet or, I don’t know, locking the door would have been more believable to me. It’s an annoying trend in current comics that feels more of a fantasy than I think the story should allow.
After expository scenes of SpOck’s henchmen telling the other goons that they wouldn’t like SpOck when he’s angry (which we knew already), SpOck runs into Venom and tries to kill him even after Flash appeals to their sense of relationship. I know this is the evil Spider-Man book where he’ll always do the opposite of what is expected of him, but I’m tired of the cliche of SpOck trying to kill someone he should definitely not kill. After what happened with Cardiac and now being told that Flash and Spider-Man have been friends for years, is he really deciding to kill him anyway? Is he that impulsive? It’s just irritating. In fairness to his characterization, this does hearken back to the Spidey 2099 arc, but by this point it’s played out and not fun to see anymore. We know how he’s going to react, even when he shouldn’t react in the way he will. It’s going through the motions.
Ramos’ art? Inconsistent. Some scenes I like it, others not so much. Glory looks like she’s wearing flattened pants in her cameo with Jameson. Peterpus looks deranged when asking Anna Maria if she wants to meet Aunt May. There are times when the characters look really nice, and other times where his style just goes all over the place. It doesn’t seem to be an issue of rushed artwork, just a lack of restraint in personal style.
I didn’t like anything in this issue. Much of it felt like filler to get to the cliffhanger, and it read like something that could be told with less padding.