Amazing Spider-Man #4 (2014) Review: Stillanerd’s Take


AmazingSpider-Man#4(2014)--Cover“She could’ve replaced me. Ages ago!”

Ever since the “All-New Marvel NOW!” relaunch of The Amazing Spider-Man after The Superior Spider-Man, there’s been one question which has been teased over the past three issues: who is other woman that was bitten by the radioactive spider? Well,  this latest issue provides an answer, but in doing so, also makes you ask another, even more important question: why should you care?

WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Humberto Ramos
INKER: Victor Olazaba
COLORS: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Ellie Pyle
EDITOR: Nick Lowe


THE STORY: As the scientists at Parker Industries test some experimental net to capture Electro, Peter gets a priority alert from the Avengers. Leaving Anna Maria to cover for him, Peter, as Spider-Man, aids the Avengers during their fight against Exterminatrix and the Mindless Ones as depicted in Original Sin #2. At the moment the Orb unveils the Watcher’s eye and bombards the heroes with hidden secrets from their past, Spidey sees images of the girl who was also bitten by the same radioactive spider that gave him his own powers. The girl, Cindy Moon, had difficulty controlling her powers, and Ezekiel Sims offered to help her before securing her inside his specialized room. Spidey also realizes that when Julia Carpenter during the end of “Spider-Island” (as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #673) mentioned someone else could take his place as Spider-Man, she was talking about Cindy.

Spidey, thanks to his vision, finds the hidden bunker at Ezekiel’s office building where Cindy is being kept, recalling how Ezekiel also planned to do the same for him.. As he makes his way to where Cindy is being held, an automated video recording of Ezekiel starts to explain to Spidey about Cindy. Before the recording can tell Spidey why he’s kept Cindy imprisoned, Spidey angrily destroys it. Cindy overhears the commotion over the two-way PA system to her room, and Spidey tells her he’s come to free her, having seen in his vision the key-code to unlock the door. Cindy, however, tries warns Spidey that if he unlocks the door, Morlun will find her. So when the door opens and Spidey tries explain that Morlun is dead, Cindy attacks him, saying Spidey has now “killed [them] all.” And “far, far away” in an ornate palace, Morlun is able to pick up Cindy’s scent, referring her as “the Spider-Bride” and the “Spinner at the Center of the Web,” and that “the Great Hunt begins.” Meanwhile over Parker Industries, Black Cat is secretly photographing the “anti-Electro” countermeasures, and, wanting to have a better understanding of how they work, kidnaps Sajani Jaffrey to make her explain the countermeasures in detail.

As Cindy attacks him, Spidey observes that while he’s stronger than her, she’s much faster and her spider-sense is even better than his, as she’s able to dodge his webbing with ease. Spidey reassures Cindy that Morlun is dead, and she’s overjoyed at her new-found freedom. After being reminded by Spidey that she can’t go bounding around New York in her “civies,” Cindy uses her organic webbing to make herself as costume and calls dubs herself Silk. Silk then swings off, with Spidey following her, noting that his spider-sense is actually drawing him towards her. They arrive at Cindy’s childhood home, only for Silk to see that her family no longer lives there. Spidey comforts her, and Silk asks him how long Morlun has been dead. When Spidey makes an offhand remark that Morlun has died more than once, Silk realizes Morlun could come back. She attacks Spidey again, and he learns that she can make her organic webbing have barbed tips. As she pulls Spidey toward her, their spider-sense begins to overwhelm them both, and, overcome with sudden passion, both Spidey and Silk kiss and make
out.

AmazingSpider-Man#4(2014)--p.13THOUGHTS: When Amazing Spider-Man #3 (2014) revealed that Ezekiel was the one who put Cindy, aka Silk, in the “windowless room” in order, he claimed, to protect her, I considered this an intriguing revelation that, for the first time, made me genuinely interested in her as a character. After reading this issue and finding out more about Cindy, and what the direction Dan Slott appears to be taking with her and Peter as it relates to “Spider-Verse,” I now wish to retract my earlier statements. Because based on what I read here, things are not looking good in any of those departments. At all!

It’s not just because the foundation behind Silk involves a maladroit and illogical retcon shoehorned into Spidey’s origin, or that, despite being bitten by the same radioactive spider, she somehow has different powers and abilities than Spidey, or even that she’s another love interest for Peter who also just so happens to know his secret identity; it’s because, based on how Slott presents her in this issue, Cindy Moon comes across as one of the most blatant examples of a “Mary Sue” I have ever seen in a comic book, more than Carlie Cooper ever was. If you think I’m being a bit hyperbolic, let me tick off all the ways:

Having a surname taken from a celestial body, in this case the Moon? Check.

Having a back-story which reveals a coincidental connection between the protagonist no matter how tenuous or nonsensical it actually is? Check.

Having a tragic past, in this case being taken from her parents by Ezekiel, then imprisoned and cut off from the outside world for thirteen years in a blatant attempt at creating sympathy designed to tug on the reader’s heartstrings? Check.

A beautiful young woman whose life was “ruined” because of her otherwise amazing super powers, who just wants to have a normal life like everyone else? Check.

Is established as a “chosen one,” in this case the real “center of the web,” the one who could have taken Spidey’s place, and the catalyst for Morlun to start hunting down various Spider-Men and Women across the Marvel multi-verse? Check.

Not much of a personality to speak of other than what she can do, and that her overall role is just to advance the plot? Check.

That what personality we are given tries to present her as being inherently good, innocent, and pure as the wind-driven snow in spite of the story not actually showing anything which proves she is actually good, innocent, or pure as the wind-driven snow? Check.

Wears a skimpy outfit that not only makes her look like a ninja but is made to be all the more revealing by the fact she’s literally wearing webbing, and thus is technically leaping, crawling, and swinging around naked? Check. (NOTE: As a point of clarification, we do see her wearing short shorts and a halter top prior to her spinning her costume. But the way Ramos depicts Cindy as Silk, and how Olazaba and Delagado do the shading and lighting effects respectively, makes it look in several panels that she isn’t actually wearing anything under her makeshift duds.)

Has better speed, agility, reflexes, and spider-sense than Spidey; can shoot webbing from her fingertips that she can–without any real explanation–change its destiny at will; and, despite Spidey’s own martial arts training from Shang-Chi as established by Slott himself, is also capable of holding her own against Spidey simply because she watched countless videotapes of him in action? Check, check, and check.

AmazingSpider-Man#4(2014)--p.20And even though they have just met each other, both Spidey and Silk, thanks to their spider-sense, develop a mutual and almost instantaneous physical, emotional, and sexual attraction to one another? Oh my goodness, a most definite check! Bonus points for how Spidey and Silk are instinctively compelled to mate after a fight scene.

And how much do you folks want to bet that, unlike Peter Parker who has various analogues and doppelgangers from other realities, Cindy here will not because the spider-totem god chose her as the “spider-bride” and thus makes her even more special? At lease Slott didn’t go the obvious route in making Silk into a villain, but in hindsight, I would actually prefer that compared than what we’re apparently getting here.

All of this would be somewhat tolerable, however, had this been a more organic development. But because Silk is so obviously tied into Original Sin and the upcoming “Spider-Verse” event based on how hurried these developments are, Cindy Moon isn’t so much of a character than she is a two-dimensional walking plot-device, an object for the titular hero to fall for and protect from the big bad unstoppable supernatural killing machine. Sure, you can point out how Slott links Silk to both J. Michael Straczynski’s “Coming Home” and Slott’s own “Spider-Island” stories which proves he had her in mind for some time, but this also makes this particular issue all the worse because of the way he chose to bring her into Spider-Man’s overall story. And once “Spider-Verse” is completed, what purpose would Silk serve beyond that story arc? It certainly would be easy to think that Silk, in other to permanently defeat Morlun and “save the Web of Life” that she must make a heroic sacrifice, thus giving Spidey even more angst to deal with because the woman who was his true destiny is dead and gone. A bit presumptuous, I admit, but after this issue, it sure doesn’t seem that implausible.

In addition, Peter seems to have taken the same “stupid pills” Doc Ock dealt out to the Avengers, Mary Jane, and rest of the supporting cast in Superior Spider-Man because, as even Silk points out more than once, he comes off as a total idiot. We have an apologetic Spidey going out of his way to explain how Doc Ock took over his body, oblivious to a major battle going on around him. We have Spidey so hell-bent on freeing Cindy—for the most noble of intentions to be fair—that he refuses to listen to any explanation for why she’s been placed in the Ezekiel’s isolation room, even from Cindy who, based on how Spidey is now convinced Ezekiel has lied to him all along, would be a more reliable. Worst of all, we have a Spidey who doesn’t even consider the possibility that, because Morlun died twice before, he could come back a third time. (NOTE: although, as pointed out by Anonymous Jones in the comment section, this would technically make it the fourth time Morlun has returned) until Cindy points this out to him. And the only reason for all this sudden shortsightedness and obtuseness on Spidey’s part is, just like Silk herself, done merely to advance the plot.

AmazingSpider-Man#4(2014)--p.16If I do have some positive things to say about The Amazing Spider-Man #4 (2014), it’s that the subplot involving Parker Industries and Peter’s development of super-villain countermeasures is far more natural. Sajani Jaffrey’s ever-growing impatience over Peter’s frequent absences and seeming dereliction of duty to towards his company is both justified and understandable from her perspective, given how much of a financial risk she’s invested as Parker Industries’ vice-president and co-founder. Thus, her reaching the point where she’s contemplating quitting altogether makes perfect sense, although I suspect that, now that she’s been abducted by the Black Cat, she’ll now see the “wisdom” in Peter’s decision to develop a super-villain prison. And speaking of which, I suppose we should also be grateful the now villainous Black Cat only appeared for one scene this time around, even though it’s a certainty the next two issues will give her much more attention.

Another plus is that, with a cursory glance, Humberto Ramos’ art looks visually appealing in some place, enhanced even more so Olazaba’s inks and Delgado’s colors. Unfortunately, as it par for the course with Ramos, it’s also inconsistent. For every wonderful imagery such the montage in which Spidey becomes inundated with flashbacks of Cindy’s past, the two-page spread of Spidey following Silk as they both swing through the New York City skyline, or the close-up of Cindy in tears when she learns her family has moved, we get more images of Spidey and others seeming to have the tensile properties of Stretch Armstrong, along with some astonishingly bad overlapping of characters as a means of creating perspective. In other words, it’s typical Ramos, both it’s good and bad.

I’m sure some of you will disagree with my analysis about this issue. After all, the idea there someone else besides Peter bitten by the radioactive spider carries a lot of potential, and you can see how this new character connects with the upcoming greater story involving various “spiders” being hunted. But no matter how much potential you have or how many narrative building blocks being set in place, execution still matters, and for me, The Amazing Spider-Man #4 suffers tremendously from a rushed, haphazard pace, focusing on a character who, in spite of her promise, ends up being uninspired addition to the comics compared to the hype surrounding her. Dare I say it, but I believe Silk, after just one issue, is already on her way to becoming this year’s Alpha, only easier on the eyes and, of course, much more sympathetic—a character (if you can call her as such) who will, at best, be regarded as an overrated footnote in Spider-Man history. Given how we’ve only seen little of Silk and don’t really know the full extent she’ll play in Spidey’s life or in the upcoming “Spider-Verse,” I’m willing to concede that I might be premature. Then again, disappointment will do that to you.

D-

NERDY NITPICKS:

  • So Ramos, on the cover of this issue, depicts the radioactive spider biting Cindy on her upper wrist. Yet, as we see in this issue and in Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2014), the spider bites Cindy on top of her foot just below the ankle. Which makes the cover even more puzzling since Ramos was the one who illustrated both issues. And speaking of Cindy…
  • In my last review of Amazing Spider-Man, I entertained the possibility that the reason why we didn’t see Cindy’s face kept being hidden in spite of being a new character whom neither Peter or the reader ever met before was because the spider bite caused the lower half of her face to mutate. Well, in this issue, her face is revealed and…she looks completely normal. Which, again, makes me ask a simple question: why even bother keeping Silk’s face hidden from the reader if she’s a new character we never met before? It’s not as if keeping her face hidden makes her any more mysterious.
  • For those who want a better explanation of how The Amazing Spider-Man #4 (2014) ties with the Original Sin mini-series other than Spidey getting images from the Watcher’s over-sized gouged-out eyeball, Spidey, as he tries to explain to everyone who will listen that Doc Ock took over his body, has just joined the fight with the other heroes and told about the Watcher being murdered and the theft of the advanced alien weaponry he stored in his home. One problem—Original Sin #1 showed Spidey already teaming up with Thing, and later Captain America, Wolverine, and Nick Fury, before the battle with the Mindless Ones, Exterminatrix, and the Orb in Original Sin #2. And based on the dialogue in both of those issues, he was already told about the Watcher’s murder and the theft of the weapons beforehand as well—including seeing a Mindless One commit suicide with the Ultimate Nullifer. Oops!
  • And further evidence that the new Madame Web, Julia Carpenter, is the worst psychic in the Marvel Universe? “The Web will reweave itself and another Spider-Man will take your place.” Except Cindy is a woman, and therefore, by definition, is not a Spider-Man. Also, why is Spidey focusing all his anger towards Ezekiel not telling him about Cindy? Shouldn’t he be just as angry at Julia for not telling him about Cindy, as well? After all, there was nothing to stop Julia from telling Peter about Cindy long before this point.
  • Remember that psychic blindspot created by Dr. Strange that not only erased all knowledge that Peter and Spidey were the same but also erased any and all evidence that Peter and Spidey were the same, including video footage? So how does Cindy still know that Peter is Spider-Man? (NOTE: as seen in Amazing Spider-Man #2) More importantly, how can Ezekiel’s video-recorded message to Peter still exist when it addresses him by name and refers to him being Spider-Man?
  • So Morlun is capable of literally smelling and identifying “totems” he has never met from across the reaches of time and space now? Also, considering the same radioactive spider bit both Peter and Cindy, and that, because of the radiation, this made Peter an “impure” Spider-totem, then shouldn’t Cindy also be an impure Spider-Totem as well? Um…I guess this is one of those “It’s magic! You don’t have to explain it,” moments?
  • “When I think of all the money I coulda saved on Spidey suits over the years [using webbing to make my own costumes.]” Um…you do remember, Pete, that your webbing, both mechanical and organic, dissolves in an hour and thus wouldn’t make for a practical costume, right? And you certainly didn’t seem all that keen on wearing that “web-diaper” during Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2014), as I recall. Oh great…that means Spidey covering up his naughty bits was actually foreshadowing Cindy using her own webbing to make herself a costume, wasn’t it?

(57) Comments

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  2. Ozymandias

    #51 From my post about this issue: "Well, for starters, I'd say that the whole hide-her-face theatrics, feel particularly empty now. What was the point? As usual with Slott's scripts, there's a fair mix of goof and not so good moments. On the plus side, we have Percy's joke, on page 1, the scene to scene transition on pages 2-3, Spidey's explanations on page 3, secrets as a weapon, the timing of the kidnapping, Spidey's sloppiness in freeing Silk… But other elements are just not so good: Anna's new role, Spidey's unintended pun on page 2, panel 4, the emotional overreaction towards Ezekiel, the bride concept, Silk being more than a match for Spider-Man, the terrible joke about dressing himself in webs to save money, and above all, the fact that Cindy isn't a total nutcase after being in solitary for so long. Pros and cons weighted, I'd say this is one of many 5/10 from Slott."

  3. Jack

    Don't try and make sense out of Marvel's editorial decisions. They follow whatever whimsy they feel at the moment, and then make up some cheesy explanation for it post facto ("Mephisto accidentally erased himself out of OMD, so that all the effects remain but he was no longer had anything to do with it"). Then a few years (or weeks) later, they want to do something else entirely different, and so at that time they make up a NEW explanation, that often contradicts the old one(s).

  4. Kleaners

    @53 - the members of the Fantastic Four were exposed to cosmic rays. Same rays, different results.

  5. hornacek

    @52 - Yes Peter has different DNA than Cindy, but they're both human. There shouldn't be enough of a difference from his DNA and hers to give her different spider powers. We're talking about a radiation-affected spider passing on its abilities to a different species - the difference between spider and human is much greater than the difference between two human's DNA.

  6. Kleaners

    @51 - I too had to look up Spider-Man: Coming Home to see if this was a one-shot I missed somewhere down the line. The fact that Cindy doesn't have the same powers as Peter doesn't surprise me. Genetically we're all different. Peter has a different DNA make-up than Cindy. So it's not hard to believe the bite would affect them differently. Some people get the flu, other people don't.

  7. hornacek

    I'm late in reading this issue, which says something right there, that (a) I'm not rushing to the comic store to get the latest ASM issue right away, and (b) I'm leaving it unread on my comic pile for days/weeks. I miss the days where I couldn't wait to read the latest issue. :( I really didn't like this issue. If Cindy got bit by the same spider, why does she have organic webbing when Peter did not get that ability from the spider bite? A sign of the current reboot era of Marvel. When Spidey refers to Morlun the editor's box says to look at "Spider-Man: Coming Home". Hey, remember when these editor's boxes used to give issue numbers? Unfortunately, in this age of reboots, they can't say "see Spider-Man #30-35" because (a) it's too confusing to the reader to know which run of the comic they're referring to, with titles getting rebooted again and again (even if they were to include the volume number), and (b) they want to refer to issues/runs by the trade name so the reader will go buy the trade. I liked most of JMS' run, but if someone says "Spider-Man: Coming Home" I don't know what that refers to. Ezikiel: "Hello Peter. I am about to tell you all of the information you need to know about the woman in this room. This information is vitally important and I can't stress enough that you pay attention. Here is the information. I ..." Spidey: "I don't have time for this!" (smashes the tv, even though he is in no rush whatsoever) This means that all of Spider-Verse is his own fault since by refusing to listen to the rest of Ezikiel's recording, he has alerted Morlun. Spidey acts like a teenager with ADD with the Avengers. "Hey, it's me, it's me, the real me, look at me!" I'm not reading Original Sin so I found the Avengers fight a bit confusing. At the very least I hoped for an editor's box saying "See Original Sin for more information". If you didn't know anything about Original Sin you would have no idea what was going on. The art - at first I thought Anna Maria got kidnapped by the Black Cat. Spidey doesn't realize that since Morlun has already returned from the dead before, he has no basis for believing that he won't again. What is Peter's occupation again? Oh right, he's a scientist, I forgot. Apparently so did Slott. Cindy has been imprisoned since the spider-bite, correct? It seems that she has trouble with her powers and Ezikiel locks her up pretty soon after the spider bite. That's 13 years locked in a room. She should be suffering severe psychological problems. God this issue was awful.

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