Ready for another story involving Spidey having trouble with women? With one who was his lover now trying to kill him, and another who wishes she could kill him wanting instead to sleep with him? And can my expectations go even lower than they did last time?
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILER: Humberto Ramos
INKS: Victor Olazaba
COLORS: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
VARIANT COVER: Stephanie Hans
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Ellie Pyle
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
THE STORY: Black Cat and Electro pay a visit to the Eel, as she announces she’s taking over his criminal operations. After the Eel laughs in her face and attempts to blast her, Black Cat sics Electro on him and his goons. Meanwhile, Spidey and Cindy Moon, aka Silk, are about to have some rooftop sex as seen last issue, when Silk, pulling off Spidey’s mask, calls him Peter. This makes Spidey stop what their doing, as he doesn’t know how Silk can know his secret identity. Neither of them explain why they had the urge to make out, although Silk believes it has to do with them being bitten by the same radioactive spider. Spidey says it may not have been a good idea to let Silk free after all, but Silk says the “damage has already been done,” that’s she’s not going back after having missed so much, and that besides, Peter is “the first person she’s kissed in ten years.” Over at the Fact Channel studios, J. Jonah Jameson is told that, because his scheduled interview segment involves Parker Industries and Jonah being related to Peter via his father’s marriage to Aunt May, there’s a potential conflict of interest, thus reporter Natalie Long will conduct it instead. However, Sajani Jaffrey, who was supposed to do the interview, cannot be gotten a hold of. That’s because, after being kidnapped by the Black Cat, she’s being held captive with Electro guarding her. When Electro asks why Parker Industries is trying to catch him, Sajani says it was Peter’s decision, as she believes it’s a waste of time and resources to capture and cure him, the later of which peaks Electro’s interest. Black Cat, meanwhile, crashes a meeting between Mr. Negative and Phil Urich, now calling himself the “Goblin King,” and delivers them an unconscious Eel. She then makes a deal with Mr. Negative, promising that she will do what they could not: “smash the spider and break the man.”
When Anna Maria returns to her and Peter’s Tribeca apartment, she finds Peter and Cindy on the ceiling about to have sex again. Peter tries to explain who Cindy is, but Anna Maria tells him that, because Sajani is missing, he’ll have to do the interview with the Fact Channel. So Peter, along with Cindy, arrives at the studio, and both Aunt May and Jay Jameson are watching it live, with May planning to call “everyone she knows” to watch. During the interview, Cindy tries to warn him she senses danger, but Peter’s spider-sense finally kicks in, it’s already too late as both Electro and Black Cat attack. Black Cat states that if Spider-Man doesn’t show in 15 minutes, she’ll kill Peter, which Electro, knowing he’s his best chance at finding a cure for his amplified powers, objects. Only instead of Spidey, Silk attacks them both, which allows Peter enough of a distraction to change into Spidey and join the fight. Silk, because of her hyper spider-speed and senses, is able to dodge Electro with ease. Unfortunately, due to Black Cat’s luck powers, Spidey gets hit with a stray bolt from Electro and Black Cat plans to show Spidey’s true identity as payback for him revealing hers. And as Black Cat starts to pull off Spidey’s mask, Jonah, seizing the opportunity, orders the camera operator to keep filming, as he takes up a spare microphone to broadcasts to the world “the scoop of the century!”
THOUGHTS: Three pages. That’s all it took for me to start thinking this comic was in serious trouble. Those three first pages full of inconsistent art, awful characterization, clunky dialogue laden with even clunkier exposition (i.e. “Slott-speak”), and, because both Black Cat and Electro are in the scene, groan-inducing puns about luck and electricity. And Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #5 only gets worse from there, though not as insufferable as Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #4.
As if the subplot involving Black Cat becoming a full-fledged super-villain couldn’t get more ridiculous, this comic has her up and decides to become a crime-boss all of a sudden. You know, just like that other cat-themed character from Marvel’s Distinguished Competition and being told in far more convincing way? It’s true characters, even comic book ones, cannot stay static, that they have to develop and grow over time to prevent themselves from becoming stale; except for such a radical change to work, it also has to be believable. And almost nothing about Felicia Hardy becoming antagonist for Spider-Man is in any way believable.
While the Black Cat wanting revenge against Spidey for putting her in prison, not realizing it was really Doctor Octopus, would ordinarily make sense, her reasons for doing so are fundamentally weak. In order for Black Cat’s story to work, we also must believe that “Spider-Man” taking her down destroyed her “street cred” and is thus “a joke” to the rest of the criminal underworld. Except according to that logic, every single super-villain Spidey has ever defeated should also be considered a joke. Let’s not forget that SpOck, along with capturing Black Cat, also took down almost every single crime-lord in the city, including the Kingpin! Not to mention that, because of SpOck and his propensity to go as far as cold-blooded murder, every single crook, criminal, and super-villain in New York became afraid of Spider-Man. And yet, only the Black Cat gets branded as a laughing-stock as opposed to being respected for having survived her encounter minus a tooth. You never someone like the Eel (who by the way is a C-list villain at best who also got his butt kicked by Spidey, so who is he to talk?) soiling himself at the sight of her like he does Electro, for example. Furthermore, Black Cat herself alludes to this illogical contradiction during her meeting with Mr. Negative, and while Dan Slott may intend this scene for Mr. Negative and Phil Urich to ally themselves with her, he also winds up undermining his very own narrative behind her heel-turn. There’s a reason Black Cat becoming a super-villain has been so badly received: because it’s not resulting from character but from whatever which way Slott wants the plot to go.
But compared to the subplot involving Spidey and his “all-new junior sidekick,” Silk, Black Cat’s story arc is at least tolerable. When I described Cindy Moon as a “Mary Sue” in my review for Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #4, I imagine some of you thought I was being premature, that we needed to see more appearances of Silk before we could make a proper judgement as pertains to her as a character. Well, after this issue, I’m still standing by what I said, since once again, Slott feels the need to browbeat how much better Cindy’s powers are than Peter’s. I might as well also add “Tsdunere” to her list of “character traits,” because when it comes to Cindy’s “personality” in this comic, she shifts between doe-eyed innocent and deadpan snarker at a moments notice, with one of her running gags being how she lacks social graces and manners due to being in isolation for ten years. The other running gag is that in spite of being “mad” at Peter, she’s still all-too eager to jump his bones because her not having kissed someone in over a decade along with her spider-instincts makes her horny. Because casting a brand-new superheroine whose “powers” give her mood swings and turn her into a raging nymphomaniac around Spidey is such a great way to attract a female audience to comics, right?
Also, as if the moment showing Peter and Cindy are making out on the rooftop while the caption reads “A rooftop overlooking the—who cares? Look what’s going on here!” wasn’t cringe-worthy enough, the scene where Anna Maria walks in on them about to have sex on the ceiling is flat-out embarrassing and reads like a bad sitcom minus the laugh track. It also becomes clear Slott is attempting to re-create a similar relationship-dynamic similar to the triangle which used to exist between Peter, Mary Jane, and Black Cat only using his own characters. Problem is, this new triangle between Peter, Anna Maria, and Silk is about as clever as it is original, which is say it’s neither. Worse, it continues to put too much emphasis on Peter being a buffoonish clown that has plagued him ever since the start of the “All-New Marvel NOW!” relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man. Yes, it’s a given that Spidey is a “hard-luck” superhero who often finds himself in awkward and humiliating scenarios, but it’s typically balanced by some level of competency on his part, of which he displays none in this entire comic. If Spidey had been regularly depicted like this over the past fifty-two years, no wonder Black Cat’s reputation was ruined if she had trouble fighting against this idiot.
As for the humor, or lack thereof, you know you’re in for a rough ride when the height of sophisticated wit involves Sajani Jaffrey commenting about how she assumed super-villains take captives “to an abandoned warehouse in the bad part of town,” and then the next scene shows Mr. Negative’s headquarters is “an abandoned warehouse in the bad part of town.” The only decent and clever jokes are when Spidey calls Silk “Spinning Jenny” with a footnote telling readers to look it up on Google, and Jonah’s reaction to when Spidey again says that his body was taken over by Doctor Octopus. I’m well aware of how difficult it is to be funny and how bad my own jokes are, but here, Slott writing comes off being desperate, and gives the impression that he’s all but given up putting in any effort in this comic, choosing to save all of his energy for his high-concept “Spider-Verse” instead.
Even Humberto Ramos appears to phone it in, even during his typically energetic fight sequences, which, given how it involves Electro slinging lightning bolts every which way, make several panels during the skirmish between Spidey and Silk against Black Cat and Electro cluttered and difficult to follow. While his facial expressions, such as the panel showing Anna Maria’s look of disapproval towards Peter, are decent enough, his irregular depictions of human anatomy is far more jarring than usual. Silk in particular gets the worst of it, as we see panels of her where she appears to have legs the same width as her forearms, toes without toenails that end in rectangular stumps, and at one point looks to have grown several feet in size compared to Black Cat and Electro. It not only makes Ramos’ artwork inconsistent but also unprofessional.
As for the ending cliffhanger, does any one seriously believe for a second that Marvel would go through the trouble of having Spider-Man publicly unmasked on live television again? After all, it’s not as if Silk isn’t still in studio fighting alongside Spidey and could easily cover up his face with some webbing, or yank him away from the camera before the audience can get a good look at his face. If Slott does, for argument’s sake, decides to have Spidey outed as Peter to whole world, then we might as well take this a clear sign Marvel plans to do a hard reboot of their universe, after all. That or we get something like what happened in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #12 where everyone assumed Peter was pretending to be Spider-Man to rescue Betty Brant from Doctor Octopus. At least if there’s the slightest chance that Black Cat does see Spidey unmasked next issue, it would also mean her memories about him being Peter would also return and she’d stop acting like a moron, so on some level I’m actually hoping Slott goes through with it if only for that reason. But I’m not holding my breath.
The only moment in this entire issue which contained any semblance of heart and genuine emotion, which was neither mean-spirited or juvenile, was the moment where Peter congratulated and hugged Jonah over his getting a new show at the Fact Channel. For that one brief scene, I started to believe this comic was starting to find its way again. That after suffering through page after agonizing page of Black Cat being “evil” and plot-induced spider-love, Slott and Ramos would be able to salvage something worthwhile from the wreckage they wrought. Needless to say, my new-found optimism wasn’t rewarded, and I’m just praying Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #6 will not be as awful as these last two issues have been.
- Just in case you’re too lazy or want to save time Googling “Spinning Jenny,” it is, as quoted on Wikipedia, “a multi-spindle spinning frame” or wheel invented in 1764 by James Hargreaves which allowed a “worker to work eight or more spools at once.” Who said comics couldn’t be educational?
- So how can you tell this comic was, in part, intended as promotional material for film, The Amazing Spider-Man 2? Because every time Electro enters into a scene, he’s wearing a hoodie, just like Jamie Foxx did in the movie. That, and Black Cat calls Electro “Sparkles” at one point. I’m just surprised with the non-subtle references that Max Dillon didn’t also utter the line “Don’t you know? I’m Electro!” or “It’s my birthday, time to light my candles!”
- “No. Mask stays on.” Geez, Spidey! I realize that you have secret identity to protect and that this whole wearing nothing but your mask was your little arrangement you had with Black Cat before she hated your guts, but is this a prerequisite for every strange woman you just met and want to have a random hook up with now? Plus, given how hot-and-heavy things between you and Cindy were starting to get, I would think covering your face would be last on your list when it comes to “protection.” Speaking of which…
- How exactly is Spidey able to get his top off while keeping gloves on? Don’t they pull over the top of shirt? Also, based on how Ramos’ illustrates their first make-out session, was Silk trying to kiss Peter or eat his tongue? I mean the later would make sense considering how female spiders do devour the males after mating.
- Sajani…just because you’re handcuffed does not mean you still have to show proper etiquette by to gripping the champagne glass with your fingertips. In fact it would probably be easier for you to actually hold the glass with your hands because you’re handcuffed.
- This might sound like a silly question, but Cindy accompanied Peter to the Fact Channel studio, where did she get a hold of some spare clothes in her size? Oh, and if you doubted me before that Silk is indeed naked underneath of webbing costume, once again take a closer look at how she’s illustrated and colorized after she webs herself up a new outfit to fight Black Cat and Electro.
- Um…Spidey? I’m not sure grabbing the TV camera and shouting directly into it will make anyone watching actually hear you. Because correct me if I’m wrong, television studio cameras are not equipped for sound. That’s why you had to be wired with a mic when you were doing your interview as Peter Parker. And why Jonah had to pick up a hand-held microphone when he wanted to announce your being unmasked by the Black Cat. You are supposed to be a science major, correct?
- Also, how exactly are those studio lights still working given the amount of voltage Electro is giving off? Better yet, how are the cameras and sound systems still operational? Hmm…maybe that’s another way Slott is going to prevent Spidey being publicly unmasked next issue.