So how do you celebrate the return of a popular Spider-Man spin-off character known for its bright and sunny optimism? Why stick her in a story about death, of course! Don’t worry, kids. We’ve got Spidey teaming up with another plucky young teenage girl to make it all better. Or try to, anyway.
“Ms. Adventures in Babysitting”
PLOT: Dan Slott
SCRIPT: Christos Gage
PENCILS: Giuseppe Camuncoli
INKS: Cam Smith
COLORS: Antonio Fabela
LETTERS: Chris Eliopoulos
“Edge of Spider-Verse: My Brother’s Keeper”
WRITER: Dan Slott
PENCILS: Humberto Ramos
INKS: Victor Olazaba
COLORS: Edgar Delgado
LETTERS: Chris Eliopoulos
COVER: Camuncoli, Smith, and Fabela
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Ellie Pyle
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY #1: As Spidey is fighting with the transformed Dr. Minerva, Kamala Khan, aka the new Ms. Marvel, is petrified with fear. Realizing she’s scared, Spidey tells Kamala to do his and Carol Danver’s “slingshot maneuver,” which Kamala gets all excited and they’re able to pull it off, knocking Dr. Minvera to the ground. They then are able to stop Dr. Minvera’s henchmen from escaping and rescue the Terrigen chrysalis. Dr. Minvera recovers, however, and attacks again, just as the chysalis starts to hatch. Meanwhile at the Fact Channel, Cindy Moon is called to Natalie Long’s office to look at the footage of Spidey and Silk’s fight with Black Cat and Electro from Amazing Spider-Man #6. Natalie states Silk can be for the Fact Channel what Spidey is for The Daily Bugle, only that her costume is “tacky.” Angry at the criticism, Cindy secretly leaves and decides to web herself a “makeover.” Later, Silk, in her new costume, apprehends the Ringer, while Natalie and her camera operator film the action.
Back at the fight with Dr. Minvera, Spidey and Kamala see that the Inhuman who hatched from the chrysalis is just a newborn baby. Kamala then takes the baby with Dr. Minvera’s henchmen in pursuit, while Spidey distracts Minvera by blinding her with the cocoon’s shell and residue. However, Dr. Minvera uses eye-beams to both remove the residue and blast Spidey. Kamala is also hit with a laser blast by the henchmen, but she angrily tells them they shot her while she’s was holding a baby. Hearing this, one the henchmen turns his gun—a sonic rifle he himself put together on the spot—and turns it on his own partners. Then, to not scare the baby, he removes his mask, showing he’s a blond guy with beard. Both Kamala and the bearded henchmen return to Spidey fighting Dr. Minvera, who again states how she’s harvesting Inhuman DNA to create Kree super-soldiers. This leads both Kamala and the henchman to ask where are these Kree super-soldiers, and why bother hiring normal humans to herl her? This makes Spidey realize Dr. Minvera’s “mission” is unsanctioned by the Kree Empire, so he calls Avengers Tower to send a message to Kree space about what Dr. Minvera is doing on Earth. The bluff works, and Dr. Minvera flies away. Spidey, Kamala, and the henchman return the baby to her parents at St. Luke’s Hospital, where Spidey congratulates Kamala on a job well done. He also thanks the henchman for his help, and recognizes him as the adult Clayton Cole, aka Clash, from “Learning to Crawl.” Spidey gives Clayton a Parker Industries business card, thus giving Clayton a new job working for Peter’s company.
STORY #2: At Forest Hills, NY, on Earth-982, the Parker house is burning, and Morlun’s older brother, Daemos, is about to kill Mayday Parker, aka Spider-Girl. Her boyfriend, Wes Westin, tries to stop Daemos, but the Inheritor flings him to the fireplace wall where he collapses with a sickening thud. Peter, in spite of his artificial leg, leaps at Daemos, knocking him away from Mayday, while Mary Jane holds her and Peter’s infant son, Benjy. As Peter tells Daemos to leave his daughter alone, the Inheritor says he’s not just going to eat Mayday, but also him and Benjy, as well, and that Peter knows he cannot stop him. So Peter tells MJ he loves her and to save the kids as he tries to keep Daemos at bay. MJ, however, chooses to stay and help Peter, so she forces Mayday to get up, gives her Benjy, and to run and never look back. As Mayday flees with her brother, a dimensional portal opens and out steps Spider-UK and the “Last Stand Spidey” from Amazing Spider-Man #500. They tell Mayday to come with them, but she says they have to go back and help her dad. Last Stand Spidey, however, says their readings detect only two spider-totems—herself and her baby brother. Daemos emerges from the house, gloating as he drags Peter’s corpse behind him. Mayday then swears that, to save her brother and avenge her family, she will “break every vow she’s been taught” by her father and kill Daemos. And as she vanishes with the other Spider-Men, Daemos states that, when they meet again, she’s “more than welcome to try.”
THOUGHTS: When the cover and solicitation for Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #8 was announced several months ago, it caused a stir. After all, there was Spider-Girl, a beloved fan favorite (especially for supporters of Peter and Mary Jane’s marriage) and notable for having the longest running Marvel Comics title with a female superhero as the lead, with her costume torn, surrounded by flames, with the solicit saying how she and her family would be attacked by “mysterious forces” behind Spider-Verse. Given how the lead up to the event has had Morlun and his siblings killing off various alternate Spider-Men and Women, and various preview pages showing Mayday and her folks being attacked by one of those siblings, fans feared the worst, and the caption on the cover which says “Spider-Girl’s Last Stand!” didn’t serve to set anyone at ease. Obviously, this was Marvel intent, an attempt at convincing fans they would kill off Mayday to generate sales, even though logically it wouldn’t make sense for them to kill her off after bringing her back and devoting a story to her. Overlooked in all this was the main story of the issue continuing Spidey and Kamala Khan’s team-up. Which, from a marketing standpoint, makes sense since the main story, just like last issue, is a lighthearted, fun, but mostly unmemorable romp.
One of the things the team-up between Spidey and the new Ms. Marvel gets right is because Peter used to be the original teenage superhero, he knows exactly what Kamala, as a teenager superhero, is going through. This puts him into the role of a coach and mentor, one which, as past stories have shown, fits Spidey really, really well. And both Spidey and Kamala prove to have a very good teacher and student relationship. After all, Kamala shares many similarities to a teenage Peter in many ways, in that she, too, has to balance her life as a superhero with the responsibilities of family, school, and friendships. Also, like Spidey, she’s capable of making mistakes, and learning she can’t always rely on her powers at all times, that sometimes you have to outsmart an enemy and not try to match them punch for punch. Granted, pairing Marvel’s flagship character with a new, younger up-and-comer is done to promote the new character and their comic, but Dan Slott and Christos Gage do a bang-up job, even if their conclusion is somewhat anti-climatic.
Not as successful, though, is the clumsily-added subplot done to promote whom Marvel desperately hopes will be their latest breakout female character, Silk, and her upcoming solo series. But rather than generating interest, the scenes devoted to her end up undermining her as long-standing, viable character in her own right in two significant ways. First, is that Cindy’s scenes are all about her making herself a new costume in order to look better on camera. To be fair, Cindy’s new outfit is an improvement over the excuse to swing around naked webbing garments she wore, but it also makes her look less distinctive as a character. Not only does the new costume generic, it makes Cindy look even more like the “sexy ninja stereotype” than she did before. The second problem is what Natalie Long mentions how Silk can do for the Fact Channel what Spider-Man did for The Daily Bugle. Couple this with Cindy working at a news station like Peter used to do, and she becomes just a female Spider-Man knock-off, only more so since she’s a product of the same radioactive spider, has the same but “better” powers, and even makes jokes and quips during fights. It’s one thing to have a superheroine who is a counterpart to an established male superhero, but it’s quite another to have that same superheroine be all but identical to the male superhero apart from their gender.
The last major development from the main story is, of course, having Clayton Cole officially be inducted into the supporting cast. It didn’t come as a surprise that Clayton was Dr. Minvera’s henchmen, as his statement from last issue about how he and Spidey had a history was dead giveaway. What was unexpected, however, was Clayton deciding to turn over a new leaf and Peter hiring him to work for Parker Industries. This was perfectly in-character of Spidey since, as the issue states, he’s all about second chances, and gives a bit more weight and importance to “Learning to Crawl” as a story. That said, if Slott’s idea was introduce a new supporting character who used to be one of Spidey’s villains from the early days who now becomes his employee, then why devote a whole five-part mini-series just to do this? Why not have it be some other established C-list villain from Spidey’s rogue’s gallery? I suppose having it be a new character instead of an old one allows more creative freedom since a reformed classic villain is far more likely to fall back into crime. Then again, so can the new character. At least, having Clayton work for Peter is a less obvious direction than him becoming Clash again after being let out of prison for a decade.
What is an obvious direction, however, is what happens to Mayday in the already controversial back-up story.
Now, I don’t mean to brag, but when I saw the cover for Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #8, my gut feeling was that Slott wasn’t going to kill off Mayday. Over on the Comic Book Resources community boards, I figured that if anyone was going to be killed in the story, it was going to be her parents, thus providing Mayday an additional motive in wanting stop the Inheritors because then it would be personal, and then she’d have the typical revenge-driven story arc heading into Spider-Verse that comic book writers so often crave just so they can “shake things up.” And sure enough, with the exception of some minor details, that’s exactly what happened, with the supposed death of her boyfriend, Wes, added to have even more angst.
I’m not angry so much over the MC2 Peter being killed, even though it’s yet another cheap death intended to show how evil the Inheritors are, as if we didn’t already know this after the numerous other times the Inheritors have killed alternate versions of Spider-Man and whomever gets in their way. Nor am I angry that the MC2 Mary Jane is also supposedly killed, especially since we don’t actually see as we never see her body, though that’s probably her screaming from inside the house. Also, much to my surprise, Slott portrayal of the MC2 Peter and MJ in their last moments was true to their characters. Their love, devotion, and sacrifice to each other and their children is a painful reminder of what the 616 Peter and MJ used to be like when they were together, and is just a stark contrast to who they’ve become ever since “One More Day,” including during Slott’s own tenure on Amazing Spider-Man. And given how Mayday is a teenage girl who just saw the deaths of her parents and boyfriend, who is now forced to take care of her baby brother, of course she’d want to kill the person responsible out of a sense of grief. I even think that the moment where the “Last Stand Spidey” giving comfort to the daughter he might have had was almost touching. No, I’m not angry because Mayday’s parents and boyfriend were apparently killed. What angers me is just how lazy, uninspired, and cliche-ridden this entire back-up story really was.
This certainly isn’t first time Slott has crafted very on-the-nose, expository-heavy dialogue to be sure; only in this particular case, every utterance by every character has all the grace and subtlety of a brick to the face. Bad enough you’ve got the MC2 Peter declaring “I have to be better than okay, I have to be amazing!” Or how Daemos boasts how he can’t be stopped, that he’ll find Mayday and her brother, that he will devour them, and blah, blah, blah ad nauseam. But when Slott has Mayday say to Daemos: “To save my brother and to avenge my family, I swear I’ll break every vow I’ve been taught. All the values my father held dear. And I will kill you?” Those particular lines are so thick you could use them as stucco for your house. It just tries so very, very hard to generate horror and tragedy that it winds up doing neither, cringing and groaning not because you feel bad for the characters, but because it’s so badly written.
And I think it’s a safe bet Mayday will not go through with her pledge. Oh sure, we’ll get all this pomp and circumstance about how she’s now “consumed by vengeance” and that the Inheritors “must pay for what they have done!” No doubt, she will wind up supporting Otto Octavious and his “kill or be killed” approach instead of the 616 Spidey’s “No one dies” mantra, thus creating an emotional tug-of-war between two alternate versions of her dad with two opposing philosophical differences—never mind, of course, that the 616 Spidey has technically killed Morlun twice already. And during a moment in which Mayday will have the opportunity to kill Daemos and take her revenge, she will stay her hand, realizing she is her “father’s daughter” after all, and that she is “better” because, despite her loss, she will not succumb to murder. Sure, there’s a chance things won’t turn out this way, that this won’t be a predictable revenge arc we all too often see in superhero comics, and thus this criticism will be all but moot. But at this point, Mayday’s story for Spider-Verse is looking woefully transparent in its eventual resolution.
At least the art for both stories are decent enough. Guiseppe Camuncoli, along with Cam Smith and Antonio Fabela, create some well-rendered, detailed illustrations while being able to convey a sense of action and movement. Of particular notice was the way Camuncoli was able to show facial expressions, even though there was one panel in particular where it looked as if Kamala was high on drugs due to the sixe of her eyes. Humberto Ramos, with Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado, once again draws some very dynamic, attention-grabbing visuals, even though he also succumbs to his usual tendency to have odd perspective angles and inconsistent body proportions. The odd thing is, if I were the editor on this book, I would have switched the artists for each story, with Ramos doing the main story and Camuncoli doing the back-up. Ramos’ more abstract style would seem like a natural in conveying Kamala’s shape-shifting and size-altering superpowers, while Camuncoli’s more realistic approach would fit with the attempted tone of the back-up. I suppose Ellie Pyle and Nick Lowe should be commended, however, for attempting to be a little offbeat when it comes to deciding which Spider-Man artist gets to tackle which story.
Even so, the art itself cannot save Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #8 as a whole. As enjoyable as the main story is, there’s not much beyond it being a fun story to really recommend it in my opinion, and the six-page back-up is just atrocious, especially if you’re a dedicated Spider-Girl fan. Just like Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #7, this comic merely a way to pad out time and promote Spider-Verse until it officially begins next issue. Only having now read both issues, I find myself less confident about and eager to read the upcoming event. The main story gets a “C+” or “B-“, while the back-up gets a “D-,” if not an “F,”, bringing the final grade point average for the comic down to an unfortunate:
- “You used [the Captain Marvel slingshot maneuver] against the Spider-Slayer’s insect army. And when you fought Terminus.” Gee, thanks Slott and Gage for reminding us about that story where Marla Jameson died and the debacle known as Alpha. Also, for a self-professed fan of Carol Danvers, shouldn’t Kamala know that Carol called herself Ms. Marvel instead of Captain Marvel during those times?
- What? No retort from Spidey telling Kamala that the “Fastball Special” is Colossus and Wolverine’s signature move? I mean, come on! That was a pretty easy opening for a wisecrack if there ever was one.
- So not only can Cindy make her organic webbing have different textures, be sticky, resemble cloth, have barbed tips, be insulated from electricity, be soft enough to cushion falling helicopters, it can also have different colors and pigments because…why the hell not, right? Now watch as she’ll also be able to make “copies” of herself out of webbing right down to the flesh tones to distract enemies. At this point Cindy’s webs are just like Green Lantern’s power ring in that she seemingly can use them to create anything she wants by sheer force of will. After all, if wasn’t clear enough yet, anything Peter can do, Cindy can do better.
- Okay, I know how I said it was pretty clear that the Dr. Minvera henchman who had a history with Spider-Man was Clayton Cole, but it’s not as if we could recognize him after he took his mask off. After all, just like he said, he looked just like any “regular dude” and there was nothing distinctive about him whatsoever. Heck, he could’ve passed for Johnny Storm with facial hair he was that generic.
- Kudos comic for reminding us that there are, in fact, blue-skinned and pink-skinned Kree. However, correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe there are now more pink-skinned Kree than there are blue-skinned Kree, and therefore, are no longer, by definition, a minority. That’s because the pink-skinned Kree are the result of blue-skinned Kree inter-breeding with other species, particularly humans since, you know, the Kree were all about improving the variety of their gene pool and such.
- And just when I was starting to forgive the Avengers for their being a bunch of collective fools during Superior Spider-Man, we now learn that they play Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” while making callers wait on the line. Because after Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” we need yet another catchy pop song with millions of YouTube hits to be run into the ground and become dated within less than a year. Thanks “Earth’s Mightest Heroes!”
- Good job, Cindy! You’re “smooth as silk” catchphrase is right up there with Robert Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice, saying he’s “cool as ice.” And don’t you just love the fact that Natalie Long notices Silk’s new outfit coincidentally on the same day she told her intern, Cindy, about how Silk needed a new costume, yet doesn’t put two-and-two together that maybe Cindy and Silk are the same person? If Marvel and DC were part of the same universe, maybe Natalie went to the same school of journalism as Lois Lane.
- So let’s see…Spider-UK and “Last Stand Spidey” knew Mayday and her brother, Benjy, were in danger, hence their arrival at her dimension to save her from Daemos. And, based on whatever instruments they have, are able to find them as fellow spider-totems. And, since their instruments only detected Mayday and Benjy instead of Peter, this confirms, apart from seeing the body, that Mayday’s father is really dead. Only couldn’t their instruments have detected the MC2 Peter before they arrived at that dimension? And if they knew Mayday and her family were going to be under attack, why not arrive at that dimension sooner? Hmm…a bit too convenient for the story, don’t you think?