Don’t let the name of this comic fool you. Even though it has “Inhuman” in the title, and features the Inhumans, this is still very much as Spider-Man comic as much as it is a continuation from last months Amazing Spider-Man Special #1. Whether or not it’s a good Spider-Man comic, however, is another matter entirely.
“Inhuman Error, Part 2”
WRITER: Jeff Loveness
ARTIST: Ryan Lee
COLORIST: Nolan Woodward
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Sabino
ASSISSTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: After a brief flashback showing us when the young Red Revan’s first flight, we open where The Amazing Spider-Man Special #1 left off, with Spidey and the Nuhumans plumpting from the Aerie. The only one who can fly is Naja, only she’s not fast enough. Fortunately, after fixing his jammed web-shooter, Spidey is sling dozens of strands to act as a crude net over the mouth of the bottom of the Aerie’s pit and thus saves everyone.
Meanwhile, an imprisoned Medusa demands to know why the Red Raven in attacking New Atillan. The Red Raven recounts his origins, that he was orphaned when the plane he was on crashed into the Aerie and adopted by floating island’s inhabitants—Inhumans who had defected from the original Atillan. He was then genetically modified with wings and anti-gravitational powers and, when became a man, left the island and became a superhero during World War II as a member of the Invaders alongside Captain America, Bucky, Namor, and the original Human Torch. He eventually returned to the Aerie, fell in love and married an Inhuman woman named Vera, and had children and grandchildren. However, when the Terrigen Bomb exploded (as seen in Infinity), the inhabitants, not accustomed to pure Terrigen mists, all mutated into bird monsters, with some, including Vera, dying in the process. Only he, because he was human, remained unaltered. Medusa explains it was her husband, Black Bolt, who activated the Terrigen Bomb and tries to get the Red Raven to listen to reason. However, the Red Raven will have none of it, as he plans to use energy from the Aerie’s gravity engines to destroy New Atillan in revenge.
Outside, Spidey and the Nuhmans are scaling the cliffs of the Aerie and come to a ledge. Spidey decides to dig out his Avengers ID card to contact them for help, only the realize he has left it at home. Spidey tries to make light of their situation, which causes Flint to accuse him of treating everything like a joke. Spidey, however, says he does takes things seriously, that he’s lost more often than he’s won, but he “makes jokes to get right up in life’s face and mock it into oblivion,” because he refuses to give up no matter what, and neither should they. His speech inspires them, and continue to make their way into the Aerie when they are beset by more bird monsters. Spidey and the Nuhumans are able to beat them back, but then, Spidey’s spider-sense goes off. He pushes the Nuhumans out-of-the-way just as one of the Aerie’s gravity beams explodes from the ground, but in doing so, Spidey falls over the edge. However, he’s rescued by the timely arrival of Sam Wilson. the former Falcon who is now the “All-New” Captain America.
THOUGHTS: Imagine yourself in the middle of a scrap yard. All around you are piles of twisted, rusted metal and refuse. You can see the skeletal remains of household appliances, mostly old refrigerators and microwaves. There are cars with cracked, sun-blasted windshields resting on cinder-blocks where tires should be and stripped of their seats and engine blocks. As you walk, your shoes stick to the thick mud, and there is a foul, fecal stench which rises from the earth every time you dislodge your foot from the muck to take a step. Yet within the midst of this desolation and rot you see something which glistens in the sunlight, and you see it’s not some broken Coke bottle or mason jar. You see that, to your absolute amazement, it’s a bar of gold.
That bar of gold, of course, is anything and everything to do with Spider-Man in the pages of Inhuman Special #1, even though it rests in the middle of what is otherwise a scrap heap.
To be fair, Jeff Loveness continuation from Amazing Spider-Man Special #1 has a decent enough plot, but the problem lies in how well versed you are in the current status of the Inhumans. While Medusa gets at least something to do and shows she’s no damsel in distress, the Nuhmans, as they are called, are the weakest of the bunch. While each of them are distinctive visually, none of them have any distinctive personality, as each of them all come across as nervous, inexperienced and self-entitled teenagers Spidey is forced to babysit. Try as Loveness might, the Nuhumans are just not very interesting or compelling characters, and even though they look distinctive, you’ll barely remember their names just like Spidey does in the story. Which is big problem since one of the goals of this comic is introduce new readers to these new characters in the hope they’ll pick up the series by Charles Soule.
Another downside turns out to be the decision to use the Golden-Age superhero, the Red Raven, as the antagonist. I appreciate the effort Loveness using an obscure character, one that has ties to the Inhumans, and provides the reasonable motive for why he would want revenge. Also, having the Red Raven’s family die because of the actions of Black Bolt makes him sympathetic and is a better justification as far as villain schemes go. Even the speech Loveness has the Red Raven’s give about what the “beautiful idea” really is and how it contrasts with the typical life of the superhero is extremely well-written. Unfortunately, the very reasons the Red Raven wants to destroy New Atillan and his means of doing so are also generic and borderline clichéd. Not to mention this story doesn’t have Black Bolt in it to at least try to explain (at least non-verbally) why he did what he did and that he had no intention of causing harm to the people of the Aerie. Instead, we have Medusa talk smack about her husband for what he did, with her admitting that she has no idea why he did what he did, and, unless you happened to have read Infinity, you have no real context.
And then there’s the art. Good Lord, was this ever a bad creative choice. I realize these Specials are intended to showcase some of Marvel’s up-and-coming new talent, but wow! was Ryan Lee’s art a complete turn-off. Almost every single figure he draws looks anorexic and disfigured, save for Gorgon, who not looks three-times as wide as everyone else, but his fists are bigger than his head. Spidey himself looks like one of those big-headed gray aliens you see in UFO conspiracy shows late at night on the History Channel covered in red and blue body-paint. The only facial expressions which don’t appear as though if they’ve been swiped from a freeze-frame photograph of someone being punched in the face are the younger Red Raven and his lady love, Vera, in the flashbacks. Worse, all of the action on panel looks stiff, and the perspective angles make everything look elongated or over-sized instead of creating a genuine illusion of depth. Sure, it’s different and not what you typically see in superhero comics, but at least it also should be pleasing to look at.
I’m getting all the bad stuff out of the way first because, as I said at the beginning of my thoughts, the one and only thing great about this comic is Loveness’ depiction of Spider-Man. Just as I said in my review of The Amazing Spider-Man Special #1, Loveness’ take on Spidey is one of best takes on the character in any medium I’ve ever seen. His Spidey is not only laugh-out-loud funny (in particular where he keeps coming up with “better” superhero names for Inferno such as “Bunsen Burner”) he’s also able to be a hard-luck superhero without coming across like a buffoon. Futhermore, underneath all of his wisecracks, we are also given a Spidey who is resourceful, intelligent and far more capable than any one is willing give him credit for.
Nowhere in this comic is there a better example of this than when, after realizing he needs to be a leader for the Nuhumans, there’s a hilarious sequence where Spidey imagines what various superheroes who have leadership qualities would say in a similar predicament, including Cyclops shouting for Jean Grey in the same way he did during the X-Men cartoon from the 1990s. Failing to come up with anything and then being accused of treating everything like a joke, Loveness gives Spidey quite possibly of the best character-defining, motivational speeches Spidey has ever uttered in the comics. He admits his failures yet refuses to be defined by them. He gives a reason for always telling jokes by turning them into an act of defiance. He doesn’t lie to the Nuhumans about how grave their situation is and that they might not succeed, but that this cannot stop them from trying to save others who are counting on them. And after getting the Nuhumans on board and willing to follow his lead, Spidey then caps off with “Also, my jokes are amazing and would be a crime against the universe not to utter them…[and] Wolverine thought I was hilarious.”
If there is one thing Loveness does right in this entire issue, it’s that he knows and understands just who Spider-Man is—that instead of succumbing to despair and angst at what life throws at him, he picks himself up, pushes forward and laughs. And in what is otherwise a lackluster comic, it’s that portrayal of Spider-Man as the underestimated heroic jester which elevates it just enough out of the mire.
Next month, the conclusion for “Inhuman Error” takes place in All-New Captain America Special #1, and I sincerely hope it’s a vast improvement over Inhuman Special #1. Because for a story which has one of the best portrayals of Spider-Man, as what we had a taste of in Amazing Spider-Man Special #1, then it’s only fair to have a story as worthy of that Spider-Man, as well. So do what Spidey would do. Don’t think of this as a miserable failure; instead, take it as a noble loss to lift yourself up from, smile and laugh at what Spidey has to put up with, and don’t give up hope that all will be right in the end.
- I realize that, in the nature of resolving cliffhangers, there has to be some artistic license and suspension of disbelief when it comes to the hero being able to escape, but I have to ask—how deep is this chasm supposed to be? In Amazing Spider-Man Special #1, we could see it was an immediate drop-off, an open-pit that, just like the Moon Door in Game of Thrones, is nothing a large round, shallow hole. Yet it this issue, this opening Spidey and the Nuhumans fall through appears to be at least a mile deep with rocky cliff-sides, even though Amazing Spider-Man Special #1 showed the Aerie as an artificial floating island. Methinks there was a bit of a cheat going on.
- “Great. The only fire-person who can’t fly. Way to shatter stereotypes.” Well, Spidey, the mutants Pyro, Magma, and Match are unable to fly as well, so they shattered the “stereotype” that people with fire powers can fly long before Inferno. Then again, not sure if you met them outside of official 616 canon, so…
- “…the memory of superheroes is so convenient.” As are comic book writers.
- You know, I’m sure if this was deliberate on Loveness’ part, but the way Red Raven begins his backstory is rather reminiscent of how Grant Morrison used simple sentences to retell Superman’s origin story in a single page. Though it also reminds me of how many comic book creators during the 1940s were creating their characters in response to Superman since he’s considered to be the first comic book superhero, which could be a meta-commentary by Loveness. Either that or I’m desperately reading way too much into this.
- Jeez, the way Ryan Lee draws Medusa during Red Raven’s revelation about his people being mutated by the Terrigen Bomb, I’m not sure if she’s reacting in horror to what he just said, recoiling from the spittle coming out of his mouth, or that she got a whiff of his bad breath.
- “A little late, spider-sense.” Yeah, I got to agree with Spidey on this one. Why did his spider-sense only go off after Inferno lit up the cavern and revealed those bid-monster Inhumans?
- Okay, I’m not sure how this works. Spidey manages to push all the Nuhumans out the gravity beam’s path, and in doing so appears to move all of them dangerously close to the edge of a cliff. Yet somehow, only Spidey manages to keep propelling himself forward after pushing all the Nuhumans to the ground and falls over the side? Um…good ‘ol Parker Luck?