“Are the children safe?”
A variant cover?! It’s about time!
Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #7
“The Dark Kingdom Pt 2: Opposing Forces”
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Matteo Buffagni
Inks: Matteo Buffagni
Colors: Marte Garcia
Cover: Alex Ross
Editors: Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis
Plot A: Peter has been corrupted by Mr. Negative, and the Polar Bear Man does his exposition dump quota, telling Peter to see to it that Parker Industries’s newest business partner is given a dose of Shade that will reveal his true dark side (Find me some Shade. Thanks, hot legs.). Polar Bear Man asks Peter is he has a problem, and Peter does his best Joker face (You are my number one guy!), saying he doesn’t. However, Peter’s inner monologue reveals that he isn’t corrupted, having been corrupted years ago and can’t be corrupted again. (Slott acknowledges continuity?! Abandon ship!) Peter pretends to get ill, and places a Micro-Spider-Tracer on Cloak before leaving. (Why’d you make Micro Spider-Tracers when I’m assuming you have Ock’s leftover nano-tracers?)
Peter goes back to Dr. Wu’s lab, and Wu says, due to constant interruptions, he hasn’t been able to. (Watch it, pal. This guy signs your paycheck, show some respect.) Giving Wu a sample of Shade to work with, Peter leaves, just as Lia(e)n arrives. Peter goes swinging (Spider-Man swinging in his own comic?! Ridiculous!), claiming he could’ve found Cloak and Dagger faster with the Spider-Mobile (Yes, because I want to see Peter driving the Spider-Mobile rather than using his trademark webs!), and weighs his options, considering that Mockingbird and Prowler are out hunting Scorpio (I can understand Bobbi, but why Prowler? Isn’t he supposed to be in New York, keeping up the facade?). He listens in on Cloak, before he teleports away, leaving no signal. At the shade factory, Dagger threatens the workers’ families unless they work faster (that escalated quickly) and Pete dumps a bunch of shade on her (all the jokes that arise from that).
Plot B: Lia(e)n Tang is visiting her mother in the hospital, who it turns out has cancer, which explains why she was so pissed at Wu earlier for not working on it. It turns out she’s been working with Scorpio (how?!), by giving him Parker Industries’ security codes (he shouldn’t need those, he’s one of Peter’s shareholders!) in exchange for medication for her mother. (Your boy toy is the owner of a Fortune 500 company and has hundreds, if not thousands of people working under him! I’m sure he’d whip up a cure with Wu if you really meant that much to him!) When Scorpio threatens to pull the plug, Lia(e)n promises Spider-Man’s head, and affirms this by turning the Spider-Mobile on. (By God, she turned on a car! Spider-Man’s defeat is nigh!)
Plot C: We then cut to New York (What?!) where we see Harry Obsborn/Lyman eating pizza with Liz and his kids Stanley and Normie, the latter being a little jealous about the attention his half-brother is getting. (The next Green Goblin, folks! Born from jealousy of his half-brother!…Really lame in comparison to the rest of his bloodline.) As they’re leaving the restaurant, they almost get hit by a guy eluding the cops, with Harry pulling Stanley away, with Liz pulling Future Green Goblin in a different direction (symbolism!), but then a mysterious figure comes and taking out the random speeder’s car, telling him to avoid hitting the children. (Now I know! And knowing is half the battle!) After Normie gives Harry and Stanley an ominous look, (TOO SUBTLE, SLOTT!) we find out that the new guy in town is… Regent. (This can’t possibly be building up to anything in future issues).
Thoughts: Good lord, this issue is all over the place.
Are there any pros? Yes. Matteo Buffgani is still on par with his other works, and delivers Sandpaper Face in all of its glory. It’s not even his pencils that are the problem, the colors feel so flat and lifeless. Granted, it’s far better than Silva’s colors in the Point issues, but it doesn’t make me feel any worse about critiquing Garcia’s work.
Also, Slott seems to be listening to my critiques, because the story is very self-contained. It stays in one city, and while it does reference events offscreen, they don’t seem to be affecting the Dark Kingdom, so I guess that’s a plus.
Now, we get to the bad good stuff. Oh, boy, oh boy oh boy.
Let’s start off with the Shyamalan-esque twist of Lia(e)n being a spy for Scorpio. I’m going to be fairly blunt here: it makes no sense. I’d like to refer to Lewis Lovhaug, aka Linkara, in his idea of mystery-solving, which does bear some relevance here: in the end, the whole mystery should be able to come together with all loose ends tightened and able to be explained coherently. Not only does this twist come right out of nowhere, but Lia(e)n’s motives and allegiance have no reason to exist. As I stated in my running commentary, her supposed boyfriend is the owner of a multinational company that is supplying free power and medicine to the world. I’m sure if he really cared about her as much as Slott is saying he does, then he would probably put everything on hold to give her a cure. Peter Parker is supposed to be about making sure his loved ones are safe as Peter before Spider-Man. Having Peter just walk out on his significant other instead of listening to what she has to say is so out of character that I’m half-convinced that Slott got amnesia of Spider-Verse and thinks he’s still writing SpOck. So, her entire subplot involving Scorpio really has no purpose to exist, especially since the Slottalan twist of Issue 5 revealed that Scorpio is one of Peter’s majority shareholders. There are no words to describe the paradox I’m witnessing.
Next up, we have Peter’s lack of ability to take on a villain he’s already faced and defeated, along with two heroes he could defeat easily. (He beat Majik and Colossus, but I guess that only happens when Peter is written well) I’d normally be willing to give Slott some points for this, and say that Slott is using Peter’s team-ups to make him soft and more vulnerable. But that doesn’t work when he’s been with the New Avengers, the core Avengers team, and the Future Foundation and he’s retained his skills perfectly fine. It’s just sad to see Peter relying on Mockingbird, who I have to remind the audience has no superpowers whatsoever, to help him. Is this some kind of girl power message? If so, it failed miserably.
Finally, and while it is the most humorous in a The Room style of hilarity, the subplot revolving around Harry and his fractured family is just a setup for future issues. Let’s start off with what’s good about it. In a way of looking so over the top, again like The Room, is the overly ominous way Normie glares at Harry and Stanley. I’m half expecting him to stand over Harry’s corpse in a mini Green Goblin costume, look up at Liz and go, “I did not kill him, it’s not true, it’s bull****, I did not hit her, I did not. Oh hai Liz.” Regent’s behavior is a laughable Superman stereotype of how concerned he is for the children, and it’s blatantly easy to know that he’s really the bad guy. What Slott could have done to improve on Regent (who was the worst part of Renew Your Vows) was make him teeter on the edge of being a hero, and enjoying it, before ultimately going bad after realizing nobody will appreciate him after all the killing he’s done once Spider-Man (take your pick on which one) rats him out. Regardless, this scene with Regent shows the fatal flaw in Dan Slott’s writing: Slott has this weird habit of making several bad issues at a time to sum up in one good issue. Not only is this a bad trait that most of the Marvel staff has picked up, but also makes me question whether or not this will have any decent payoff. Slott’s previous Spidey work, Spider-Verse, had a lackluster payoff, as did Goblin Nation before it. This recent string of failures does not inspire optimism.
By the time I finished reading this comic, I was left with a sense of dread. The art carries the issue, as well as the self-contained nature, but the rest does little to comfort me. Lackluster quality has become the norm in this title, and I’m in genuine fear for the quality of future comics under Slott’s pen. The Dark Kingdom just got a little bleaker.
(There’s a Spider-Man 3 reference in my running commentary. The first person to point it out gets a no-prize.)