Ready for Last Airbender levels of clunky exposition?
Amazing Spider-Man (2016) #21
“Live Another Day”
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks: Cam Smith
Colors: Jason Keith
Editors: Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis
Our story begins with some glorified “previously on Spider-Verse” pages: Kaine, in the form of the Other, killed Solus, but was killed by Morlun. (The balancing in these fights is about as accurate as the Pokemon anime. That is not a compliment.) In the present day, Kaine bursts out the Other, and Karn, the Master Weaver, tends to him, exposits what’s been going on since Kaine died and brings back his costume. (How awfully convenient! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m expecting a scroll to drop from the sky!) Karn notices that without the Other, Kaine is suffering from cellular degeneration. (Okay, first off, way to insert some manufactured drama in there. Second off, wasn’t it the Spider-Island cure that fixed Kaine’s degeneration? The cure and the Other are not interchangeable as far as I’m aware.) Kaine is enlisted by Karn because some spooky stuff has been happening in alternate dimensions involving Carrion.
Kaine returns, and Karn opts to call for backup in the form of Spider-Man India and Radioactive Spider-Gwen. (Beat ya there, Mark.) Kaine vetoes the call, but Gwen tags along anyways, despite Kaine’s warning that if she gets touched, she’ll be contagious. The two travel to an alternate Earth (I guess the Future Foundation got too lazy to start renumbering them) where the Carrion virus has infected the populous of
San Francisco. Kaine and Gwen steal the notes the alternate Peter Parker has before he gets attacked by the Carrion Zombies, and they pick up a Kaine from that dimension to examine at Loomworld.
After performing an autopsy (Which I swear should be bumping up that T-rating on the cover), Gwen and Kaine discover that Scarlet isn’t contagious. We jump back a few weeks ago to where Karn reveals that the cycle has begun on Earth-616, and they race to New U so Spider-Gwen can infiltrate New U as the Gwen Stacy clone. (I mean, come on, we all know they’re clones.) The story jumps back again as we find out that Kaine is about to die. Soon. (Look out, we’re supposed to care. But I don’t because Slott is writing and it all sounds so manufactured.) As he and Gwen take off with their torture devices from the patriarchy, Kaine resolves to save their world as the narrator exposits clunkily that it will be the last chapter of Kaine’s life.
I had a really hard time reading this. Like, I had to actually convince myself to look at the comic again just to read it. I got so bored that I had to say to myself “Neil, you have to read this. No choice.” So I kept reading. And boy, oh boy, I felt like part of my soul was drained when I was reading it.
The only “positive” here was Camuncoli’s art. And even then, that’s a bit of a stretch, because it really feels like he’s trying to find some freakish mesh between stylization and house art. Now, to be fair, there are artists who have pulled this off. But Camuncoli’s problem is that he’s trying to pull extremes together rather than find a middle ground. It’s kind of like looking at a jam piece between Humberto Ramos and Jim Lee, and not in a good way. There are some good-looking panels here and there, but it’s really jarring. Cam Smith and Keith Davis don’t fare much better; in fact, they may be the reason everything went so wrong here. Everything looks sketchy and incomplete, combined with a nice layer of depressing colors smattering the whole thing together. They all work and make a nice Kaine, but their Spider-Gwen is really off (particularly the lack of short hair) and I can’t really get over it.
The issue suffers from a lot of issues, but one really sticks out in my mind: the pacing. I’ve already covered how the main title is mostly relegated to glorified exposition, so I feel it’s best to let the horse corpse rot before I start kicking it again. This issue is all over the place. I understand this takes place over a good period of time, but there’s major gaps in time and it bounces all over the place, to the point where it actually hurt to try and keep up. We start right after Spider-Verse, jump a few weeks ahead, then “a short time later”, then a few weeks earlier. It makes for some really clunky storytelling, especially when the time skips are so clunkily put into the story that I actually lose track of what’s happening.
There’s also the matter of Kaine as a character. Mark asked whether or not Kaine has Peter’s memories. That would be a no, from what I could gather from the Clone Saga. This applies to both Kaine and Ben Reilly, but it’s confusing and varies from writer to writer, so it’s possible that at one point editorial allowed that to happen. That said, Kaine’s expertise in science makes no sense, given that Ben Reilly didn’t have it either, so it raises the question of how he can pull off a Geordi La Forge and perform an autopsy like this. There’s also a clunkily delivered hint of romance between Kaine and Gwen, but it doesn’t go anywhere and it probably won’t, given that we’ve basically been told that Kaine isn’t going to make it through the story.
At this point, why are we even reviewing this title? All it’s been so far is clunky 22-page exposition dumps by Slott so that he can relish in his story. I say this because this is the flagship title for Spider-Man, and to have it cast aside as a B-title isn’t okay. This book didn’t make me mad enough to give it an F, but it doesn’t escape that easily.
Final Grade: D-