The title page boasts of three TITANIC TALES told in the MIGHTY MARVEL MANNER by the BEST NAMES IN THE COMICS BIZ (Who could it be? Peter David? Nick Spencer? Alan Moore? Wow! I can’t wait!) and the cover proudly proclaims “Spidey goes global!” Which is just the bait Spider-Man fans need to shell out another $5, I’m sure. So, is this annual worth your investment? Read on, MARVEL ZOMBIES, and I’ll march you through each story in this CRAFTY CRAWLSPACE COLUMN! (Hey, alliteration and all caps is really fun! I see why Stan Lee did it so much!)
Before I review these stories, I must say that I did not approach this with a open mind. I’m already shelling out more money for Spider-Man comics right now due to the added Clone Conspiracy books and the introduction of Renew Your Vows. With the padded price on this issue for what I was sure to be three stock stories, my hopes for this were low. If I wasn’t reviewing it, I know I would have passed on it without giving it a fair shot. I’m wondering why Marvel chose now to release this instead of later when were not in the middle of a big event (other than the fact that we seem to be one big event after the other, so when would be a good time?)
MASK OF DEATH
Writers – Humberto Ramos and Christos Gage
Artist – Francisco Herrera
Colorist – Fernanda Rizo
Story – Peter Parker is in Mexico (they got the flag right!) giving out a Benjamin Parker Scholarship to a very cocky kid named Mateo Rodriguez. Suddenly an earthquake happens which releases the ancient Aztec goddess Itzpapalotl, who seems to be bent on destroying the city (those Aztec gods really know how to party). Peter ditches the little brat to go change into Spider-Man. He calls Parker Industries to get some intel on this goddess and luckily Veronica Diaz was taking a break from filming Fear the Walking Dead and was able to help him out. She tells himm of a jade mask that should be directly underneath the city that can imprison Itzpapalotl again. Spidey of course does this and all is saved, except we find out that this wasn’t an accident. Diablo, a villain that can use alchemy to modify material into what he wants, wanted the jade mask and needed to create an earthquake to get the goddess free of it. He secretly made a replica so that Spider-Man could imprison her again then proceeds to tell us that he is collecting all nine masks of death.
Thoughts – Whenever we get first and last names of side characters, it usually is a reference on the part of the writer. Christos Gage wowed me with Burke and Hare (the Resurrection Men) in an earlier issue, so I looked up young Mateo. Seems to be a reference to a vampire on Immortal, a series that I have really no knowledge of. That character is a CEO and this character jokes about being a CEO, so I am assuming that this was the reference they were going for.
I’m not a fan of the artist’s style here (I prefer a more standard ’80s approach, personally), but I really dug these layouts for the earthquake page:
Since I love mythology, I was very interested in Itzpapalotl. I am not as familiar with Aztec mythology as I am with other pantheons, so I stopped reading the comic and started researching (hey, I’m an English teacher – it’s what we do in our spare time – that and read grammar books). I checked my favorite myth site, God Checker. This is what they had to say:
Rules over the paradise realm of TOMOANCHAN.
She’s a desirable looking Goddess who will give you the glad eye. But we urge you to resist, for just one embrace and she becomes the Obsidian Butterfly Maiden.
Stone knives pop out from her eyes, mouth… and parts we would rather not mention due to delicacy, embarrassment and utter shock.
I’ll spare you the rest of my research, but this I cannot let slide:
The real pity is that Diablo doesn’t know what irony is any more than Alanis Morrissette. People, a coincidence is NOT irony. However, this panel is not a total loss. I am quite interested in finding out more about Diablo’s quest for the masks of death. I am particularly interested if it involves eight more obscure deities from other cultures. I am guessing that Gage has plans on continuing this story in some later publications. Plus, according my Diablo experiences (which is only that Dexter Bennett story and the Grim Hunt), that jade mask is only temporary, which means we could see the Obsidian Butterfly once again.
This panel does have another redeeming quality and that is that it brings us our extra credit of the issue:
EXTRA CREDIT – Diablo calls his minions homunculi. Which Pixar movie featured homunculi?
Grade – a nice little story with art I really didn’t care for, but got me interested for the follow up. I’m throwing in bonus points for the excuse to research obscure Aztec deities:
Writers – James Asmus
Penciler – Cory Smith
Inkers – Scott Hanna, Roberto Poggi, and Lorenzo Ruggiero
Colorist – Rain Beredo
In case you are asking yourself, “Gee, they said these were tales told by the greatest names in the comics biz, but who is James Asmus?” Well you remember how fantastic Superior Foes of Spider-Man was? How each each issue was better than the one before it and left you eager for the next month’s issue (except for #10 which was a dud told by a different writer than the previous issues)? Well, James Asmus is guy who wrote it! Wait, I’m checking my sources here… Oh, he was the guy who wrote issue #10…
Don’t worry, though. Asmus will have little chance to screw up Spider-Man as he really doesn’t play a part in this story (which means it could easily be a featured story in the current ASM title).
The Story – Dagger hasn’t been feeling good since her last brush with Mr. Negative. She and Cloak have not left Shanghai and she has subjected herself, quite uncharacteristically, to being poked and prodded by doctors and scientists from Parker Industries. Meanwhile, Mr. Negative’s minions break in to steal Dr. Wu’s antidote to the Shade patch. The Neon Dragon shows up and taints Dr. Wu until Cloak, Dagger, and two Parker Industries employees using Spider-Man tech show up and save the day, leaving Spider-Man, who shows up at the end (he was all the way in Mexico, after all), to clean up all the mess (cue rim shot).
Thoughts – Meh. The jokes are pretty funny for the most part. The art is decent for a back up story. It is somewhat nice to see that the Shanghai supporting cast continues to exist even when Spidey is not around. It also sets up another Mr. Negative story in Shanghai, which is neither a positive or negative for me. We do get two items of interest in this story:
Apparently, Dagger has been using Peter Parker’s personal ninja trainer while she’s holed up in Shanghai.
Plus we get our Onomatopoeia of the Issue!
On a scale of 1 (POW) to 10 (BLRKBQRKPQRBLNB), this rates a 4. Why so low? While it has the perk of being unpronounceable, it just doesn’t have the timeless quality of BLRKBQRKPQRBLNB.
Grade – Well, it was a back up story. Does the writer have potential? I think so, but this story just did not showcase it. Plus I am judging him on his fill in issue of SFOSM and this back up story, so I’m sure he wasn’t burning the midnight oil to perfect them.
WHOSE CRIME IS IT ANYWAY? –
Writers – Wayne Brady and Jonathan Mangum
Artist – Bruno Olivera
Colorist – Lee Loughridge
Well, Brady and Mangum should be pleased to get heralded as some of the greatest names in the biz as this is their first attempt at writing a comic (although they would like to do more). There seems to be a small movement in Marvel to bring in celebrities to write comics. Penn Jillette just wrote an issue of Spider-Man/Deadpool. What? You didn’t know Penn wrote #11? Well, just pick any random panel and his comic character will tell you. That was painful to get through.
While Brady and Mangum put themselves into the comic, they don’t make the joke of also being the writer at all, much less EVERY PAGE.
The Story – Spider-Man gets heckled by a crook and a by stander for reusing the same jokes. Spider-Man, worried that he’s lost his funny, decides to enroll in an improv class run by, you guessed it (you’re so smart!) Wayne Brady and Jonathan Mangum. After going through his classes, he comes back funnier than ever and saves the day while cracking new jokes.
Thoughts – Not much to say about this one. Again, it passes for a back up story. Brady and Mangum are not reading the current story line and this is a generic one shot story that could be placed in any Spider-Man comic. I didn’t find the jokes to be a laugh a minute, but they weren’t painful.
Grade – Average
Am I glad I paid $5 for this issue? No. Was it nice to see some regular one shot Spidey stories? You betcha! I was happier after reading this than I was going into it. I would have enjoyed it much better six months later on Marvel Unlimited, though.
What grade would you give it? Did you buy it or did you see the price tag and dropped it?