Reviews from February 13th, 2013...with one notable exception!
Book of the Week: Superior Spider-Man #3
As an editorial note, this issue actually came out last week; however, the local comic shop didn't include this in the designated pull list via some sort of fluke. Thus, it gets a review this week, which is just as well as this week is a relatively quiet one in terms of volume. With sales figures for January 2013 available from Diamond, the relaunch of "Amazing Spider-Man" as "Superior Spider-Man" for this story line topped the month with copies of the first two issues selling well into six figure margins. Regardless of how one feels about the move and especially the promotional scheme for it, it has worked in the manner that Marvel Comics cares most about - sales. In terms of the story, it is perhaps one of the most ambitious "mind swap" stories ever done in a mainstream superhero comic in years, if not decades, courtesy of solo writer Dan Slott and starting artist Ryan Stegman (alongside Edgar Delgado's colors).
Dr. Octopus is still in mental possession of Spider-Man's body, while Peter Parker's "soul" or "will" or whatnot continues to exist in some state alongside him, unable to influence any but the most severe of actions. The previous issue saw the Vulture emerge as the latest villain of the month and "Spidey-Ock" closing the door on chasing Mary Jane romantically, much to Peter's relief. This issue sees the "superior" Spidey manage to get along with J. Jonah Jameson as well as explores Ock's memories and relationship with the Vulture - who is one of his former "Sinister Six" teammates. The issue also focuses on another lady in Peter's life, Carlie Cooper - who is apparently the only person in his cast who suspects something is up. Peter also learns that he can access Ock's memories the same way that Ock can access his, which makes for some interesting perspective. By the end of the issue, it seems obvious that this status quo may not last much longer; the question is, will it end before it stretches too thin, and how wrecked will Peter's life become afterward?
Stegman's artwork is top notch as always, excelling at the action as usual. Slott's angle for the Vulture is to have him become a figure akin to Fagin from "Oliver Twist" as someone who exploits the young for his crimes. This time Adrian Toomes crosses a line even Doc Ock won't stand, even if it does cause him to "break character" before Carlie. As for the aforementioned CSI, Slott's task is not an easy one with her. He has the task of depicting Carlie as being smart enough to figure out before anyone else that something isn't right about Spider-Man; yet Spider-Man himself essentially told this to her in ASM #700, which mitigates this. Peter Parker himself has parodied how nobody in his cast has noticed that his "body" is talking like a Republic Serial villain. Slott also has to walk the odd tightrope of having to cement for editorial purposes why Peter and MJ no longer "work" as a stable relationship while promoting Carlie as a newer reoccurring romantic interest. To a degree this entire story is akin to walking a tight rope; if it stretches too long it becomes absurd, but if not long enough the marketing stunt seems more obvious than it already is.
Due to sheer execution of an interesting, often funny and at the very least imaginative new twist on an old story trope, Dan Slott has managed to turn what could have been a nightmare into an very unique Spider-Man story. One hopes he continues to walk that tightrope as skillfully as a spider in terms of handling this arc, because thus far it is always a riveting read, warts and all.
Honorable Mentions: These two comics actually did come out February 13th, 2013!
Archer & Armstrong #7: Criminally underrated writer Fred Van Lente continues to weave an action packed and hilarious revision of the classic Valiant franchise with this issue, which appears to wisely extend the regular cast beyond the two titular leads. This issue sees Archer and Armstrong meet up with the latter's equally immortal brother Gilad, who seeks their death due to the accidental murder of a representative of the earth itself, "the Geomancer". Fortunately for them, former corporate shill Kay McHenry has become the newest "Geomancer", which forces Gilad to call off his agenda to unite for a common threat. Said threat is tycoon Mr. Zorn who is part of a secret cabal seeking to undo all of reality since 212 B.C. and only now is reaching fruition. It is never bank robbers or mobsters with this book; every arc seems to be against the apocalypse! The skill with which Van Lente embellishes and exaggerates history and modern "mythology" and religion as well as he did with the lore of the Marvel Universe is impressive and appears seamless. The artwork by Emanuela Lupacchino continues to impress and flow well alongside the previous arc drawn by Clayton Henry. This series doesn't seem to be making as many critical website rounds as "Incredible Hercules" did, which is a shame as it is an impressive work regardless of what franchise it is. Few scribes manage to weave adventure, drama, and comedy as well as Van Lente does, and this series is merely another example of this skill. Seekers of fun adventure comics skip it at their detriment.
Scarlet Spider #14: Writer Chris Yost and regular artist Khoi Pham (alongside colorist Antonio Fabela and a whopping five inkers) continue their story for the second year of this spin off title featuring a redeemed Kaine and a family of villains from the Conway/Buscema run of Spectacular Spider-Man in the late 1980's. Mysterious psychic youth Aracely, who is somehow connected to the Aztec gods, is on the run from a brother and sister of the Lobo family, who can transform into werewolves. Kaine/Scarlet Spider has attempted to protect her, but it seemed like he was torn asunder in the previous issue. As Aracely flees for her life, Kaine goes through a metaphysical transformation which seems to borrow from the continuity of the "Amazing Spider-Man" story "Grim Hunt" from 2010. Kaine's struggle between trying to be a man or a killer is compared to that of a spider, and ultimately he chooses what seems natural to him. To a point this issue is more of an issue of transition than a story itself, but it does make for an interesting metaphysical struggle for Kaine. It is a sign of the times that a ASM spin off like this now has a higher issue count than the core Spider-Man series right now, but that doesn't change the fact that this has been a surprisingly solid spin off series. Hopefully the second year of this series remains as great as the first.
Read last week's comic reviews here!