Nov 25, 2014

[Comics] Spider-Island

I've previously written about my love for the perhaps more "classic" Spider-Man for many number of reasons. But the Clone Saga just broke my heart and I never really went back to Spider-Man and practically most of Marvel for quite a number of years. But that doesn't mean I don't still hold some love for the character. And recent comiXology sales have sort of preyed on my overall curiosity about more recent Spider-Man stories.

It started when I picked up the complete volume 2 run of Scarlet Spider and read up on how the heck Kaine went from being the enigmatic, horribly scarred Peter Parker clone to, well, a gutsier, edgier perfect Peter Parker clone. And all roads led me back to the Spider-Island event, which seemed a little ridiculous to read about as synopsis.

But a recent comiXology sale got me to pick the entire Spider-Island bundle for a good deal. And I have to admit, it was a nice experience to get back into reading a Spider-Man focused story. But then this also reminded me of the horrific plot minefield that had been created after the One More Day and Brand New Day story arcs.

I don't think I was fully ready to see a Peter Parker who was not involved with Mary Jane Watson.

Synopsis: Spider-Island was a 2011 Spider-Man focused comic book event primarily written by Dan Slott with primary art by Humberto Ramos. The main story was featured in The Amazing Spider-Man 666-673, although it also crossed into other titles and triggered a few one-shorts and 3-issue limited series in support of the event.

Things start with another series of warnings from Madame Web about dark times to come, although she is unable state the nature of the danger in more specific turns. We also find out that The Jackal is still alive and has been conducting a number of genetic experiments along with reviving a few spider-powered individuals from Spider-Man's past including Tarantula and Kaine. But he has mutated them into over-powered versions of themselves that appear more like Spider-Man's old Man-Spider mutation. And under the orders of an initially unknown figure, the Jackal proceeds to release a horde of genetically modified bed bugs across the island of Manhattan.

What these bed bugs do is to give any bite victims similar spider powers as Spider-Man has. And soon enough, New York is swarming with every day citizens finding that they can cling to walls and shoot webs out of their wrists. But at the same time, a horde of spider-powered thugs and criminals are also released into the city, all dressed up as different incarnations of Spider-Man. Thus the initial focus is to quarantine all of the infected on the isle of Manhattan, contain the damage done by all these mutated citizens while trying to develop a cure. And of course the infection of all these New Yorkers is but the first step in a much larger plan.

I've always had mixed feelings about Madame Web and how she introduces a weird element of mysticism into the Spider-Man comics. After all, Spider-Man began as the result of a science fiction style event and we've always pushed that he's a bit of a science geek. But this story pushes the magic angle heavily as Madame Web remains fairly engaged in the whole thing, even if only to provide horribly cryptic visions of the future.

Beyond that, the story rather reminded me of how Maximum Carnage unfolded, which was your classic case of a major comic event that just sucks in so many supporting characters who end up doing little more than appear in splash pages fighting in free-for-all melees. A few of them got the benefit of additional story time through one-shots and 3-issue arcs, although these stories didn't necessarily hold key elements of the main plot save perhaps for Venom.

But the core story wasn't too bad and infecting all of New York was meant to be a bit of a really big distraction to begin with, I suppose. Given the greater goal was to spread the infection further and empower our big villain through the weird Web of Life that supposedly ties everyone together, I guess it made some sense. Perhaps the folks behind Spider-Island were Zerg players from a StarCraft perspective who just like the multiply, swarm and overwhelm as needed.

Despite the many supporting titles and the main issues of ASM, there are still a number of moments that didn't seem all too clear to me. As you jump from title to title, even when following the recommended reading order listed checklist-style in every issue of the event, it still felt like too many things happened "off-camera" as it were. And I can understand why this would inevitably happen, but I still felt that the overall narrative felt a little jilted and stuttery as a result. Just look at the resolution for Kaine who was almost magically transformed into his current pristine form and then he quickly leaves the scene and gets his solo title started.

What really got me were the Mary Jane and Spider-Man moments littered throughout the comic. It was already painful to see Mary Jane demoted to just being "the ex-girlfriend" but then seeing her finally understand Peter's life given her gaining spider powers and how in the end she's the one who knows him well enough to inspire the end solution to things was just...classic. And yet at the same time it all felt like a slap back at the editorial team that One More Day and Brand New Day were just stupid and here we had the writing team hinting at a need to go back to the original status quo.

Still, Spider-Island wasn't an entirely bad comic event and it had quite a number of good moments for Spider-Man and his primary supporting cast. Admittedly the limited stories for Cloak and Dagger along with Heroes for Hire made for pretty good stories and even the somewhat ridiculous tie-in with Herc. The event as a whole gets 3.5 spider-powered criminals out of a possible 5.

No comments:

Post a Comment