Monday, 26 May 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man: Spider Island

I think this is the definition of "taking the
shirt off your back".
Writer: Dan Slott

Artist: Humberto Ramos

Collects: The Amazing Spider-Man #666-673, Venom 7-9, Spider Island: Deadly Foes, material from The Amazing Spider-Man: 659-660, and Spider Island Spotlight.

Background Information:

Spider-Man’s comic history has had high points and low points, but one of the strengths of the franchise is that it embraces them both. What you need to know for Spider Island is that a lot of the story has its roots in the now-infamous Clone Saga from the 90s. In that story, a mutated college professor known as The Jackal cloned both Peter Parker and Gwen Stacey… repeatedly. It was a fairly long, fairly drawn-out affair that introduced Spidey’s villain/clone/brother Kain- he fought the Web-head, hunted down other clones and even went mad and killed his love interest. He found himself killed in the storyline called Grim Hunt.

And that’s all you need know.

Review:

Sometimes I wonder what happened when writer Dan Slott gave his pitch for Spider Island to the guys at Marvel. Surely, Joe Quesada must have been scratching his head. Yet, despite, or even because of its ridiculous premise, Spider Island manages to be incredibly entertaining.
I get by with a little help from my friends...

So that ridiculous premise? The Jackal, through genetically-altered bed bugs (yep) has given all of New
York spider powers. Peter’s abilities are now apparently obsolete as every New Yorker revels in their newfound powers, not everyone really connects power and responsibility like he does. The event calls for assistance from the Avengers, the X-Men and even Agent Venom.

The best thing about Spider Island by far is that Dan Slott realizes just how silly his story is. There are plenty of moments in the collection which, had Slott decided to take himself too seriously, would switch readers right off the event in the blink of an eye. Yet Slott’s script makes fun of all of these moments with lines like “I swear, if we’re doing the clone-thing again I’m going back to L.A.!” as a result, it’s hard to feel angry at Slott for penning a rather silly event, and you’re left just feeling amused by the whole thing.

Although Spider-Man is always fun to read about, it’s Mary Jane that I found myself enjoying a lot more, for reasons too awkward to spoil, she doesn’t get spider powers at all for most of this book. Her frustration over this is delicious, as she rolls her eyes and pouts over missing out on what initially seems like a party. When she finally does get the powers, she revels in them in a way that is thoroughly satisfying and brings in more than a few laughs.

Other characters in Spider Island help to make this collection fun and exciting. The issues featuring Venom are by far the best of the lot of the collection, with Rick Remender absolutely nailing the character of Flash Thompson. J. Jonah Jameson also stands out as the spectacular spider-mayor, Kaine Parker is well done for the short time we see him, even Spidey’s girlfriend, Carlie-Q is entertaining to read about. It’s great when a books supporting cast do so much to further the story.

But therein also lies Spider Island’s only real flaw. Spidey’s role in the story is fairly minimal. He spends most of his time watching events unfold, and only really takes action when he inevitably saves the day. Peter Parkers place in the story is minimal, and it feels like we may as well be reading about Reed Richards or Tony Stark. It makes the story feel slower than it actually is, and certain parts feel harder to read than they really are.

The art is done mostly by Humberto Ramos. If Ramos’ art style was done with any other character (say, Wolverine or Hulk) it would have looked ridiculous. Ramos uses a cartoony, exaggerated style that emphasis the humour that prevails in any Spider-Man story worth its salt, and it works a treat.

And people get mad a Superman for property damage...
Though possible, it’s difficult fault Spider-Island. The collection sees some great characterisation that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It gets four and a half out of five clone things.

**** ½

+ Great Characterisation

+ Doesn’t take itself too seriously

- Peter Parker may as well not be there half the time.

Alternate Option: The Superior Spider-Man: My Own Worst Enemy

For more Dan Slott Spider-stories, look no further.