My super hero fiesta wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from the world’s most famous wall crawler.
The Amazing Spider-Man – Animal Magnetism
Written and illustrated by Diverse Hands
This book brings together several strips with very little in common beyond anthropomorphism. Spider-Man joins forces with Howard the Duck to tackle the brainwashing of S.O.O.Ph.I. Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham has to deal with the Swinester Six, while the Sensational Swiney-Girl has a run in with Crayfin. In a Watcher piss take Spider-Ham becomes the Monstrous Spider-Human, and in another adventure he goes in search of his missing thought balloons. There’s a Top Dog story and there are paintings of various other Marvel characters given a porcine interpretation. At times, as with the brainwashing and the metafictional slant in the thought balloon story, there’s signs of a keen intelligence at work, but then it all gets thrown away with some naff jokes that reduce the satire to belly laugh wannabe. Overall, while I appreciate what they were trying to do, I think for most of it to work I would have to be twelve again. It was a disappointing book, and undercut one of Marvel’s flagship characters. Alas, I can’t unsee/read it, but I wish very much that it was possible for me to do so as mostly this was just silly.
The Amazing Spider Man – Graveyard Shift
Written and illustrated by Diverse Hands
Things have changed greatly since I last read about the adventures of everyone’s favourite web swinger. Peter Parker now runs a tech-company, Parker Industries, and with his partner Sajani is working on a new method to contain and reform super criminals, only Sajani thinks it’s a bit of a dickhead idea and is secretly working on something of her own. A rival corporation hires The Ghost to trash the Parker facility, calling for intervention by Peter’s alter-ego. And elsewhere former romantic interest the Black Cat is growing increasingly unhinged in her efforts at building an underworld empire, culminating in the kidnapping of Peter’s Aunt May, who is engaged to J. Jonah Jameson’s father (!!!). That’s the main story. In another, self-contained episode, we have Spider-Man ready to do just about anything, including track down and return a mobile phone to some German tourists, as avoidance activity rather than read a technical report written by Sajani. There’s “The A-May-Zing Spider-Aunt” which was probably meant to be funny, but to me came over as puerile, though thankfully it only filled two pages. And there’s a final Spider-Man adventure in which he captures some super-criminals but doesn’t crack any of his trademark puns because he has laryngitis. That also was puerile. The main adventure had some good things going for it, with a wealth of secrets regarding the main people at Parker Industries, and some interesting villains in The Ghost and the revamped Black Cat, but overall there was nothing here that was any great shakes, and all I’m left with to appreciate was the artwork, which was excellent as ever, without really being stunning or especially innovative. Damned with faint praise would be my summation for this book, except for the bits that were simply puerile.
The Superior Spider-Man – Goblin Nation
Written by Dan Slott & Christos Gage, illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli
This book collects together Superior Spider-Man #27-31. Now I’ve read both Amazing and Spectacular, but until now had never heard of the Superior version. Basically, Doc Octopus has taken control of Peter Parker’s body, and as Spider-Man, with an army of spider droids and advanced surveillance technology, has pretty much wiped out super-criminals in New York, and kudos to Marvel for having the audacity to let this play out over thirty issues of a dedicated comic book. With these issues we reach end game, with the one enemy who has managed to circumvent Ock’s technology coming out of the shadows to tear his world apart, the Green Goblin. With an army of Goblin Slayers overrunning the city and his beloved Anna Maria held prisoner, Octopus realises that the only way to retrieve the situation is to cede control of his body back to Peter Parker, who has been imprisoned in his mindscape all this time. Now this one I enjoyed a lot. There’s plenty of action, with a wealth of other super characters getting in on it, and there are some hard moral choices for many of those involved, with Octopus showing that he has principles of a kind, and the future risk that for Peter Parker his secret identity is now known to Anna Marie. With a beautifully realised backdrop and some stunning illustrations, this was a book that looked as good as it read. Not quite up there with the best of these graphic novels, but a bold and intriguing variation on an old classic.
The Spectacular Spider-Girl – The Last Stand
Written by Tom DeFalco, illustrated by Ron Frenz
This is set in the MC2 Universe, whatever that means, where Peter Parker and Mary Jane are happily married with a daughter May (Mayday to her friends) who has powers of her own and dresses up to continue the family business, despite her parents’ disapproval. New York is currently the scene of a gang war between the Black Tarantula and Don Silvio, and with the news that the latter is still alive, the Punisher is heading back to the city with murder in mind. May is not only caught in the middle of all this, but has a new villain to deal with in the figure of Wildcard. The greatest threat though is her half-sister/clone April, who wears a Venom costume and thinks that harsher measures are needed to deal with the criminal element. With guest appearances by Captain America’s daughter and the Hobgoblin, and April running wild, the scene is set for a battle royal. Now this is another winner, with plenty of super action, a large and intriguing cast of characters, and in the character of May Parker they recapture some of the exuberance of the early days of the Spider-Man comics when our hero was just a teenager with super powers, and the former caused him just as many problems as the latter. May takes her costumed role very seriously, but it’s in her personal life that things really go awry, with her parents constantly worrying about her, a friend who claims to know her secret, and the endless battles with April, which undermine her belief in herself. She is however a remarkable young woman, and manages to do what is right even when it looks likely to cost her dearly, even prepared to sacrifice her own life to save others. The book has some superb artwork, breathtakingly striking panels filled with images that capture and hold the eye. And finally, it’s nice to see a bad guy decide to just jack it all in and go home.