(Marvel Comics, 2013)
Review by Kenneth Kimbrough
Sometimes, all you want from a Spider-Man book is some symbiotes, spider-bots, and subplots. In this issue, Dan Slott and Christos Gage deliver that in spades. After the previous issue’s exposition-heavy script, I’m glad to see many of the story threads move forward. We pick up immediately where the last issue left off, with Spider-Ock standing above Venom and holding a flaming sword. Luckily, Flash has the sense to use some of the new Crime Master’s smoke bombs in order to slip away disguised as an EMT. It’s moments like this where it’s easy for me to forget that Venom recently ended his own solo book. He’s been absent from the main Spider-Man books for so long that I’ve almost forgotten he even belongs to that corner of the MU. We’ve gotten so far away from the core concept of the character that I don’t even recognize the hulking dark shadow that first tormented Spidey in the eighties. On the other hand, I’m not complaining. The nineties all but destroyed my image of the symbiotes, and one of the most interesting stories in the past twenty years involved Carnage being ripped in half in space. (All right, that may be a bit much. My apologies to Warren Ellis, Dan Slott, Rick Remender and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa—all of whom have written great stories involving the symbiotes.) What I’m trying to get at is that it’s time for Venom to be a monster again whether or not I prefer Flash. And if this issue demonstrated anything, it’s that someone else thinks that too.
Returning to the issue, most of the fight scenes are contained to the opening few pages, and the rest of the book gives us time to focus on some of subplots that have been brewing for the greater part of this run. In my previous reviews, I criticized the prominence given to the subplots at the cost of the main story. But here, every character moment tends to move the story forward in an interesting way that feels like we’re building to something. The goblins seem to be getting somewhere as we edge closer to Goblin Nation. The Green Goblin even says that he (or she) should know Spider-Man’s identity, but can’t figure out why such a critical piece of information is missing. I can easily think of a few people who should or could know.
I’m also glad to see that MJ’s not off the table yet as she gets pulled into Carlie and Captain Watanabe’s investigation. Hopefully, MJ comes back into prominence as this chapter of the story comes to a head. Also, props to Gage—whom I believe wrote most of the dialogue this issue—for the smooth transition to Mary Jane’s nightclub. Sometimes a line can feel clunky. Here, it fits perfectly.
As for Parker and friends, Anna Maria finally gets to meet Aunt May and Jameson Sr. at Peter’s apartment. One thing I want to point out here is Aunt May’s ignorance towards Anna Maria, which comes across as less adorable than usual. In Aunt May’s characterization, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Aunt May is actually a person. She often tends to be written like a doddering old lady, and I’m glad that we get some humanity out of her this time, even if that human trait is ignorance. But I seriously hope Aunt May realizes what a jerk she’s being by the end of this story.
At this same dinner, Flash, who showed up when Anna Maria was cleaning Pete’s bachelor pad, gets a very strange proposition. Peter wants to restore his legs with the ulterior motive of separating Flash from the symbiote. The way this scene is written is actually very sudden, but I realize the remaining script pages were probably running low at this point. Still, I thought it was somewhat strange that Flash would acquiesce so quickly to a cybernetic leg operation. There’s a wonderful Greg Weisman story during Brand New Day in which he overcomes this very temptation. Of course, the case could be made that Peter is his friend and that Flash would trust him more, but I’m not sure.
As for the art in this issue, I tend to find that I prefer Ramos when he draws characters talking to each other. His type of exaggeration works extremely well for facial expressions, and his style worked very well for this issue. On the other hand, I find his fight scenes a bit hard to follow. We rarely get the same expressiveness from characters’ body language when they’re fighting, and I find many of the contortions to be strange and unclear.
Overall, this issue shows that there’s promise yet for this story. I’m curious to see where the story goes next now that a certain thing has happened that we all knew would happen and we were just waiting for it to happen.
But we’ll talk about that next time.
Follow Kenneth Kimbrough on Twitter: @KMoneyForever