Waiting for the Trade = Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

 
Amazing Spider-man:
Flying Blind
Written by Dan Slott
& Mark Waid

Illustrated by
Humberto Ramos, Emma Rios, Giuseppe Camuncoli & Kano

Collects Amazing
Spiderman 674-677 and Daredevil 8

 

Why I Bought This: It
features Black Cat, who is my favorite character in the Spider-verse. Interestingly
it took me two years to track this thing down. Twice I went to several stores
on Free Comic Book Day and none of them carried this trade. I finally bought it
on Amazon a few weeks ago for about $7.

 

The Plot: The
Black Cat story sees her accused of a crime and Spidey getting DD to defend
her. There are also stories involving the Vulture running a teen gang and the
Sinister Six battling the Intelligentsia.

 (spoilers below)

 
Chapter 1 – A dude in wings falls from the sky to his death.
We find there have been a rash of falling deaths of late, which police chalk up
to the recently concluded “Spider-Island” arc: the theory is people who got
spider-powers in that story are web slinging when their powers cut out and they
die. Meanwhile Kingpin is sad that his spider powers cut out but cheers up when
a Horizon employee offers to sell him spider-sense jammers. Meanwhile Spidey
wins a fight with some robot cops. Meanwhile we see a teen runaway recruited
into the flying gang. Meanwhile MJ and Glory Grant go clubbing. Meanwhile Peter
and Carlie Cooper bump into each other for the first time since breaking up.
They realize they are both working on the same case and agree to work together.
Meanwhile teen recruit boy learns this gang is being run by the Vulture.

Chapter 2 – Spidey and Carlie do some CSI stuff at the
police lab. Vulture tells the new kid for being in his gang: they get to fly
around and steal stuff for him then at the end of the day they get to keep a
little bit for themselves. Then for some inexplicable reason we see Vulture’s head
out is above the club MJ and Gloria are at. The gang kids exit through the club
and pick a fight with Glory’s boyfriend. This prompts MJ to call Peter just as
he and Carlie had deduced Vulture’s scheme so Spidey heads off to the club
(without Carlie). The Vulture boys execute a mid-air heist but new kid has too
much conscience for Tooms’ liking so he cuts the power to his wings. Spidey
saves him in the nick of time. Spidey then fights the kids (who have laser
scythes) as Carlie arrives. She deduces the Vulture operates all their wings on
remote and tells Spidey so he can use magnetic webbing to jam the single.
Vulture retaliates by throwing a car at Carlie but Spidey saves her. Vulture
escapes. Carlie decides she can trust Spidey enough to work with him, though
she is still upset he kept his identity from her when they were dating. The
book ends with Carlie going to see MJ to talk about Peter.

Chapter 3 – Doc Ock’s debuts a bulky exoskeleton look as his
call to his together his latest Sinister Six of Sandman, Chameleon, Rhino,
Electro and Mysterio for one final big plan (Ock is terminally ill as of ASM
600). Chameleon has infiltrated the Intelligentsia (a group of super smart Hulk
and FF villains originally led by the Leader but now led by Modok). The
Intelligentsia takes down some Russian superheroes with a teleporter ray that
sends its target into orbit. Ock wants their weapon so the Sinister Six attack
them. The rest of the issue is a big fight that Ock’s team ultimately wins
allowing them to take possession of Modok’s tech.

Chapter 4 – Pete is down in the dumps about Carlie dumping
him and decides to take out his frustrations on some muggers when low and
behold the Black Cat crosses his path. He perks up and hits on her but Felicia
refuses to be the rebound girl. When she gets to her apartment she finds a
spider tracer on her costume and then police bust in and arrest her. The next
morning Pete goes to Horizon to learn that Felicia was arrested for stealing
from the lab. He knows she is innocent since he was fighting the crooks with
her when this went down. Pete tracks down Daredevil and asks him to help clear
Felicia. Felicia meanwhile has already broken out of police custody. Spidey and
DD come across a hostage situation but when DD doesn’t register it Pete
realizes it is all an illusion as it was a hologram projector stolen from
Horizon. They make their way into a tunnel which then collapses and as Pete
tries to crawl out he has the bad luck to grab a livewire as we see Felicia
standing over the heroes.

Chapter 5 – Foggy Nelson discovers the grave of Matt’s
father has been dug up. DD recovers and takes out the fuse box before Spidey
dies. He grabs Felicia and she says wasn’t trying to kill Spidey just hurt him
for leading the police to her apartment with his tracer. Spidey denies that and
everyone agrees to work together. They search for clues and find a guy locked
in a closet. He’s the one who sold Horizon out. DD detects the dude is poisoned
and has Spidey rush him to the hospital. While Spidey is gone DD asks Felicia
to steal something for him based on some conspiracy going on his own title with
a group called Black Spectre. They take out some generic thugs and disable an
elaborate security system. The last safeguard are the holograms which DD
ignores. DD and Felicia share a kiss after they complete the theft. Then a
flashback is actually working for these Spectre people and the whole frame-up
of her was a ruse to let her get close to DD. Meanwhile Pete sees them making
out and leaves (with the funny line “I think this is my super villain origin”).
DD takes Felicia home but before they can do the deed Matt gets the phone call
from Foggy about his father’s grave. 

 

Critical Thoughts: I’ll
take these on in order. I found the Vulture story to be a perfectly acceptable
comic book story. It’s not reinventing the wheel but it’s a fine use of one of
Spidey’s classic second tier rogues. I also found the personal life stuff with
Peter and Carlie to be well written and serve the purpose of setting a new
status quo for them. I never hated Carlie like so many other fans did. I
certainly get the general hate for the ending of Peter’s marriage to MJ,
particularly the way it was done; but I don’t think that should prejudice us
against every new love interest that comes down the pike in this title. I think
Carlie is a fine supporting character: she’s not great but she’s not terrible.
More importantly whether Peter dates her or not she can serve a role in the
title as his contact on the police force, something the titles have been
missing since the death of Jean DeWolf and that fits a good niche in
Spider-man’s street crime milieu. I suppose the only real flaw with the story
is the ridiculousness of Vulture (who is a senior citizen) keeping his
headquarters over a nightclub and that MJ happens to go that same nightclub at
just the right time to lead Peter there, but it’s not like Stan Lee and Gerry
Conway didn’t use the same type of coincidences all the time in their Spidey
stories.

I was not over fond of the Sinister Six vs. Intelligentsia
battle. Slott really upped the Six’s threat level his run on the title (they
would go on to take out the Avengers in a subsequent story arc). While I’m not
one to complain about taking villains seriously, I think this reads more like a
downgrade of the Intelligentsia than an upgrade for the Six; which is a real
shame since the team was just debuted a year earlier to be major Hulk villains
so why ruin that credibility so soon? I suppose you could say without the
Leader they are not at their full strength but it still strikes me as an
unnecessary choice.

Onto the main event, I enjoyed the Black Cat story quite a
bit. Admittedly I am prone to liking Black Cat stories anyway but I thought
this one was a fun use of her ambiguous relationship with the law and keeping
the reader guessing which side she is really on. I can’t say I love the idea of
Felicia hooking up with DD but since it is ultimately revealed she’s playing
him I’m okay with it. So much so that I went out and bought the DD trade that
follows this arc up, and I almost never buy DD trades. Again much like the
Vulture story it’s not going to go down in the annals of great Spidey stories
but it uses conventional story-telling and familiar characters well.

 
Grade: B. I
wouldn’t want to pay full price for this but for what Amazon sells it for it is
a rather entertaining collection of Spidey stories.

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade = Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

Amazing Spider-man: Trouble on the Horizon

written by Dan Slott
& Chris Yost,

 art by Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli
& Matthew Clark

collects Amazing
Spider-man 678-681 (including 679.1)

 

Why I Bought This: The
time travel story herein was universally acclaimed and I’ve been enjoying
Slott’s Spidey run anyway so my picking this up was just a matter of waiting
for the price to drop on Amazon.

 

The Plot: Spider-man
travels one day into the future to discover NYC has been destroyed. Now he has
one day to figure out how to prevent it. There are also unrelated stories
involving Morbius and the Human Torch in here too.

 (spoilers below)

Chapter 1 – Peter wakes up feeling good and walks to work at
Horizon. He is assigned to check the math of fellow scientist Grady. Grady says
he has invented a time doorway that goes one day into the future and grabs a
copy of tomorrow’s newspaper from the Horizon break-room to prove it. Pete
steps through the doorway and finds all of NYC reduced to a smoking crater.
Peter finds a broken watch stopped at 3:11 so he assumes this is when the
disaster will occur. He returns to the present and Grady realizes that when
someone steps through his time-door they disappear from reality for 24 hours
thus Peter is supposed to do something today that will prevent the disaster.
Peter makes up the ‘I’m friends with Spider-man’ excuse and takes off. Pete’s
first instinct is to call in the Avengers and FF to help but Madame Web v2.0
(Julia Carpenter) uses her fortune-telling powers to inform Peter has to do
this on his own. Spidey keeps in contact with Grady, who has both the
good-future newspaper so he can tell Spidey what he is/was supposed to do today
and the door open to the bad-future so they can see if/when it changes back.
This leads to a montage of Spidey doing everything in the paper from stopping
purse-snatchers, to delivering a baby to defeating the super-villain FAÇADE.
And yet the time keeps clicking to 3:10 without a change as we cut to parade
being held for Silver Sable that Flag Smasher (an 80s Gru Captain America
villain) intends to blow up.

Chapter 2 – 3:11 p.m. passes and no boom thus we know the
incident occurs at 3:11 a.m. Spidey has no more clues in the paper and goes on
patrol. He ends up at the parade where he and Sable end up thwarting Flag
Smasher’s plot and disabling the nuke he brought to the city. And yet at
Horizon the bad future remains. We get another montage of Spidey in action to
no avail until a call comes in from MJ. Pete is tempted to ignore it but Grady
points out that an incoming call would always have occurred whether they had
seen the future or not. MJ wants to meet at a diner and during the meal she
makes Pete realize the missing “this” was something Peter was supposed to do
and not Spidey—namely check Grady’s math. Pete races to Horizon where they shut
down the time doorway with 45-seconds to spare before the time machine would overheat
and blow up the city. And then we end on a cute bit the next morning with
past-Grady taking the newspaper out of the Horizon break room that reads
“continued last issue.”

Chapter 3 – So this chapter answers the question of who is
the mysterious scientist in Horizon Lab #6, which had been a subplot since
Peter got the job there, and the answer ends up being Morbius. Uatu (not the
Watcher, but a teen genius who works at Horizon) is investigating the mystery
and drags Pete into it. This leads to Pete changing into Spidey and overseeing
Max working with Morbius. Max tries to cure Morbius of his vampirism by
injecting him with Spider-Island cure but it causes Morbius to lose control of
his bloodlust. The obligatory fight breaks out. Uatu is psyched to see a
vampire as he has a full set of monster fighting gear developed and ready to
use and together he and Spidey defeat Morbius. Max kicks Spidey out of the
building and is going to let Morbius stay as apparently the two are old college
friends, which is not so far-fetched Morbius’ back story is he was a Nobel-prize
winning scientist before he became a vampire. In the epilogue Morbius sneaks
into the sewers and meets up with the Lizard (setting up “The No Turning Back”
trade I reviewed a few months ago). 

Chapter 4 – John Jameson is on the Horizon space station
while Jonah is at Horizon Labs telescreen calling him when suddenly the transmission
goes out and a bunch of alarms on the station begin to sound. Peter changes to
Spidey and heads over to FF headquarters since they have best space travel
equipment. Only Torch is home. He and Spidey catch up for the first time since
Johnny’s return from the dead. Jonah blames Max for his son being in danger. On
the space station Spidey & Torch find it is overrun with octobots. Torch
can’t use his flame because the station is low on oxygen. It looks bleak for
the heroes until John makes the save with a laser gun. John then reveals that
the rest of the station personnel have been possessed by octobots.

Chapter 5 – The heroes retreat and attempt to get off the
station but Ock blows up both the Pogo Plane and Space Shuttle on board the
station from his remote undersea base. Spidey then uses Torch’s cell phone
(designed by Reed to work in space) to call Max and have him turn off the
oxygen in the station. This KOs the Octobot-possessed
staff, allowing Spidey to web them up. Ock sets off another explosion to knock
the station from orbit. Torch is able to absorb the reentry heat while Spidey
makes a web parachute so the station lands safely off the coast of Florida.

 

Critical Thoughts:
The time travel story is as excellent as everyone says it is. I enjoyed it
thoroughly. It contains an abundance of clever writing. I like the villains
that show up. I like the roles the supporting cast play in it, particularly MJ.
I really like how the ending resolution is that it was Peter who was
indispensable to averting the bad future and not Spider-man. Overall, just an
all-around excellent stand alone story that you could pick up even if you never
read Spider-man before and enjoy thoroughly.

Alas the other stories collected here are not nearly as
good. The Morbius story is average at best, although the reveal of him as the
mystery scientist was spoiled for me since I had read the later trade before I
read this. The Uatu thing is weird, in that he has monster-hunting gear sitting
in his closet and he’s been waiting and itching to fight the supernatural. I
mean its comics so if they wanted to spin him off into his own book there are
worse ideas for a title than ‘teen genius uses super technology to fight the
undead,’ but for a one-off moment is Spider-man title it seems out of place and
to my knowledge there’s been no follow up on this. Plus he doesn’t seem to have
much motivation for this, like if his mom was killed by a werewolf I could see
it, but he just seems like a dude who has a job in a sci-fi level science lab
and instead of inventing stuff the company he works for can sell he’s making
monster weapons, which even in the Marvel Universe is a pretty obscure
sub-genre to concentrate on stopping.

I did not enjoy the Spidey-Torch team-up at all. The banter
felt really off for me. I would say in this story Slott did not capture the
Torch’s voice or the dynamic between the two at all. It was too much joking around
without ever being serious. And while there are plenty of fine comedic
Spidey-Torch team-up stories (Defalco has a classic in Spider-man Unlimited #5 and Busiek wrote a really good one in Untold Tales of Spider-man with the
Wizard) the difference between those tales and this one is this wasn’t a
comedic threat the heroes were up against. There have been a lot more serious
Spidey-Torch team-ups than comedic ones and we’ve seen in those while the
heroes banter they know when it is time to treat the threats seriously. The
dissonance between the heroes and the tone is made weirder for me because Slott
first wrote Spidey in a Spidey-Torch mini-series that was quite good. Had I not
read that trade previously I’d say Slott just doesn’t get Torch and move on,
but that other trade shows he does. I guess we just chalk this up to an
off-month for him, especially since he was preparing to write a major story arc
with “Ends of the Earth” showing up right after this.

 

Grade: The time
travel story is an easy A. Since that is what I bought the trade for I’m happy
with the purchase and would recommend this trade. That said if we are grading
all of it I’d give the Morbius story a C+ and the Torch story a D at best. That
would give the trade as a whole an average of a B-.

 

Waiting for the Trade = Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

 Spider-man/Lizard: No Turning Back

by Dan Slott & Giuseppe Camuncoli

Collects Amazing Spider-man 688-691 plus Untold Tales
of Spider-man #9

 
Why I bought this: The Lizard is one of my two favorite Silver Age Spidey foes so I had wanted
to read this since it came out around the time of the Spidey reboot film. At
Free Comic Book Day this year one of my local shops ran a buy one, get one free
sale on all trades making it an ideal time to finally pick this up.

 

The Plot: Spider-man
captures Lizard and takes him to Horizon labs in an attempt to cure him but
Morbius’s presence there soon leads to events spinning out of control as the
Spidey mythos takes a rare foray into the horror genre.

 As always spoilers after the
break.

 
Chapter 1 – Spidey is
battling Lizard in the sewers and is horrified that Lizard ate the scores of
people that accompanied him down there at the end of the “Shed” storyline. We
flashback to earlier in the day where MJ has opened a new nightclub and Peter
manages to find a moment alone with her to talk about his guilt over letting
Silver Sable die in the “Ends of the Earth” arc. They are interrupted by a call
from Carlie Cooper who tells Peter that Morbius has dug up Billy Connors grave
and stolen the body. Spidey breaks into Horizon Labs where Morbius is indeed
dissecting the body. Morbius says the autopsy has allowed him to find a
permanent cure for the Lizard. Back in the sewers Lizard has the advantage in
the fight when Morbius emerges and injects Lizard with his cure via a harpoon.
However it does not work as Lizard explains Connors is gone forever due to the
guilt he feels after Lizard killed Billy. They electrocute Lizard and he indeed
reverts to human form but in the cliffhanger we see the Lizard’s personality is
still in control.

Chapter 2 – The Horizon staff
confirm there is no Lizard DNA left in Connors’ system. Lizard fakes being
Connors remembering Billy’s death for the first time and asks for some time
alone (in Morbius’s lab) to mourn his son. He then steals Morbius’s blood
supply and empties it into the air vents which causes Morbius to go berserk
with bloodlust and bite one of the Horizon girls. Spidey and Morbius fight to
the outside. Interlude as Madame Web v2.0 (Julia Carpenter: the former Spider
Woman v2.0 from Secret Wars) gets a
prophecy of extreme danger facing Peter. Back at Horizon, Lizard cons Max Model
into thinking he wants to reciprocate by designing a cure for Morbius but in
fact tries to recreate his Lizard serum. When he injects himself he regenerates
Curt’s missing arm while remaining completely human, ironically achieving the
success Connors wanted when he injected himself with the Lizard serum the first
time. Lizard then ambushes Max and injects him with the serum which turns Max
into a lizard-man.

Chapter 3 – To keep up his
ruse Lizard cuts off Connors arm and feeds it to Max, then finds another lab to
work in. Meanwhile Spidey’s fight with Morbius is interrupted by Madame Web who
warns him something is about to happen at Horizon’s lab that will lead to “ruin
and despair.” Cut to the Kingpin who has an inside man at Horizon who he has
tasked with stealing spider-sense jammers. At first Kingpin’s mole attempts to
hack the computer system but then he stumbles across a paper file that has just
what he was looking for so he steals it and in his haste leaves the computer
virus uploading in a scene reminiscent of Jurassic
Park
. Lizard meanwhile is infecting more employees with lizard DNA and then
locking them in their labs as each serum works on everyone but him thanks to
Morbius’s cure. Spidey defeats Morbius and hands him to the cops and then
rushes off to Horizon. Lizard gets help from Uatu (not the Watcher, another Horizon
employee who wants to be a monster hunter) and realizes he needs superhuman DNA
to override the Morbius cure. Connors bumps into Carlie Cooper in an attempt to
retrieve it and she notices the wrong arm is missing. Just then the computer
virus activates and unseals all the doors thus freeing the horde of lizard-men
that Connors has created. Spidey arrives just in time, while Connors gets his
hands on Mutant Growth Hormone but then pauses to debate if he wants to return to
his Lizard form having spent the past two chapters experiencing human food,
music and videogames for the first time.

Chapter 4 – The lizard-men
are suddenly tame and a Horizon employee notes that lizards and men are not
natural enemies (implying thus that it has always been Connors that caused the
Lizard to be evil—a concept Paul Jenkins explored a few years ago as well in a
very good trade). Ironically the Lizard decides he wants to remain human
because he can experience more sensations in a human body but when Spidey and
Cooper make it clear they intend to imprison him he injects himself with MGH
and reverts to his true form (in fact we’re told he’s stronger than ever). We
get the big fight scene but when Lizard looks into the crowd of Horizon employees
he starts to hallucinate all the women and children are Martha and Billy. This
gives Spidey the opportunity to inject the harpoon cure directly into his brain!
It knocks him out but does not turn him human. However in the first epilogue we
see Lizard imprisoned in the Raft and learn Connors’ personality is now
dominant in the Lizard body but he is not telling anyone because he feels he
deserves to be punished after what Lizard did to Billy. Meanwhile Kingpin and
Hobgoblin have the spider-sense jammer and this causes Julia’s apocalyptic
vision to return. At the center of that vision is a man named Devil Spider who
we (but not Julia) learn is secretly the original Hobgoblin. 

Bonus Chapter – In his early
days Spider-man met Bat Boy a young teen who was shunned as being freak and
became homeless. Spidey decided to take Bat Boy to Connors for a potential cure
but during the initial consultation Bat Boy causes a lab accident that turns
Connors into the Lizard. Spidey and Bat Boy fight Lizard into the sewers.
Lizard is about to kill Peter until Bat Boy calls out for his father causing
Lizard to think of Billy and Connors to seize control of the body long enough
for Peter to force the cure down his throat and Connors returns to human form.
The story ends with Connors again working to cure Bat Boy and Peter destroying
his film of the fight to protect Connors’ identity.

Critical Thoughts: Yea this is all good and then some. I like the Lizard and this may
well be the best Lizard story ever told. (Certainly in the top two with the
aforementioned Jenkins story the other big contender as Lizard’s Silver Age
stuff is more fun in a traditional comics-for-8-year-olds way than having
psychological character depth.) Fortunately this is just what the character
needed after his prior appearance in the abhorrent “Shed” storyline following
up on the consequences of that story in a very real way while also abandoning
that woefully misguided direction and bringing Lizard back to his roots.

I also really liked
Spider-man’s portrayal here of being worn down from the epic events of “Ends of
the Earth” and just fed up with the constant string of horrors he sometimes
sees so that after Morbius butchers Billy’s body and then bites a one of
Peter’s coworkers he is just done making excuses for Morbius (who in fairness
is often portrayed as anti-hero rather than a villain) and Connors (who is
traditionally show as not responsible for Lizard’s actions.) The resulting
fight scenes with Spidey and Morbius is really good, and really all the fight
scenes work.

The female supporting cast is
also portrayed well. MJ has a real nice moment relating to Peter after Sable’s
death and we see her do what she always did best during the marriage: keep him
grounded in reality by helping him realize he should not always feel guilt and
responsibility for every thing wrong that happens in his world. Carlie Cooper
also remains an effective supporting character giving Spider-man a connection
to the police force that he’d lacked since the death of Jean DeWolf. Even
Madame Web v2.0 is given a moment or two with her daughter to show how she’s
adjusting to her new powers. I’m still not thrilled with the decision to make
Carpenter the new Madame Web but Slott at least does a little more for her this
time out.

The biggest highlights are the
middle chapters with Lizard in Connors body as the scenes are narrated by the
Lizard persona and I don’t think we’ve really been privy to the Lizard’s
thoughts before. If we have it was certainly not to this extent and not in such
an intriguing situation. The art is also top notch making the Lizard as Connors
stuff feel really creepy throughout.

 
Grade A.  The more of Slott’s stuff I read the more I
am convinced that we are in the midst of an all-time great Spider-man run that
will be remembered as legendary years from now.

Waiting for the Trade Superior Spider-man

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Superior Spider-man
(1): My Own Worst Enemy

By Dan Slott, Ryam
Stegman and Giuseppe Camumcoli

Collects Superior Spider-man 1 -5.

 

Why I bought this: The
last trade (ASM 698-700) was epic and I needed to read the follow up.

The Plot: Doc Ock
switched brains with Peter Parker and then Ock’s body with Parker in it died
leaving Ock as the new Spider-man. This trade is Ock’s first days in his new
role.
 
Spoilers after the break

 

Chapter 1 – Ock finds a new Sinister Six made up of
C-listers and takes them on but after taking a few hits decides it isn’t worth
taking a beating and attempts to flee. When a civilian is endangered he turns
around and saves the day but the Six escape. In his day job Ock is doing
Peter’s science job better than Peter but frets how he will never get credit
for it. He then goes on a date with MJ. Later he tracks down the Six and takes
them down hard. He is about to kill one of them when we see Peter’s ghost
arrive and subliminally makes Ock stop.

Chapter 2 – Ghost Peter is horrified that JJJ has finally endorsed
Spidey and that MJ is dating him and does not notice he is a different person.
Later MJ is attacked by mini-Vultures. Ock saves her and breaks up with her. MJ
relates the failed dates to Carlie Cooper, who begins to suspect the truth.
(Peter in Ock’s body had told Cooper the truth in the last trade but she didn’t
believe him at the time).

Chapter 3 – Ock traces the mini-Vultures back to the real
deal and is horrified to learn Vulture is using children as his underlings. Their
fight gets violent and ends with Spidey hospitalizing Vulture in front of
Cooper furthering her suspicions.

Chapter 4 – In a stunning splash page Spidey releases little
spider-bots across the city so Ock can monitor everything. He makes a few
arrests and then accompanies Aunt May to a doctor’s office. When he learns May
needs a cane to walk so he decides to invent a cure for all spinal injuries,
which horrifies Ghost Peter and the Horizon employees for some reason. We also
get a funny moment when Ock releaizes that as Peter he is no longer a doctor as
Peter never even got his master’s degree. This prompts Ock to enroll in college
again. Meanwhile Massacre escapes from Ravencroft killing 90s’ supporting
character Dr. Kafka in the process. Jameson and Spidey are called to the scene
and Jameson makes Spidey promise to kill Massacre next time they meet. Massacre
meanwhile lives up to his name in a diner full of civilians. In the cliffhanger
we see the Green Goblin is back in NYC.

Chapter 5 – Massacre blackmails a Cola CEO into funding him
to kill her competitors. As Peter, Ock meets his new tutor for school: a female
midget named Anna Marconi and they have an enjoyable dinner. Massacre begins
killing cops in the subway until Spidey arrives, disarms him and fatally shoots
him much to Ghost Peter’s horror. He then uses his spiderbots to expose the CEO
from the start of the chapter vowing to watch over and take responsibility for
everything in the city.

 

Critical Thoughts:
Overall this is very good. The concept alone is one of the most original things
I’ve ever seen in comics which is saying something when you consider has 50
years of history spread out over 1,000 individual issues. We’ve seen heroes
replaced before (Cap, Thor and Iron Man come to mind) but usually it is by
other heroes and the key supporting cast know a switch has been made. Here we
have a villain taking up the hero’s mantle and on top of that no one knows
Peter is gone including his loved ones. It is a strong concept and Ock is in
many ways the perfect villain to execute it with. 1) he’s always been show to
be driven by ego even in his most villainous moments (threatening to blow up NYC
so everyone would know he was superior to them or the recent Ends of the Earth
arc) yet he has also had moments of altruism over the years (trying to cure
AIDS, helping Sue Richards during childbirth, curing Peter when he was poisoned
during the Clone Saga). Thus the idea that once he finished off Peter and had
Peter’s powers he would try to take advantage of his fresh start and prove he
could be a better hero than Peter ever was fits very nicely into past
continuity.

I also like Ock’s initial reactions to his new life. I like
him running away in that first fight and thinking Peter had to be insane to
fight the kind of odds he often did. I love his outrage at not being a doctor
anymore and his disappointment that his name won’t be the one to get credit for
any science accomplishments he makes at Horizon. It all just rings true in a
character sense.

I also thought the villains are well portrayed, particularly
Vulture. I like the art a lot. I like the pacing in terms of setting up future
events (Carlie’s suspicions, the Goblin’s return). I also thought the ending
was very strong, with Ock taking Peter’s responsibility  catchphrase and spinning into an
NSA/Orewellian style nightmare as a natural extension of what an egomaniacal
mad scientist would do if he was trying to be a responsible hero. 

However, there is a big con and that is Ghost Peter arrives
way too soon and brings little to the table. Look we all knew from day one
Peter was coming back but we didn’t need to see him this soon. Chapter 2 is by
far the weakest entry in this trade with the Peter’s constant narration on Ock’s
actions just irritating. Worse it over simplifies the story. We all know Ock is
going to fail at being Spider-man. But for the story to have meaning Ock’s
failures and successes need to be his own and not caused by the subliminal
influence of Peter.

The Mary Jane subplot is also kind of weak, but in that case
I’ll give Slott a pass because it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t
situation. If Ock beds Mary Jane there are going to be cries of rape. If he
ignores her she would know something is up and fans would complain she’s being
marginalized in a story where she should have a presence. This way Ock rids
himself of her in a way that sidesteps the first issue, but also keeps her
loyal to Peter on a subconscious level and contributes to the Cooper subplot.
Overall probably the best that could be done in terms of service to a long-term
story with Ock as Peter.

Grade B+.  There is a lot more good than bad here, and
even more promising is seeds are being set to let the concept grow and improve
in the future.

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the Trade – Spider-man 700

Waiting for the Trade

by Bill Miller

 

Amazing Spider-man:
Dying Wish

By Dan Slott, Humberto
Ramos and Richard Elson

Collects Amazing
Spider-man 698-700.

 

Why I bought this: I
love Spidey in general and this is the biggest Spidey story in years, possibly
decades so I frickin’ preordered this on Amazon to get as soon as it hit trade.

 

The Plot: Doc Ock
manages to switch brains with Spider-man putting Pete in Ock’s body just as Ock
is at death’s door.

 

Heavy spoilers ahead:

 

Chapter 1 – In prison we see Ock doesn’t have long to live. We
then see a fairly typical day in the life with Pete being in an upbeat mood as
he stops crimes, does some science stuff at Horizon Labs and socializes with MJ
and Aunt May. The Avengers page Spidey saying Ock is asking for him and doesn’t
have long to live. Spidey agrees to visit him and in private we learn that Ock
has switched their brains though each has access to all of the other’s
memories. Peter-Ock then goes into cardiac arrest.

Chapter 2 – Doctors revive Peter-Ock but they feel he has less
than 24 hours left to live. Peter imagines all the damage Ock can do in his
body including killing his loved ones or using his Avengers security codes to
take down the team. He then accesses Ock’s memories to realize how Ock did this
and it dates back to issue 600 when Pete used a mental control helmet to
override Ock’s Octobots which then gave Ock a copy of Pete’s brainwaves. Pete
then uses Ock’s memories to activate one of his escape plans to hire a new
Sinister Six to bust him out of jail although he only ends up with three:
Scorpion, Hydroman and Trapster. Peter-Ock then offers the villains millions to
bring him Spider-man alive.

Chapter 3 – Octo-Peter is taking MJ on a date when he
discovers “Doc Ock” has escaped from prison on the news. Ock then goes to the
airport to book a flight to Belgium
and not return until Peter dies. Meanwhile in Ock’s undersea lab Ock’s body
goes into cardiac arrest again, Peter goes to heaven and chats with Uncle Ben
and every other major dead cast member and Ben tells him to get up and fight
one more time. Back in the world Peter-Ock is recovers and orders the villains
to go to the police. Mayor Jameson gets on TV and calls Ock a loser, which
angers Octo-Peter enough that he decides to stay in New York to prove to himself that he can
beat Spider-man in a fight. At the police station Peter-Ock runs into Carlisle
Cooper and tells her about the brain-swap but she doesn’t believe him. When she
fires on him the arms react instinctively and injure her. Pete feels bad but
with time running out he takes what he came for from the police impound–the
brainwave helmet that set this in motion 100 issues ago—and leaves. Octo-Spidey
gathers Pete’s loved ones in Avengers
Tower to protect them
from Ock, while showing them Peter’s plane ticket to explain Peter’s absence.
He says they are being targeted by Ock because of the revelation that Peter
builds Spidey’s tech at Horizon. Ock tries to self destruct his undersea base
with the villains in it but Peter has already disarmed the device since they
share memories. So Ock-Spidey just calls the police and tells them where Ock’s
base is. Scorpion and Hydroman take out the cops as Pete wonders how far he
will let the villains to get his life back. Back inside Trapster realizes Peter-Ock
has built a new brain-swap helmet and is afraid he is Ock’s intended victim so
Peter-Ock neutralizes him pretty quickly. MJ tells Peter she still loves him
but of course it’s Ock and not Peter in one of those great Spider-man ironies
and they share a kiss. Peter-Ock goes to Avengers Towers
to tell one of the super science guys there what has happened but it is too
late as Ock has activated all of his Octo-bots across the city and the Avengers
are out dealing with them. So finally we get the physical fight between the two
of them with the other villains helping Octo-Peter. Octo-Spidey gets rid of
them by “letting it slip” that Jameson is here among Peter’s loved ones and
Scorpion’s obsession with Jameson takes over so that he and Hydroman abandon the
fight. Max Modell defeats Hydroman as Scorpion threatens Peter’s loved ones.
Scorpion goes too far when he threatens Aunt May (whom Ock was once engaged to)
and Octo-Spidey hits him full strength and dislocates his jaw as Ock realizes
just how strong Peter’s body is.  When
Peter sees this he realizes just how much damage Ock can do as him and realizes
he has to stop him at any cost so he uses the Ock arms to throw them both at
the window. Octo-Spidey saves them both with a web cushion. Peter plays his
final card by having the brain switch robot attack but Ock has protected his
skull and then he hauls off and decks his own dying body. As Peter-Ock is dying
he flashes back to Uncle Ben and Octopus sees the memory too. Peter realizes
the brainwave link partially functions even without the machine and floods Ock
with memories of his entire life and career as Spidey in a series of gorgeous
splash pages. And then Peter dies telling Ock the lesson of With Great Power
and Great Responsibility while getting him to promise to keep his loved ones
safe. As he stands over his own dead body, Octo-Spidey vows to be a Superior Spider-man than Pete was.

Bonus 1 – An old Peter is hanging out with his grandson and
tells him about his life as Spidey, albeit with some memory gaps.

Bonus 2 – Back when Peter was dating the Black Cat she gets
a new apartment and manages to steal things to decorate it behind Peter’s back
while he fights a giant robot.

 

Critical Thoughts:
Simply Fabulous. Issue 700 is every bit as epic as it should be. This is an
instant classic worthy to be included in the pantheon of the greatest
Spider-man stories ever told as Peter and Ock play this intense game of mental
chess anticipating each other moves back and forth and taking advantage of
weapons and alliances available to them in their new identities.

The two set-up issues are also well done, particularly the
narration in chapter 1 which reads like a typical Spider-man picking himself up
for a new day story and then once you know the plot twist the exact same
narration takes on a completely different connotation.

That Slott ties his explanation to how Ock was able to do
this back to issue 600 gives this story an even more epic feel as it looks like
something that has been in the works for 100 issues set between two big
landmark numbers for the character. Issue 600 in general did a lot to make Ock
a much more credible threat, as there was long period where he was clearly no
longer at the same level as the Goblins and symbiotes. Slott has been building
Ock up throughout his run on the title and this is a hell of a payoff.

There are a few quibbles. To me the biggest one is Jonah
suddenly coming around and seeing Spidey as a hero. First of all in a general
sense Spidey saved the life of Jonah, his son and pretty much everyone who
works at the Bugle scores of times and Jonah has never come around so why
should this time be different? In a more specific sense Jonah’s problem with
Spidey has always been his fear that an unknown masked man not accountable to
anyone would cross the line and go out of control one day, (in fact Jonah’s
been shown for years to support Captain America because his identity is subject
to government oversight) so to have him change his mind in a scene where Spidey
brutalizes Scorpion is completely contrary to the entire motivation of the
character. I get Slott is doing it for the irony of ‘Jameson’s finally stops
thinking of Spider-man as a menace only when he actually is a menace–nyuk
nyuk’ factor; but it just does not work if you know the history of Jameson’s
character. That same type of poetic irony works perfectly in the Mary Jane
scene so using irony isn’t always a bad choice, but I don’t think works for
Jameson.

Ditto the use of Ock’s prior history with Aunt May. There’s
a scene when Pete accesses Ock’s memories and it is implied he relives Ock and
May having sex. That’s just icky and unnecessary especially for a story of this
magnitude. Conversely having Ock treat the threat the villains pose to Pete’s
loved ones as a game until Scorpion threatens May is a good use of that same
old continuity between Ock and May.

Finally while I can see the argument that having Pete force
Ock to relive his memories as a way of getting him to embrace being a hero is a
shortcut that is too external to Ock to make him really change; I disagree. I
found the scene to be quite powerful and I loved the flashback collage and
narration. Here Pete is dying and we see the “amazing” life he’s lived and it
inspires Ock to be a hero, making it Pete’s last heroic validating act. That
doesn’t mean Ock is instantly a good person now, it just means he’s going to
try to be a hero which sets up the fun of the Superior title: seeing Ock try to
live up to Pete’s legacy–which this being comics he will almost certainly fail
at so Pete can reclaim his life later in what will hopefully be a story just as
epic as this one.

 

Grade A+. If
you’re going to kill off Spider-man and cancel the flagship title of the Marvel
Universe you better have a damn good story to live up to that. Fortunately
Slott has an excellent one in this trade.

 

PS – As for the bonus stuff, the first one is crap but I
found the Black Cat story to be a fun little throw away but then I like Felicia.

Waiting for the Trade – Spiderman (& Venom)

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Amazing Spiderman: The Return of Anti-Venom
by Dan Slott and three different artists.
Collects Amazing Spider-man 663 – 665 and Free Comic Book Day 2011: Spider-man.
Why I Bought This: Anti-Venom for those who don’t know is actually the true Venom Eddie Brock and if that character appears in a story it will almost certainly get my money. Also it deals with a mystery involving the Ghost of Jean DeWolff, which it means it has a connections to one of the greatest Spider-man stories ever published.

The Plot: Eddie Brock, now back in his Lethal Protector vigilante role, is after Mr. Negative—a superpowered crime boss, who in his civilian identity runs a soup kitchen that employs Aunt May thus catching Spidey in the middle. In addition a new hard-edged crimefighter called the Wraith, who may or may not be the long dead Jean DeWolff, is also gunning for Mr. Negative. As always spoilers to follow:

Chapter 1 – Spider-man is under attack by Spider Woman (Jessica Drew), who is being mind-controlled by Mandrill. Spidey is mostly on the defensive until he breaks the mind-control with perfume (Mandrill’s powers are scent-based) and the heroes quickly take the villain down. The new Madame Web (Julia Carpenter, the Secret Wars era Spider Woman) convinces Shang Chi to teach Spider-man kung fu because her psychic powers are warning of the upcoming Spider Island crossover in which everyone will have spider powers, so she thinks Spidey will need a new edge.
Chapter 2 – Anti-Venom has learned Mr. Negative’s secret identity and is attacking his generic thugs during a drug deal when the new Wraith arrives scaring the villains even more than Brock. Brock sees her unmask as Jean DeWolff and is shocked as she teleports away. (For those who don’t know it was Brock’s articles on the death of Jean DeWolff that got him fired as a journalist and ultimately led to his madness/suicide attempt/becoming Venom.) Meanwhile Peter has been published in a scientific journal and shares a moment of pride with Aunt May. Aunt May bumps into Martin Li (Mr. Negative’s alter ego) and had apparently seen him commit a murder in a prior issue before being mind-wiped and the encounter causes her to flashback/seizure. Meanwhile Pete’s girlfriend Carlie Cooper in her role as forensics cop is investigating the incident that opened this chapter and hears from witnesses about Jean DeWolff; and in a rare moment of insight for a supporting comic book character instantly suspects Mysterio (based on some prior story she was involved in with him) rather than the undead. Finally to the main event where Venom attacks Li just as Spidey was about to head to the hospital. They battle and Venom wins.
Chapter 3 – Spidey awakes webbed to a wall by Brock. Brock tells the Spidey the truth about Li but Spidey doesn’t believe him causing Venom to leave to go find proof. Meanwhile Wraith questions suspects for leads on Li, while Carlie has managed to track her through spy binoculars seeing she has infrared body heat (and thus is not a ghost). Brock uses his camouflage power to listen in on Li, and then retrieves Spidey. Carlie does some detective work at the station discovering various impounded supervillain tech has disappeared. Venom leaves Spidey webbed to a wall as he goes into action against Mr. Negative but Venom is stabbed by a magic sword. Wraith arrives and frees Spidey and they join the battle. Wraith’s tech uncovers the truth about Li and she’s able to broadcast his confession across the city, although he escapes in the aftermath. Spidey admits to Brock he was wrong. Later Carlie confronts female cop Captain Wantanabe, revealing she knows Wantanabe is the Wraith. Wantanabe admits it (and gives her origin), and Carlie agrees not to tell anyone if Wantanabe agrees to leave town. Later still Carlie tells Pete what happened with Wantanabe, but Pete lies to her about being Spider-man saying instead he just designs Spidey’s tech.
Chapter 4 – We’re told Pete and Betty Brant have a long-standing movie night once a month. Pete’s been missing it lately due to commitments of being both an Avengers and FF member. So Betty goes to some art film in the bad part of town alone and gets mugged and put in critical condition. We see various reactions from the supporting cast, while Spidey goes hardcore on the underworld looking for the mugger. Just as Spidey is about to catch him, Aunt May calls and guilts Peter into going to the hospital immediately. Then when Betty wakes up, Pete gets to go in first (instead of her boyfriend Flash Thompson) and they immediately watch a movie together because it’s Friday night. The next day Spidey captures the mugger.
Chapter 5 –a short back-up type story where Spidey tries to reconnect with his hero of the common man role (since again he’s been busy with world-class threats as an Avenger lately) only for all of his efforts to be unappreciated/misunderstood by those the tries to help.
Chapter 6 – Another short back-up wherein Aunt May and new husband Jonah Sr. inform Pete, Carlie and Jonah that they are moving to Boston.
Critical Thoughts: Unfortunately I have to say there’s more bad than good here. I’ll talk about the main story first and then touch on the back-up/extra chapters one of which I had major problems with.
My primary criticism of the main story is it feels too short for what could have been a stronger concept. I’ll admit that what Slott does here, he does well. While Lethal Protector Venom has always been inferior to arch-foe Cape Fear style stalker Venom, Slott writes that version of the character consistent with the way Eddie was portrayed in his 90s series so I don’t have any major complaints. Wraith comes across as a compelling new character, particularly during the mystery phase. Carlie’s police investigation is a very capable portrayal of a supporting character. The two fight scenes are both action-packed and well choreographed. The stuff Slott delivers in this story is done well; but I wanted more. Of the six chapters in this trade, only two focus on the main story. And ultimately that’s my main criticism.
It’s funny because I hate Bendis’ slow drag every scene out, overly talky style of writing. For the most part I admire Slott’s work because he is one of the few writers at Marvel who knows how to write a good fight scene and juggle several subplots. Look how dense the chapter summaries of those two Venom chapters are for proof. But I think in this case, the “Death of Jean DeWolff” is such a major milestone in Spider-man lore that if you are going to revisit it you can take your time with it. We see DeWolff’s face within three pages of Wraith’s first appearance. That easily could have been a chapter-ending cliffhanger. Eddie sees her face, and he’s shocked for a panel or two and then he never mentions it again. Considering how DeWolff’s death impacted his entire life—it indirectly cost him everything; there should be pages of angst with Brock, who even as the Lethal Protector is still not mentally stable, being far over the edge as a result. Hell Pete never even sees Wraith as Jean DeWolff, which could have been another major dramatic moment considering Spidey’s history with Jean. While I don’t mind Carlie being immediately on the right track—she is a forensic scientist meaning her job is to follow the evidence and she knows there is a Jean DeWolff mask impounded and what cops were there when Mysterio was arrested; when Wraith frees Spidey he immediately dismisses her supernatural claims saying he’s met real Spirits of Vengeance and can tell the difference. To me that just feels like a cop out in order to rush the story to its conclusion. We didn’t use Spidey’s vast experience to instantly solve the recent Jackpot and Menace mysteries in two issues, and I don’t think either of those had as much potential as a possible Ghost of Jean DeWolff taking on the alias of her also deceased super-villain brother to fight crime. Ultimately, I think even with the rushed ending the Wraith character could have some good future story potential, but I also think they blew through what could have been a year of good stories in two issues because there’s a lot interesting concepts to play with there.
As for the other stories, I have to wonder why the first one isn’t in the Spider Island trade instead of this one since that seems to be where it belongs. On its own merits I suppose Spider-man vs. Spider Woman has that gosh gee who would win 8-year-old argument going for it (and since this is the Free Comic Book Day reprint issue, I can see why Marvel would want to write that type of story for that day.) In a larger sense I find the Julia Carpenter Spider Woman a thousand times more interesting than the Jessica Drew version, so I find it sad to see her consigned to the useless Madame Web role while Jessica is overexposed but that’s more of a general Marvel criticism than a Spider-man one.
I hated every single thing about the Betty Brant mugging story with the exception of Jonah’s portrayal in it (which is two pages out of 20+). It’s so terrible I can’t believe Slott actually wrote it because it’s wrong on a fundamental character level (and I usually I think Slott gets Spidey and his supporting cast pretty well).
Not to be a Neanderthal but to start with I don’t buy the opening concept that Spidey and Betty have had this monthly movie night since the dawn of time like the story implies. Regardless of whether Spidey was married to Mary Jane in the new timeline I doubt MJ would put up with that, I know Felicia would not have put up with it, I doubt Flash would have put up with it and I guarantee you Ned Leeds would have not have put up with it considering Peter slept with Betty shortly after she and Ned were married!
But let’s not do the overly fanboy history thing that Marvel doesn’t like. Let’s judge the story on its own merits. When Aunt May guilts Pete into coming to the hospital, she brings up that when Uncle Ben died Pete ran off into the night and asks how he could abandon her and she’s apparently been harboring that all this time. WTF is that? First of all Aunt May is not the type of character who harbors resentment for 13 years, period. Secondly, Pete was 15-years-old when Ben died. If a 15-year-old boy can’t deal with his father figure’s death and runs off to cry about it alone instead of in a room full of cops and well-meaning neighbors that’s perfectly understandable, and as the adult in that situation Aunt May has to understand that.
Even worse is the idea that after Aunt May uses Uncle Ben’s death to guilt Peter, thus putting that incident fresh in his mind, that he would then leave the mugger on the street when he’s within his sights. It’s one thing if Pete hasn’t found him yet, but he can see him when Aunt May calls. This isn’t Doc Ock or the Hobgoblin. It’s a mugger. You say Aunt May I’m on my way, you shoot a web and subdue him ending the fight in 2 seconds, and then you drop him off at the police station on the way to the hospital. Under no circumstances does Spider-man leave a dangerous armed criminal on the streets to possibly hurt someone else for even a single night. That is very essence of his origin story. And it’s made even worse by the fact that in this same trade Pete stops to go fight Venom, who is arguably his most dangerous foe, while Aunt May, who means a heck of a lot more to him than Betty, is in the hospital; but he then can’t take the two seconds to arrest a common mugger because Betty is in the hospital? What the bloody Hell is that?
Furthermore, when Betty wakes up her boyfriend Flash is okay with Pete seeing her first because and I quote, “it’s movie night”? Seriously? This story is so bad it makes me wonder if Slott is a member of the human race. Does he understand basic human interactions? Because on Earth there is no way that happens. (I’d also add there is also no way a hospital allows any visitor, let alone a non-relative, to spend two hours in the room of recently awoken coma victim for any reason, let alone to watch a movie—which btw apparently means that while Pete can’t take the time to stop a violent mugger before going to the hospital there is still time to stop at a Blockbuster Video.
 Anyway I’m starting to beat a dead horse here, but this is by far the worst story I’ve ever seen Slott write and it just fails on multiple core levels.
End of rant, and with that out of my system I’ll just say the other back-ups aren’t good either although nowhere near as bad as the Betty story.
Grade: While the Betty story is a clear and decisive F, it’s not the main story, nor was it the selling point of the issue. It’s just a one-off story, albeit it a very bad one. The main story as I said does a lot of things well, but I feel it had the potential for more so I’ll still give those two issues a slightly positive grade of C+. As a whole I’m give the trade a D+, the main event advertised is only two issues long, which makes it hardly worth the price of a trade even discounted off Amazon. It doesn’t help that the other four chapters range from forgettable at best to truly terrible at worst.

Waiting for the Trade – Avengers

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Mighty Avengers: The Unspoken
by Dan Slott, Khoi Pham and Sean Chen
Collects Mighty Avengers 27 – 31.
Why I Bought This: Late last year I decided to sample the first Slott trade on this title because even though Hank Pym (who is my least favorite of the longtime Avengers) is the central character, the story also promised to focus on Wundagore Mountain, which is one of Marvel’s more interesting settings when done right. Well that first volume showed that even when settling for an Avengers team made up of cast-off characters that Bendis doesn’t want, Slott is an infinitely better choice to write an Avengers story than Bendis will ever be. So in the week before the movie came out I decided to pick-up several Avengers trades and considering how much I liked Slott’s first volume this one made the cut.
The Plot: So in the wake of Secret Invasion, Norman “Green Goblin” Osborn is put in charge of both SHIELD and by extension the Avengers. Pym decided to honor Wasp’s death in that event by forming his own team of Avengers. He ended up with Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vision, Hercules, Stature (the second Ant-Man’s daughter, she has size changing powers), Jocasta, U.S. Agent and Amadeus Cho (teenager with super-intelligence on a par with Mr. Fantastic) as well as Jarvis the butler. What he doesn’t know is that Scarlet Witch is actually Loki in disguise. And that sets the table for this volume.
Chapter 1 – A flashback shows that as teenager Black Bolt won the Inhumans throne in trial by combat over the prior king, whose name was subsequently erased from history—making him the Unspoken. US Agent and Quicksilver are on assignment in China when Quicksilver (who used to be married to Crystal of the Inhumans) spots the Unspoken and recognizes him and recommends calling in every Avenger on the planet. China’s own superheroes led by Radioactive Man confront the Unspoken and are quickly decimated.
Chapter 2 – “Scarlet Witch” is on monitor duty when Quicksilver’s distress call comes in and she decides not to report it since Loki realizes that as Scarlet Witch’s brother Quicksilver is the most likely to see through his ruse; however Stature was spying on Witch (because Witch killed her father) but before she can tell anyone what she saw Loki casts a spell on her that prevents her from saying anything negative about “Scarlet Witch” or what she saw. Stature and Vision then visit the Young Avengers (they’d both been on that team prior to this one) and she tells Wiccan (Scarlet Witch’s son) about his “mom” being back from the dead, knowing that he will immediately use his teleportation power to bring her to him. This severely irks Loki who attacks them, and then Hawkeye (in his silly ninja Ronin identity that Bendis had him wearing because Scarlet Witch killed him too) arrives to intervene.
Chapter 3 – We basically have two intercut stories and a brief interlude. The interlude sees Hank conduct an experiment with Reed Richards and Jocasta’s help to see if he can pierce the barriers of the Macroverse and thus he’s unavailable for the ongoing crises. In China the heroes learn the Unspoken has a bomb designed by the Kree that will devolve all of humanity into Alpha Primitives (a cloned slave race seen in Inhumans’ stories), and Unspoken uses the gas on US Agent and some of the Chinese heroes. The Young Avengers and Hawkeye battle Loki. Once Hawkeye determines it not really Scarlet Witch, Vision joins the fray (presumably he was holding back because Wanda is his ex-wife) and is able to turn the tide of the battle. Wiccan is about to cast a spell to shatter Loki illusion but he teleports away. This breaks the silence spell on Stature, and she calls the team to action to aid Quicksilver’s distress call.
Chapter 4 – The Avengers call in the reserves and Bucky-Cap, Spider Woman, Ms. Marvel, Rage, Justice, Tigra and some dude named Gauntlet answer the call and together the Avengers, Young Avengers and reserves join the fight in China. A lot of them quickly fall to the devolving gas but the non-human members like Vision, Ms. Marvel, Hulkling and Hercules are immune; still the battle is going poorly for the heroes. Meanwhile Hank Pym meets Eternity (the living embodiment of the universe) and Eternity appoints him Scientist Supreme, which makes him the other side of the coin to Dr. Strange’s Sorcerer Supreme. He accepts that role and becomes aware of what is happening in China and decides to head home to help.
Chapter 5 – is really just a massive fight issue from beginning to end (albeit a well done one). The heroes win when Cho modifies the Unspoken’s bomb into a laser that causes Unspoken to age rapidly thus becoming too infirm to fight (and it also cures the devolved heroes).
Critical Thoughts: Another good story by Slott. Let’s look at three major plot points in turn.
I liked with the stuff with Loki and Stature best, probably because it feels the most like a classic Avengers story. You have a classic Avengers foe in Loki. He’s impersonating a core member of the team. And we see how the possibility of Wanda’s resurrection impacts several other longtime Avengers like Vision, Hawkeye and Quicksilver (as well as newer characters like Stature and Wanda’s children). I thought Stature’s way of overcoming Loki’s spell was clever (she can’t say anything bad about him, so she tells Wiccan the “good news” that his mom is alive). And then we get a decent fight scene to pay it off. My only criticism of that part of the story is that I’m grossed out that Stature and Vision are dating because she’s the same age as his two children with Wanda, who also happen to be her teammates but apparently that choice was made in the Young Avengers and Slott is working with what he’s been given there, so I’ll let it go even if it is creepy.
The Unspoken story is good as well. I always like to see the Avengers call in the reserves to deal with a big threat. I thought the early chapters with the flashback and his introduction were very well written. On the other hand, I would say I find the vague description of his powers to be lazy writing. When Quicksilver first sees him he just says he’s an “omega level threat” and doesn’t expound on it. I know the X-men use that same sentence all the time but it’s lazy writing when they do it too. Later the Avengers specifically ask Quicksilver what he can do and he just screams “Everything” and they keep fighting. Well that’s still not helpful to either his teammates or the reader; and it is also patently untrue because if he could do “everything” then he wouldn’t need a bomb to devolve humanity, he could just devolve humanity himself. In the final chapter Unspoken says he can use the powers of all of the various Inhumans over the ages (presumably calling them up one at a time but the writing is vague). My point is that information would be more useful early in the story so the reader can anticipate the final battle and what the heroes are up against, rather than three pages before the story ends when it doesn’t make much of a difference anymore. Still the final battle is a full issue long, which is a nice payoff to four issues of build-up and it’s full of nice touches. Hank Pym pulling out a light-saber is damn fun and considering the super-science of the Marvel Universe it is sort of amazing to think Marvel’s waited this long to rip that off from Star Wars. Hawkeye is also given a great moment in the final battle wherein he has to make a one in a million shot to help Cho disarm/reprogram the bomb and to make that shot he has to step into the gas and sacrifice himself (and thus he only has one chance to make the shot since he will be too devolved for a second shot). Even the epilogue with Quicksilver and the Inhumans has a nice bittersweet touch to wrap the story up. So yea, for the most part good stuff here too.

The Hank Pym stuff also works for the most part. I certainly liked how he’s humbled and amazed to meet Eternity. Usually Eternity is only in stories with heroes like Adam Warlock or Quasar and for those types of cosmic heroes it’s just another day at the office; whereas to the guy who talks to bugs, even in the age of constant crossovers, this is a big deal. The Scientist Supreme thing is clearly a stretch but in Slott’s defense he acknowledges that off the bat with Pym himself admitting there is no way he’s smarter than Reed or Tony Stark. Eternity claims he’s choosing him because he’s the one who most makes science looks like magic, and while not a perfect explanation, it’s not completely implausible either: In this series Pym has an invented a teleporting door and he also has size changing, talking to bugs, the creation of life in Ultron, and the nebulous medical science that all Marvel scientists have to heal teammates from laser wounds or whatever. So that’s a fairly diverse set of fields that tie into either life or space, which is what Eternity represents. And while Pym is no favorite of mine, I can appreciate Slott’s desire to rehabilitate the character because under most of the modern cynical writers Pym is just a failed hero/wife beater who created one of humanity’s greatest threats in Ultron. I think Slott lays it on a little thick at times, such as how Hawkeye reacts to Pym’s arrival in the final battle when Hawkeye is a much more proven team leader than Pym at this point, but I’d rather see a writer err in favor of building the heroes up than tearing them down.
Grade: B. This is a perfectly enjoyable Avengers trade. If you don’t mind that the big three aren’t around, you have all the hallmarks of classic Avengers stories. We have both the big global threat that requires the banding together of many heroes in the one story, and the more personal quest for vengeance by an old enemy in the other, with some interpersonal conflicts mixed in. Between this and the first volume (which is even better) Slott clearly shows he’d be a fine choice to take over the franchise when Bendis finally leaves.