Comics : Avenging Spider-Man #14

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This review was first published on: Nov 2012.

Background...

I am a Jack Kirby fanatic. I will read anything Jack ever wrote and/or drew and that includes silly things like Devil Dinosaur. Trouble is I usually ignore any post-Jack appearances of such characters because I don’t care to see others mess with Jack’s concepts. So I don’t have much knowledge of Devil and Moon-Boy after Devil Dinosaur #9, December 1978 but apparently they have been brought to the present at some point in time. (A quick glance online tells me that Devil and Moon-Boy are no longer from the distant past but instead from a parallel Earth known as “Dinosaur World,” further reason why I don’t follow post-Jack adventures.) I vaguely remember Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual 1998 in which Devil and Moon-Boy are moved to the Savage Land. All of this makes sense, I suppose. Devil’s never going to have his own book again so you have to put him on present-day Marvel Earth if you want to use him as a guest star. And if he’s on present-day Marvel Earth, what better place to put him than the Savage Land? Now the only problem is getting Spidey down there to team up with him.

In Detail...

Avenging Spider-Man #14
Jan 2013 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man, Devil Dinosaur, & Moon-Boy
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Assistant Editor:  Ellie Pyle
Writer:  Cullen Bunn
Artist:  Gabriele Dell'Otto
Cover Art:  Gabriele Dell'Otto
Colorist:  Dommo Aymara
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Turns out Spidey comes to the Savage Land as Peter Parker as part of Horizon Labs scientific outing. While the rest of the crew act “like a bunch of high school kids on a field trip,” Peter is troubled by a constant buzzing of his spider-sense. He takes a walk to clear his head and returns to find “the camp in shambles” and dinosaurs acting with almost human intelligence, rounding the Horizon people up as prisoners. This all takes place in a flashback that doesn’t occur until pages 15-16 of the story. Why? So we can get right down to the action.

Instead, the issue begins with Spidey under attack from dinosaurs who turn out to be more than they appear. For one thing, the velociraptors breath fire. For another thing, a pterodactyl wears an electronic device over its head and talks, telling Spidey, “Attention, interloper. You are now our prisoner. Your genetic stock will be used as raw material for our master’s experiments. Resist and you will be eviscerated.”

The dinosaurs surround Spidey with the pterodactyl demanding his surrender. But then Devil Dinosaur and Moon-Boy crash in, with Devil killing the pterodactyl by crushing him in his jaws and scattering the rest. Spidey, who, as I mentioned, has met Devil and Moon-Boy before, figures he is among friends but Moon-Boy no longer trusts him because “the outside world had treated us cruelly,” in Heroes For Hire #9-11 according to the footnote but I couldn’t tell you the details because I didn’t read those issues. So Moon-Boy attacks and Spidey is forced to defend himself. In the midst of this, Spidey saves Moon-Boy from a mutated dinosaur who spits acid and this convinces Moon-Boy that Spidey is still his ally. (Moon-Boy’s dialogue is supposed to be translated from Lizard Language, whatever that is. Okay. I can buy that. But when Moon-Boy says, “The Demon-Spirits have turned the spitter’s venom to acid,” I’m not sure I believe that the Lizard Language has a word for “acid.”)

Moon-Boy takes Spidey by the hand to show him that “Our enemies are many! They use the magic of the outside world to mutate the creatures of our land and turn them against us!” Spidey follows, turning to Devil to say, “I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a dozen jokes about Timmy being stuck in a well that I’m just keeping to myself.” (Do people still pick up on Lassie references?) Moon-Boy leads them to a huge cave with a demon’s face and fire glowing within. Dinosaurs form a line, walking into the cave. Spidey tells Moon-Boy and Devil, “All right, guys. We’re gonna need a plan.” Before he even finishes the sentence, Moon-Boy leads Devil to the attack.

In General...

Let’s start with the art this time because it almost feels like the reason this issue exists is because Gabriele Dell’Otto wanted to draw a bunch of dinosaurs. He does a great job of it making them look so formidable and vicious, even Spidey can’t defeat them all. (Panel 6 on page 7, showing the dinosaurs starting to surround Spidey is particular effective.) Devil is a killing machine usually shown in motion with jaws wide. Even Moon-Boy looks nasty here, particularly on page 11 panel 4; the illustration also used to introduce the reader to Moon-Boy on the contents page. So, it’s clearly not the cuddly Moon-Boy of the Kirby issues that the creators want to convey.

The colors are persuasive here too. They are dominated by shades of green, brown, grey, and black; all imposing a somber mood on the proceedings. The red of Spidey’s costume and of Devil Dinosaur jump out of the relative darkness like a flare and the flashback sequence is presented in sepia, giving it the feeling of an old photograph or a dull memory in Spidey’s spider-sense-rattled mind. Kudos to colorist Dommo Aymara for his work here.

So, the artwork is moody and alive and violent. Just what this story needs, especially since there’s not much story here yet. Spidey fights dinosaurs, Devil and Moon-Boy save him, they find a demon-like cave. That’s pretty much it. One mention of a mysterious “master” who is souping up the dinosaurs. One flashback of the Horizon Lab people being captured. (If Spidey saves this bunch, how is he going to explain his presence to Max Modell without revealing he’s Peter Parker?) But, you know what? Who cares? I like the set-up, I like the atmosphere, I like how Devil and Moon-Boy are used and I like that Devil and Moon-Boy are used. Give me an exotic team-up any day over all of the so-called “Avenging” team-ups. Particularly when it feels right and natural. To paraphrase the A-Team’s Hannibal Smith, “I love it when an exotic team-up comes together.”

Overall Rating...

If next issue’s payoff is successful I might raise this rating but for now let’s call it three webs.