Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #659

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This story is part of an Arc: "Fantastic Voyage"
     Part 1 / Part 2

This review was first published on: May 2011.

Background...

Spider-Man has taken the Human Torch’s place in the ranks of the Future Foundation (formerly the Fantastic Four). The team has been travelling the universe - the future, the Microverse, and, uh, France - to seal dimensional rifts that threaten the metaphysical integrity of the team’s home dimension. The source of the problem appears to be in the present-day Caribbean, at the same site where, three hundred years ago, Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards and Ben “the Thing” Grimm once traveled through time to fight pirates... and Ben temporarily assumed the role of Blackbeard, notorious pirate chief!

Meanwhile, in Peter’s personal life, his girlfriend Carlie Cooper has discovered that Peter is out of town, and his claim to be traveling on business is a lie.

In Detail...

"Fantastic Voyage"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #659 (Story 1)
Jun 2011 : SM Title
Arc: Part 1 of "Fantastic Voyage"
Story:  Dan Slott
Artist:  Stefano Caselli
Cover Art:  Llorenzo de Felici, Stefano Caselli
Lettering:  VC's Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Marte Gracia
Dialogue:  Fred Van Lente
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alonso
Senior Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Associate Editor:  Ellie Pyle
Assistant Editor:  Ellie Pyle
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Articles: Doctor Octopus (Otto Octavius) (Cameo), Electro, Rhino, Sandman

As the Fantasticar, or whatever they’re calling it these days, comes in for a landing on a beautiful beach, the team recaps the story so far, as per the ‘Background’ section above. Arriving in a ramshackle Village That Modernity Appears To Have Forgotten, the team is briefly harassed by frightened locals before the headman, a white-skinned man in a red jacket, calms everyone down:

Red Jacket: “Do you not recognize the world-famous Fantastic Four when you see them?”

Invisible Woman: “Well, we go by Future Foundation now - “

RJ: “The Invisible Girl!”

IW: “Uh... I find ‘Woman’ less patronizing, thanks.”

RJ: “Mr. Elongated Man!”

Mr. Fantastic: “I hope you have good lawyers.”

RJ: “The Human Torch!”

Spider-Man: “Yes. Yes. That’s exactly who I am.”

RJ: “And the Incredible Hulk!”

The Thing: “ Urge... to murderize... returning...”

Red Jacket explains that the women and children have left the village for their own safety, and that only the men of the village remain, to defend their homes against monsters that come up out of the sea at night. They also defend against the sounds and lights that emerge from a nearby mountain capped by a giant skull-like rockface.

If the opening caption hadn’t explained that this is Earth-616, the ‘real’ Marvel Universe, I’d be tempted to think the team had accidentally found its way to some other Earth, where twenty-first century Caribbean folk dress and act like eighteenth-century Polynesians. Or, rather, as twentieth-century American and Europeans liked to believe the Polynesians dressed and acted.

Let’s cut away from the embarrassment to New York, where Carlie is engaged in a roller-derby match with the rest of her team, the Midtown Maulers. Carlie’s working out her frustrations in her personal life by making free with the contact penalties. She explains to her curious colleagues that she’s sick of being misused by liars; liars like her old boyfriend Vin, her old best friend Lily, her old dad, and her new boyfriend, Peter, who lies about his whereabouts. Her teammates vow they’ll cheer her up by taking her out on the town.

Back in the Caribbean, the team has approached the skull mountain, where Peter touches a weight-sensitive plate and triggers a trap - readers will recall he lost his spider-sense in Amazing Spider-Man #654. Surprisingly hi-tech gears turn and a hidden door opens, loosing a flood of zombie pirates! Also released is a figure in a yellow diving costume who’s a dead ringer for the classic Scooby-Doo villain, the Ghost of Captain Cutler. (Believe it or not, this will be significant later.)

Naturally, battle ensues, and for all of their spookiness, the zombie pirates are no match for the FF. The team drives the host back into the cave, where they discover a mysterious portal - a science-flavoured portal, not a magic one. Yellow Diving Costume explains that the pirates built it to bring forth Blackbeard from the depths of time; hearing this, Spidey tells Ben he has to “reprise [his] signature role”.

Meanwhile, Carlie is boozing it up with her gal pals in the South Bronx. Determined to get her revenge on Peter for deceiving her, she gives in to her friends’ exhortations and decides to get a tattoo. She’s particularly attracted to the Green Goblin tattoo that’s been making the rounds lately - see Osborn #1 or Amazing Spider-Man #648. “Peter hates Osborn! He’ll have a conniption when he sees it! Don’t just stand there, Michaelangelo-- mark me for life!”

Uh-oh.

Back at Skull Island, or whatever it’s called, Blackbeard makes a splashy entrance. Having donned a conveniently-available purple coat, brown pants, and tri-corned hat, Ben asks, “Oi, what’s all this then? Why are ye bothering these fancy-pants blokes when we should be havin’ a tot o’ rum and chasin’ birds?”

The pirates aren’t impressed. “Kill them!” shouts Yellow Diving Costume.

“I couldn’t remember how I did it the first time,” confesses Ben, “so I tried my best Jack Sparrow!”

Ha!

Now the kids of the Future Foundation enter the fray. They’ve come from New York to tell the grown-ups that the three dimensional anomalies weren’t naturally related; no single agent created the anomalies. A single agent did “tag” them, however, to trick Mr. Fantastic into believing they had a common cause.

Trickery, eh? And you say there are zombie pirates, weird lights, and a mountain carved to resemble a skull?

“What is this, Scooby Doo?” asks Franklin.

“It’d explain a lot, actually,” mutters Spidey.

Sue, in a subtle nod to Amazing Spider-Man #657, makes Yellow Diving Costume’s costume invisible, revealing Mysterio! The diving helmet covers his fishbowl quite well. And Red Jacket pops up, too, and pulls away his facemask to reveal the Chameleon! And out of the mists emerge Doc Ock, Electro, the Rhino, and the Sandman. It’s the FF versus the Sinister Six!

...next issue.

In General...

HIGH POINTS:

  • The banter between the teammates, especially Peter and Ben;
  • The return of Blackbeard and Ben’s flubbing of the role; and
  • The zaniness of the Scooby-Doo tribute.

LOW POINTS:

  • The “booty” running gag [for the reader’s sake, not reproduced in this review], which isn’t as funny as Slott thinks it is;
  • The Caribbean village at the beginning, the depiction of which is a mixture of American parochialism and racism - sure, the Chameleon fabricated it, but the fact the team takes it at face value makes matters worse; and
  • Carlie seriously considering getting an Osborn tattoo. I understand that she’s drunk and in the mood for payback, but it’s a matter of public knowledge that Osborn murdered Peter’s first serious girlfriend, right? Hooking up with some random bar dude would be less hurtful to Peter than offering Osborn such a tribute. This moment is either out-of-character for Carlie, or she has a mean streak we readers haven’t fully come to appreciate yet.

Overall Rating...

I think the high points outweigh the low points. Even the Carlie-and-the-Goblin-tattoo business is a great suspense-builder. As a character move it doesn't seem terribly plausible, but of all the plot points in this issue, it was this cliffhanger I couldn’t wait to see resolved. Let’s call it three-and-a-half webs.

Footnote...

Stingers ahoy:

Tattoo Artist: “Decided to grace your skin with some ink, huh? What brought you over to the dark side?”

Carlie: “Drunken revenge!”

Tattoo Artist: “That’s 40% of my business.”

Carlie, while considering tattoo possibilities: “Butterfly above the crack on my butt? Why not E-Z on my forehead?”