Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #671
This review was first published on: Oct 2011.
Spider-Island is complete! Through genetically modified bedbugs, The Jackal and The Queen have transformed all non-powered residents of Manhattan into Spider-people (including Peter Parker’s girlfriend Carlie Cooper)!
There is obvious resistance to this: spider-sense jammer towers have been established to maintain quarantine, Venom/Flash Thompson has brought Anti-Venom/Eddie Brock to Horizon labs where Reed Richards believes his antibodies may be used to cure the population, Mayor J Jonah Jameson approaches his arch-enemy, Alistair Smythe/Spider Slayer, for help and finally Mary-Jane Watson has powers and is fighting back!
With Tarantula/Kaine and Spider-King/Captain America at her side, The Queen uses all of her powers to prevent the heroes of New York finding a cure. She mentally seizes control of Jameson, triggering his transformation, and orders him to kill Smythe!
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #671
Dec 2011 : SM Title
Arc: Part 5 of "Spider-Island"
|Articles: The Jackal, Kaine, Queen, Smythe, Alistaire|
Mary Jane Watson has spider-powers! As she battles the Spider-people she hears a scream coming from Our Lady of Saints Church so swings down to investigate! She finds those cured by Anti-Venom, powerless to protect themselves against attack. She offers her services: with great power, she is responsible!
At NYC’s Emergency Command Centre, Spider-Man tackles Mayor J Jonah Jameson off Alistair Smythe and webs him to the floor! Smythe mumbles about having all the spider slayers needed to cure the infection before passing out from blood loss. Spidey orders the Command Centre to be locked down and heads to Horizon.
The Queen, listening in through JJJ, realises that she needs to stop the work of Horizon. She reaches inside and mentally controls Sajani Jaffrey, who is about to receive the first of the Anti-Venom cure, and triggers her transformation! Reed Richards and Spider-Woman are on hand to pin her down and administer the cure. The Queen panics and, reaching out to Spider-King and not finding him either, realises that her plan is failing. The Jackal offers a solution, an inside man in Horizon – Peter Parker! He dispatches Tarantula/Kaine to deal with it.
Inside the secretive Lab #6, manned by an anonymous scientist, Grady Scraps and Bella Fishbach assist the scientist in removing every antibody from Anti-Venom/Eddie Brock and producing a giant vat of the cure. Grady and Bella are kicked out and the scientist leaves via a secret access hatch he opens using his hand print. The screen reads: Dr. Michael Morbius Confirmed!
Spider-Man swings over to Horizon, finally realising that he needs to think big. He passes Gravity and Firestar fighting to protect a spider-sense jammer but leaves them to fight. Madame Web/Julia Carpenter watches but cannot see if he’s made the right decision as her gift to see the future has gone.
The spider-people attack Horizon! Thing and Spider-Woman help the armed forces but wonder if it some kind of a distraction. Inside, Reed Richards gets a call from General Dodge (from Project Rebirth) who explains that Captain America was Spider-King and that they have an operative on the way who will neutralise the main threat. Reed wonders how Captain America received some active symbiote to sure him but doesn’t have time to ponder it as Madame Web appears and demands that the spider-sense jammers be removed so that her gift can be restored. She leaves, allowing Max and Reed to put their heads together and discuss whether they can revert the spider-sense jammers and give Spider-Man his spider-sense back!
Spider-Man arrives on the roof of Horizon and heads to his lab. When he arrives it says that Peter Parker is already inside… Tarantula/Kaine (who is Peter’s clone) attacks! Communicating via a monitor on Tarantula’s chest, The Jackal taunts Spider-Man as Tarantula fights him, explaining that Tarantula is here to destroy the cure! Tarantula is prepared for Spidey’s kung-fu (having studied the tapes from #668) and knocks him down long enough to break into Lab #6! Tarantula throws a capsule into the cure but Spidey, just recovered, webs it up! Tarantula needs it back so launches at Spider-Man! He pins him down to a walkway above the cure and prepares to push him in! A miracle arrives… Horizon reverses the signal and returns Spider-Man’s spider-sense! He pivots, kicks and reverses, throwing Tarantula into the cure! He helps the transformed (but still spider-powered) Kaine out of the cure and learns that The Queen is behind Spider-Island!
Madame Web knows something has gone wrong! Her connection to the web of life is too powerful and she can clearly see what will happen next!
The Jackal reports that Tarantula has been defeated and The Queen is furious! The uses her psychic scream on him, ripping his flesh from his bones and killing him! It has never been that powerful before and, as she reaches out along the web of life, she realises that the actions of Horizon have amplified her power to that of a God!
Initial reactions to this issue can be summed up in two letters: oh. There’s an obvious build up to the final conclusion but it isn’t clean and, looking ahead to #672, I have to say that I can see Spider-Island going either way: brilliance or catastrophe.
My reasons for either of these are clear to me. The plot, as ever crammed with dozens of relevant characters and noteworthy mentions, leaps and bounds forwards. The greatest, most inspiring change is the return of the spider-sense. Dan Slott is inspired here because he brings it about so naturally that you a) forgot Spidey didn’t have it b) realise how important it is c) applaud how he combines it with the kung fu Spidey’s learned d) appreciate the people at Horizon and cheer that Spidey has some normal people help. Successful as this is, the road to catastrophe isn’t far away. The Queen hasn’t really done anything yet and may end up being a pointless villain. There are sequences from Venom that we don’t know anything about yet but have been spoiled. And then there is The Jackal issue. He’s dead. Here one panel, jump to another and he’s torn asunder and a final jump and he’s dead. The actual mastermind behind the transformations is given nothing but a smoking carcass and the focus is now solely on The Queen who, remember, hasn’t really done anything yet and isn’t the threat she could be.
Then there’s this business of Spider-Man actually being involved. Slott relies upon the character a bit more here and finally delivers this sense that Spider-Man can do something about this whole situation. We’ve been two steps ahead of Spidey the whole story so far so we cannot possibly be as shocked or emotionally respondent as Spidey is when he finds out about spider-jammers, Kaine being Tarantula or even that The Queen is behind Spider-Island. There the frustrations lies: we haven’t journeyed with our hero through any of this.
This mood naturally continues across the art. Humberto Ramos seems too pushed here. He delivers everything that’s asked but the clarity slips every so slightly and I’d love to see some real space given to his pencils. He must be a great storyteller to have got across everything demanded of him but this issue only provides him a few spaces to truly shine. Moments of genius include the MJ sequence, the reveal of Morbius and the truly geekgasm cover. Clear examples of where he’s tried but not achieved is the Spider vs. Tarantula sequence (during which there’s no space for the impact to be felt), the death of Jackal and the moment where Spidey gets his spider-sense back. Each of these is crucial but can’t deliver visually as there simply isn’t room.
As ever, one thing that cannot be faulted is the way Slott plants seeds for future stories and continues subplots even throughout this crammed story. The Morbius subplot is a perfect example but others, such as Reed Richards twigging about Venom, the work of Horizon and Madame Web messing up, all display an outrageous vision for the future.
You’ll see that the rating reflects this worry. Whilst this is an excellent comic and continues one of the most compelling, exciting and outreaching Spider-Man stories in some time, the elements of clean storytelling are lost a little.