Amazing Fantasy (Vol. 2) #6

Background

Well Anya's been through the desert on a horse with no name (so to speak) and her Spider-powers are now well and truly awakened. She can cover most of herself with a stylish sky-blue carapace and leap about and hit things like... well, like Spider-Man, really. Now she, Miguel, Ted and Nina are back in New York and ready to take on the Sisterhood of the Wasp. But first, her dad wants a word with Miguel... can you stand the excitement?

Story 'Becoming'

  Amazing Fantasy (Vol. 2) #6
Arc: Part 6 of 'Heart of the Spider' (1-2-3-4-5-6)
Articles: Arana

Ted and Nina are parked at a freight yard in Queens. Ted has led them to this place not to spend time alone with Nina, but because he has a lead on the whereabouts of the Sisterhood of the Wasp. He breaks through their security with his laptop and discovers very bad news. They need Miguel and Anya, who are otherwise engaged.

In Brooklyn, Anya's father is interrogating Miguel over what sort of 'work' he has lined up for Anya. Miguel is bluffing as best he can, but Gil is like an unstoppable traction engine filled with fatherly concern. Miguel eventually placates him by praising Anya, and agreeing that she won't be encouraged to do anything she doesn't want to. With a handshake, Anya's future is decided while she been sitting between the pair, utterly ignored by both of them.

In the car on the way back to Webcorps, Anya reveals how much she loves her father (if the reader hadn't guessed that by now). At their destination, a skateboarding Ted tells Miguel that he and Nina discovered a new nest of Wasps that might contain their Chosen One. They need to get on to this quickly, but not until Anya has had her fitting.

It seems that the most important thing is for Anya to look the part of the Hunter. She needs new clothes (i.e. a super-hero costume) and Webcorps are going to oblige. Anya is less than enthused by the prospect: "I'm a freak, I don't have to dress like one."

Next we have a two-page spread of Anya trying on various costumes, including Supergirl, the Invisible Woman, Magneto, Spider-Man, the Bride form Kill Bill, Sailor Moon, Wonder Woman and a giant rabbit costume. Anya in a rabbit costume? Someone has definitely been watching too much Buffy. In the end, Anya ditches the lot and decides to get her own costume. She contacts Lynn and the pair head to the nearest mall.

While Anya is doing this, Nina, Ted and Miguel are coordinating the plan of attack on the Wasps' Nest. They don't want to be overwhelmed by drones and slapped on the wrist by Sanderson like last time. The scene cuts between a frivolous Anya shopping - "I need more gadgets!" - and the other members of the cast doing the real work. Ted is calculating the exact time of the "ceremony", and the Sisterhood are planning for their Initiate so the good guys can arrive at just the right moment and scupper their chances. If they are successful, then the Wasps cannot try and replace their Chosen for a full year.

Nina predicts that if they can pull this off, they will have an extra year to train up Anya, and then the Wasps will have nothing that can touch them. Miguel warns her not to underestimate the Wasps' mage, Vincent. Ted is certainly scared of Vincent, but Miguel believes that he is a match for him.

Miguel intercepts Anya at the mall just after she has found the perfect outfit. She has to abandon Lynn, and apologises to her friend as she and Miguel go to work. Soon they are at the freight yard, and Anya is wearing the same outfit she wore in the desert. Interestingly, she is also wearing her mother's locket. At no point have we seen her get this back. This may be a plot point or simply a mistake, but it's worth bearing in mind.

Miguel has explained the mission and tells Anya that he needs her to call forth the Hunter this evening. She hasn't tried this since the desert (which was several days ago). Anya says that she is not sure she wants to call on her powers - she doesn't want to break the law and get a criminal record. She asks Miguel if what they are doing is legal. All he says is that he will protect her.

The mage Vincent dresses like Miguel, but all in white. He is in a caboose standing over a giant green wasp's egg. "Source of all chaos," he chants, "I swear myself to thee. Gather in my hand, I pledge myself to your power..." As all this is going on, Anya arrives outside. The well-dressed drones who are protecting Vincent attack her, but Anya calls on the Hunter and her carapace flows over her body. It looks a little different this time, as she has left space for her mouth and hair. She looks a little less alien. She then proceeds to beat the drones into unconsciousness.

One of the drones rushes to warn Vincent what is happening. He is unconcerned as there is a magical barrier around his caboose. This drone is actually the thug with walrus tusks stuck to his cheeks from the first issue, so evidently he and his companions were simply banished rather than destroyed by the magical explosion. It's good to know these things.

But Miguel is on the ball and out looking for the focus to Vincent's magical barrier. Anya rushes to confront Vincent, and is horrified that there is a person moving in the egg-like sack Vincent was chanting over. However, when she tries to enter the caboose, she is repelled. Then Miguel turns up, and casts a spell destroying the caboose. Vincent is gone. It seems the egg has been destroyed and the spider society has won the battle. Anya celebrates.

Miguel tells Anya that he could not have done it without her, that since the night he healed her of the knife-wound she has become the source of his power, and her strength has become his strength. However, as Miguel picks the remains of the egg from the floor of the caboose, he seems less certain about something.

Back at home in Brooklyn, Anya is on the phone to Lynn. She apologises for leaving her at the mall and invites her over. While on the phone she is tinkering with some of those "gadgets" she bought in the mall. They are discs about the size of Anya's palm and have eight red legs that seem to be able to remotely grip objects. Anya swings one around on the end of a cord. "Who needs a costume when you got damage dealers like this?" she asks, smashing a lamp stand.

The next scene is a pin up of Anya in what passes for her costume (she is wearing her yellow specs). She is using this modified gizmo she picked up in the mall and swinging from rooftop to rooftop. She seems to be having the time of her life.

General Comments

Thus ends the first story arc. Before I review the issue, I'd like to pause to set Amazing Fantasy in the context of the real world. This comic is in trouble. Issue one debuted at number 21 in the Diamond Comics Top 300. By issue six it had dropped to position 90 and shed over 60% of its readers. This issue sold just under 24,000 copies. That is over a thousand less than Emma Frost - a title that Marvel has already cancelled.

This is not natural wastage. Readers are leaving this comic in droves because it is not good enough. The market is saturated with titles at the moment. For a comic to succeed, it has to stand out from the crowd. But this title is not outstanding in any way, except perhaps in its stunning blandness.

Now Marvel sees this is a problem. Both Amazing Fantasy and Araña herself are being reinvented next issue. For all intents and purposes, Marvel are starting again, and hopefully the result will be better. I have been laying the blame at the feet of Fiona Avery in these reviews, but it's unfair to solely blame her. As I said in my review for issue #1, this series was a coldly calculated marketing manoeuvre, and it shows. We need to get away from making it hip and appealing to ethnic minorities and get on with telling a good story featuring believable characters.

So what about this issue? The closing fight scene with the Sisterhood of the Wasp seemed rather rushed and it wasn't very clear what Miguel did, or where Vincent went or even how our heroes stopped the initiation of the Sisterhood's chosen one. The art wasn't unclear so much as we seem to be lacking a good page of the action. Over six issues, I would have thought the story could have been paced to allow more time for the finale.

However, this issue did have the comic's first genuinely amusing sequence. The pages where Anya is trying on all the costumes is funny. "Which one of you has issues?" she demands while dressed as school-girl Sailor Moon, and (my personal favourite) "You guys know I'm only fifteen, right?" said as a revealing Wonder Woman with a coil of rope in her hand.

The actual story remains interesting, and leaves us with many questions. Pedantic ones, like why do the drones of the Sisterhood of the Wasp dress like Men in Black? But also genuine ones, such as what is the origin of the conflict between the Spider Society and the Sisterhood of the Wasp? It's obviously not as cut and dried as Anya has been led to believe. I want to know the truth.

These are elements that the plot will undoubtedly get to eventually, along with the whole origin of Webcorps and the Ezekiel connection, but there are other pseudo-subplots I thought more would be made of. Gil Corazon's work with fellow investigative reporter Dan Stevens would be worth exploring. The concept of the 'regulars' was raised, ignored and then promptly forgotten. I don't think these small things should be left dangling.

But it is characterisation that we really have to work on. In this issue Anya said she had second thoughts about becoming the Hunter. I thought for a moment it was because last time she became the Hunter she was responsible for a blood bath, but no, it was because she was fearful of getting a criminal record. This naivete on Anya's part is not convincing and not consistent with the way she bamboozled Sanderson in issue #3.

Overall Rating

I want to like this comic, I really do. The story elements are there, the players are there, but none of it is coming together. It's like a jigsaw with a fistful of pieces missing. You can see what it should look like, but you can't get the full effect. Still unambitious, still mediocre. Still three webs.

Footnote

For the record this is the last issue of Amazing Fantasy featuring Araña. From the next issue Amazing Fantasy is being re-invented as a book showcasing new characters prior to launching them in their own series. In keeping with this ethic, Anya gets her own book, entitled Araña: Heart of the Spider and I will be reviewing that next month.

The next issue of Amazing Fantasy features the a brand new Scorpion. This Scorpion will have no connection to Mac Gargan, and in keeping with Marvel's current crop of new characters will be a teenage girl. As there is no link between this new character and Spider-Man, we won't continue to review Amazing Fantasy on this site. At least for the time being.