Arana #5

Background

After an encounter with a friendly neighbourhood superhero of our acquaintance, Araña saw that she would gain nothing by running away from her problems. With great power comes great responsibility after all. For Anya is the Hunter, and the Hunter seizes the initiative. This she did, and almost killed Amun in the process. Fortunately, Ted was there to talk her down. Now, Anya returns to Webcorps and the bedside of the stricken Miguel...

Story Details

  Arana #5
Arc: Part 5 of 'In the Beginning' (1-2-3-4-5-6)
Articles: Arana

The issue opens with Anya back at Webcorps and rushing to Miguel's hospital bedside. We see Nina keeping a vigil at Miguel's bedside. Ted says that she's been there every night since Miguel's stabbing. Ted leads the fatigued Nina away and Anya sits down beside her mage.

She places her mother's locket around Miguel's neck. The mystical connection between the two of them is restored and Miguel finally regains consciousness. An hour or so later, Miguel is stronger and Anya has filled him in on everything that has happened including the fact that Amun knows who she is. Taking full advantage of the fact Miguel can't go anywhere, Anya demands to know all there is to know about Webcorps. He begins the tale and we cut across town to Amun.

The assassin is on the roof of his apartment practicing his knife-throwing skills. Vincent appears and Amun tries to prove what a mistake sneaking up on him is by putting a blade to the wizard's throat. Vincent calmly freezes Amun's arms with a spell. Vincent releases Amun as he explains the Sisterhood of the Wasp are pleased with his work so far, but they expect even more from him.

"In two weeks time we're gathering powerful houses of the underworld for a summit," says Vincent, "I want you to protect any syndicates we invite." Vincent censures Amun for his past activities (presumably a reference to him picking a fight with Anya last issue). He tells him not to act like a child - that the Sisterhood of the Wasp is one of the oldest crime syndicates in the world. Amun says that he knows that, he also knows the Spider Society goes back just as far and is equally powerful. Vincent isn't impressed with Amun's knowledge, and Amun goads him into revealing more about the history of the Sisterhood of the Wasp.

We are now treated to a nice bit of parallel storytelling as Vincent and Miguel both fill their charges in on the history of their organisations: a history that is utterly entwined. The organisation that would eventually split into Wasps and Spiders was born in Castile in 1099 AD. They were a group of warriors and scholars who gained access to arcane power and "totemic resources" from ancient Arabian texts. Initially they were a benevolent group, that protected their country from the "shadow consuming the holy lands."

The Spider-Society were crusaders, but the Wasps took a different view of power: a long term view. The two sides fought and became two separate entities. Despite the best efforts of the Spiders, the Wasps have been hiding in the shadows for centuries, slowly manipulating things toward their true goal.

Anya questions why this fight is her destiny. Miguel explains that Anya's mother was a Hunter as well. They were both descended from Benicio De Corazon who served as the Hunter from 1095 (Anya saw his portrait at Webcorps back in Amazing Fantasy #4). Anya tells Miguel that her mother's spirit appeared to her during her desert trials, and for the first time she believes that this was not an hallucination. This gives Anya a new perspective on what has transpired since she met Miguel and all the stupid chances she has taken. She realises that she is fighting to save the world.

But Anya can't continue to fight the good fight with her tattoo exposed for everyone to see. Miguel dims the Mark of the Hunter to make it invisible and drifts off to sleep. Anya watches over him during the night and sneaks back home at 5:00am.

At school the following day, Anya encounters her friend Lynn who has a large bunch of flowers she is planning to take to Jon (aka Amun). It seems that Amun wasn't in school yesterday and Lynn wants to use the opportunity to get in some serious wooing. The pair arrive at Amun's apartment. Lynn rings the bell, but Anya won't leave her friend as she obviously knows what Amun is.

Amun is taken completely by surprise. He sees that Anya is with Lynn and part of him is still intimidated by Araña. Lynn wants to come in, but the apartment is littered with weapons and other accoutrements that your average teen assassin picks up on his travels. Amun thinks fast and says he will go out with them. Anya proposes a trip to a nearby coffee shop. Amun is confused as he is swept away by the predatory Lynn, and Anya begins to think that he is getting his just deserts.

In the coffee shop, Amun looks thoroughly bored by the proceedings. However, in the background two men begin to argue over a woman. Angry words are exchanged and a glass is thrown that strikes Anya in the back of her head. Fortunately, her carapace reacted to the danger before Anya even knew about it, and subtly absorbed the impact. Amun sits back. He quite enjoys seeing Anya smacked in the back of the head.

One of the men draws a gun on the other. Anya sees that she has to intervene and kicks the gunman's legs away so that his shot goes wild. The gunman is wild with rage. Everyone in the bar tries to run. Lynn is confused. Anya grabs her and pulls her to the floor as the gunman sprays the area around them wildly. Amun is still sitting in his seat calmly watching things unfold as Anya wonders how she is going to get out of this without giving away her secret identity.

General Comments

Well, we finally have the origin of the Spider Society, and I have to say that I'm utterly underwhelmed. Their beginnings are in the Crusades? What have the Crusades got to do with anything? In the pages of this comic, Amazing Fantasy and Amazing Spider-Man, Webcorps has been shown as having close links with South America, not the Middle East. The whole totemic animal plot doesn't strike me as particularly Arabian.

And the Spider-Society are pictured as the good guys because they continued to be crusaders while the Sisterhood of the Wasp presumably tried to accrue power more subtly? Considering quite how bloody the Crusades were and quite how many atrocities the Christian knights were responsible for, this is nothing short of a load of old rubbish. And an annoying load of old rubbish at that.

The motivations of the Sisterhood of the Wasp don't even make sense! Wasps and Spiders fought over the "meaning of true power"- well what on Earth does that mean? What do the Wasps actually want? If the Spiders are fighting to save the world, then are the Wasps trying to destroy it? If so, why do they want to do that? This explains nothing, which would be all well and good if I didn't think Avery thought that it explained everything.

Anya's train of thought is also remarkably dodgy here: 'my mother and I are descended from an ancient Hunter, my mother appeared to me as a ghost, I've done some foolish things and seen some weird stuff over the last couple of weeks, ergo, it is my destiny to save the world'. What sort of motivation is that? 'I failed to stop the man who went on to kill my uncle' - that is clear understandable motivation, this is vague to the point of incomprehension.

Let us not forget the utterly avoidable continuity blunders. Ted says that Nina has been watching over Miguel every night since he was brought in. This is a nice touch and tells us something about Nina's affection for the mage - a shame it doesn't make any sense. Miguel's only been in the hospital for a day and a half! Anya ran away the night Miguel was stabbed, the following night she met Spider-Man and the very next morning she came to Webcorps. Nina's dedication doesn't look as impressive now, does it?

My next problem is with Anya's Hunter ancestor. According to the picture Anya was looking at back in Amazing Fantasy #4, Benicio Del Corazon served as the Hunter of the Spider-Society from 1095 to 1125. However, this very issue established that the gestalt organisation of Spiders and Wasps wasn't formed until 1099! We don't know when the Spider Society proper was formed. This is the sort of slapdash attention to detail that really annoys me about this book. It doesn't take much to remember what you wrote five issues ago, but the creative team evidently can't be bothered.

Oh, and how did Lynn find out where Amun lived? The boy's a highly trained assassin, for Heaven's sake! Does he just give his address out to everyone? Come to thing about it, why was he even in school in the first place? We've never been given a reason for that. Ye gods, the more I think about this, the less sense it makes.

However, the section with Amun, Anya and Lynn in the coffee shop was quite amusing. I think Amun could grow into an interesting character if he became more than a two-dimensional killer. Here, Avery gives him some welcome depth. He is haughty and arrogant but still lets himself be dragged off to a coffee shop by his arch-enemy and her hormonal sidekick. There's comedy here, and the potential for some interesting scenes and stories in the future. However, this is nowhere near enough to save the issue.

Overall Rating

The last two issues of Araña have been really good. This issue doesn't maintain that quality in the slightest, and rapidly sinks to the depths of the opening issue of this series. The scenes between Amun, Anya and Lynn save it from being a total disaster, but it really needs to be better than this. Two webs.