Arana #9

Background

The hunt is on for Felix Jade! Not only is the South American crimelord an honoured guest at the crime conference organised by the Wasps, but he is also the murderer of Anya's mother, Sophia! Fearing that Anya is simply too close to this matter, and expecting that she will do something rash and dangerous Miguel has tied her up and decided to bring down Jade without her. It's all for Anya's own good, of course. Funny, she doesn't see things that way.

Story Details

  Arana #9
Arc: Part 3 of 'Night of the Hunter' (1-2-3-4-5-6)
Articles: Arana

Anya is still trapped in the web of Miguel's making, and not even summoning her chitinous armour gives her the power to break it. Anya reasons that the only chance she has to break free and get a shot at Jade is to call upon the power of the Hunter. She can't understand why the idea of the Hunter freaks everyone out so much, and therefore she opens herself to it. Because Anya's power and Miguel's magic come from the same source, she is able to disrupt the web and escape.

As Nina races to help Miguel, the mage is sharing his misgivings about the whole operation with Ted. Ted confesses he is worried about Nina, but Miguel dismisses these concerns. He thinks Nina knows how much she is valued, and how much he relies on her. Ted mentions that Miguel and Nina have been together since the day "He" died, although exactly who "He" is remains a mystery for the time being. Ted has some sort of electronic gizmo that works with Nina's ear-piece that will somehow help her in the conflict to come.

Meanwhile, on the city streets Vincent's limousine is still being pursued by the police. Vincent calls in Amun to help and then boasts about his magic to Jade, who is becoming an increasingly nervous passenger. Vincent uses his magic to delude the police into thinking they have captured the pair, and the limousine speeds to safety. Jade is very impressed. He'd like Vincent to teach him this magic.

However, all is not well for the bad guys. When Vincent and Jade arrive at the safe-house they discover that Miguel has stupefied all of Jade's men and has the drop of them. Miguel leaps into battle with the pair. Fortunately, Nina arrives just in the nick and races to attack Jade, leaving the mages to their magical duel. Rather reasonably, Jade mistakes Nina for the Spiders' chosen one and the two leap to battle. Nina is wearing Ted's technical doo-hickey that should protect her from Jade's mind control. Meanwhile, Miguel can sense that Araña is approaching.

In the streets of New York, the Hunter is stalking her prey - who in this instance is Amun. She attacks, but he sees her and flees. Araña follows him to the battle, and arrives just in time: Jade has got the better of Nina and is holding a blade to her throat. Araña leaps between the two, for a moment Nina thinks Araña is going to attack her, but she is flung aside and Araña attacks Jade.

This is where Amun earns his pocket money. He rushes to the scene and barrels into Araña, knocking her away from Jade. But although Amun might be a match for Anya, he is no match for the Hunter, and Araña just picks him up and throws him aside. She advances on Jade, and Nina can see blood is going to be spilled. She tries to get Miguel to help, but he is completely caught up in the duel with Vincent.

Miguel manages to extricate himself, just as Amun tangles with Araña again, telling Vincent to get Jade out of harm's way. Vincent summons a swarm of wasps to distract everyone, and Amun succeeds in keeping Araña busy just long enough for Vincent to teleport away with Jade.

Araña is incensed. She won't listen to Miguel and flings him aside. Amun is now her only lead to get to Jade and she races after the retreating assassin. Miguel chases her and manages to talk her down. The flash of her mother's locket around Miguel's neck seems to snap Anya out of the influence of the Hunter. Yet she has let Jade slips through her fingers, and has been unable to avenge her mother.

Miguel says that Vincent dropped a spell sheet when teleported away. Miguel can interpret this to follow Vincent - they will have another chance to get to Jade. Miguel says that they have to work as a team when they do it. He says that the power of the Hunter is so powerful that to use it as Anya did that evening would eventually kill her. It killed the one who had the power before Araña - that is why Miguel is protective of her. He has vowed that it will never happen again. Anya apologises and the two seem ready to face their adversaries together.

General Comments

My word the art is dreadful this month. Seeing more than one inker on a list of credits should give us pause. Seeing more than one penciller should make us very worried indeed. Roger Cruz is a good artist, but we haven't been getting his best work for a couple of months now, and this is by far the worst issue of Araña he's turned in.

Four issues of Araña have shipped in the last eight weeks. This seems to be a desperate attempt on Marvel's part to get the title back on a monthly schedule (the title failed to ship in February, April or July). However, I have to ask why Marvel is doing this. Yes, the title is running late, but would it really matter if Araña shipped ten issues in its first year instead of thirteen? Marvel seem to have a rather blasé attitude to deadlines for messrs Smith, Whedon and Quesada. If NYX #7 can ship this week seventeen months late then surely they can delay this title one month to preserve the quality of the art! It's going to look very off- putting in the trade paperback.

The art smacks of someone who is completely overworked. Not only are the characters rougher and poorly defined, but Cruz is failing to convey the story's narrative particularly well. Exactly what Vincent does to escape the police isn't remotely clear, and in the finale the action switches from the interior of a warehouse to the roof for no readily explicable reason.

But I don't want you to go away thinking the art is entirely to blame for the quality of this issue: the writing is pretty poor as well. After fifteen issues, there are only so many ways that Miguel can fight Vincent, and Anya can attack Amun. Enough with this already! The whole Wasps vrs Spiders thing wasn't very interesting to begin with, and frankly it's starting to bore. This title is in desperate need of some new villains. All the action here feels as though it was cut and pasted from earlier issues.

Once again narrative inconsistencies attack us like a swarm of wasps. Vincent phones Amun to get him to deal with the police, but it's actually Vincent's magic that defeats them, making the whole phone call utterly superfluous. We again see Ted wandering around outside Webcorps with no bodyguard, despite the fact that it was hammered home that he cannot do this without being attacked. And if the Sisterhood of the Wasp have an unending supply of heavies to aid Vincent and Amun, why doesn't Miguel get the same support? According to the art, Miguel and Ted were roaring to the scene in a convoy of armoured trucks. Where did they go? Who was even supposed to be in them? Ted's D&D group?

Which is all a bit of a shame because, from a plot point of view, this issue is fairly important. Miguel says: "My last partner died when he gave the Hunter total control. The Hunter inside eventually killed him." By reading between the lines, we also learn that Nina has been with Miguel since the last Hunter died. It is also apparent that Vincent knows about the nature of the last Hunter's demise and madness because he taunts Miguel with it.

Now, even slightly observant Spider-Fans will have assumed that Miguel's last partner was Ezekiel who died back in Amazing Spider-Man #508. However, I'm not convinced that the way he died is consistent with references made in this issue of Araña. I'll reserve my judgement until I see where Avery is going with this (if anywhere). Frankly, I think this was a plot that should have been dealt with long ago. However, I suspect that any further revelations about Ezekiel is going to be left to the main Spider-titles in their imminent, The Other crossover.

Although by this stage I am beginning to doubt anyone really cares.

Overall Rating

Rushed art, narrative inconsistencies and a dull plot. Not a great recipe is? The book continues its schizophrenic lurch up and down the ratings. One and a half webs.