Over the past few weeks Miles Warren/The Jackal has returned and set loose a swarm of genetically enhanced bedbugs on New York! Everyone has spider-powers (apart from Mary-Jane Watson)!
The Jackal, working for a mysterious spider-telepath and flanked by Spider-King/Captain America and Tarantula/Kaine, organises all the criminals with spider-powers to run riot in Bryant Park. Superheroes are joined by good mannered spider-powered New Yorkers and the riot is stopped but it is now up to the heroes to quarantine Manhattan!
Meanwhile, Horizon Labs and the FF’s Reed Richards search for a cure and The Jackal embarks on another element of the plot and fills Spider-King with thousands of spider-embryos!
Peter Parker and Carlie Cooper investigate the infestation and all clues lead to The Jackal. With the spider-powered Carlie taking charge, she and Peter visit an old Jackal hideout… but they are not alone!
Spider-powered Scorcher, White Rabbit and Chance leap down and (under the orders of The Jackal) attack Peter Parker and Carlie Cooper! Peter and Carlie try to just web them up but White Rabbit gets a kick in on Carlie which causes Peter to act! He uses his Kung Fu training to take the villains out in seconds, impressing Carlie no end! As he webs them up, she questions where those moves came from. All Peter can think to say is that Spider-Fu may be one of the powers he’s been given! Carlie lifts the villains above her head and suggests that her and Peter have a chat with Spider-Man about The Jackal!
A security camera feeds all of this back to The Jackal’s lair where he directs Tarantula/Kaine to study Peter’s new moves. Jackal speaks with his mysterious employer, explaining that their plan to infect another city is fully underway!
At Project Rebirth, Venom/Flash Thompson battles Spider-King/Captain America as his team become desperate to find a way of containing the thousands of infected spiders that Spider-King delivered! (See Venom #6 & 7)
In Times Square, the Anti-Spider Squad try to direct everyone who hasn’t been infected with spider-powers to Horizon labs for the vaccine. They give up though as Mary-Jane Watson seems to be the only normal person left!
Meanwhile, Luke Cage leads a squad against people trying to get into Manhattan via the Holland Tunnel and Iron Man and Red Hulk struggle to stop people leaving the island.
Mayor J. Jonah Jameson and his entourage arrive at Horizon Labs and demand a solution to the infestation! Max Modell shows him a spider-sense jammer (based on Peter’s device from Amazing #654) that will create a psychic barrier to stop the infested leaving Manhattan. Reed Richards enters the discussion and reveals the source of the infection – genetically modified bedbugs! The virus they were carrying has mutated, is now airborne and is designed to target normal human DNA so mutants and super-heroes are immune. To combat this, Reed plans to give everyone in New York a low-level super power (compass power – they’ll know which way north is!) as a vaccination. He prepares to give JJJ the vaccine but a scan reveals he has already been infected!
Anti-Venom/Eddie Brock continues to heal spider-powered people in Herald Square but they aren’t accepting of his treatment! Madame Web/Julia Carpenter watches above but collapses, struggling with the amount of spiders now entering the web of life! She can no longer see the future… She needs her champion!
At the 18th Precinct, Carlie finds Spider-Man on the roof. Spidey explains that Peter just left but she’s not convinced, wondering what would happen if she forensically compared the bite marks on Peter and Spidey’s sandwiches… Spidey inwardly panics! Isn’t Doctor Strange’s spell working on Carlie? She tries to call Peter but his phone is busy. Spidey isn’t comfortable with where this is going but luckily he picks up a bank robbery on his police band and swings off. Carlie follows.
They arrive on the scene to find the Anti-Spider Squad under attack from a six-armed Shocker! Shocker fires his gauntlets at both of them but they are quick to realise that Shocker hasn’t done this to himself! He unmasks and reveals that he’s got six eyes! Carlie suddenly screams so Spidey rushes to her in case she’s hurt! She looks up at him as she begins to turn into a spider!
The metamorphosis has begun and everyone infected has now become the children of The Jackal’s mystery employer. They are her colony and her kingdom… and she is their Queen! She’s back!
For me, the three most intriguing aspects of this issue are three women. Carlie, The Queen and MJ.
Dan Slott writes Carlie Cooper the way MJ should always have been written – suspicious, intelligent and cheeky. Under his watchful eye and a clever amount of intrigue surrounding the secret identity issue, Carlie is likeable, complicated and keeping everyone guessing. If one of the points of Spider-Island is to get Carlie out of her shell, to empower her and give her personality, then Slott is winning and delivering a satisfying direction for the character. His back-and-forth dialogue, particularly the rooftop conversation, gives Carlie all of the cards – Peter and readers want to know what she knows and, as an intelligent woman, she must know something!
The Queen’s re-immergence makes perfect sense. Re-read Paul Jenkins’ Changes arc (Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 #15-20) and you can see her want to infect other to create her own world of spiders, mental abilities, target of Spider-Man and issues with Captain America. There are several aspects of her involvement that still intrigue me but I’m glad that Slott’s brought her back and made her the threat she should have been.
And then there’s MJ. Clever hint-dropping and future covers suggest the major part she has to play in all of this. Having not been infected, MJ must have some powers and thus she finds a new place post One Moment In Time. Again, increasing the intrigue levels, Slott creates more questions that I’m dying to have answers to.
The artistic consistency of this arc settles a bit here. There’s an understandable mix of detail but Humberto Ramos plays all of this to his advantage, turning out panels with detail when necessary and panels with slightly less detail when the perspective is further away. As I’ve said before, there’s no cop out panels. Everything is busy yet clear. He excels during the action sequences, scenes with Carlie and Spidey, and scenes where he needs to deliver shots of New York. That’s most of the issue actually so let’s just take it as read that there’s a lot of excelling going on!
Once again, subplot upon subplot are explored but never enough to draw the focus away from the main storyline. I have a feeling that the tone of the arc may change with this new transformation occurring but the reference to mini-series, one-shots and tie-ins to Spider-Island, so excellently done so far, will continue to add another level of storytelling and enjoyable context.
This cramming of scenes and characters once again has a negative effect on the natural reading order of things. Things are better than last issue until we cut to Anti-Venom mid-page and then 18th Precinct mid-page. I recognise that Slott tries to tie these scene changes in with crossover narrative boxes but still.
Spider-Island continues with pace, precision and pretty clear storytelling. Something tells me the fun factor is about to be sapped out of this though - things, quite rightly, are getting serious!