Spider-Man Unlimited #21

 Posted: 2004


A Daily Bugle assignment has sent Peter and Betty Brant (Leeds?) to a village in the Swiss Alps. There, they plan to meet Dr. Walston Kraft, a scientist who intends to ban the <ahem> cloning of humans. Also, the Frankenstein Monster is in town, back from "wandering the countryside."

Story 'A Real Boy'

Although I have to admit Mr. Golden writes a decent story, I also have to admit that this story doesn't belong in a Spider-Man title. At least it was safely confined to UNLIMITED, far away from the core books. Not to say this story was bad--this time it was actually good--but there's a reason NIGHTSTALKERS was canned. Of course, you could argue that it's not so bad for UNLIMITED to be a little off the beaten path of the core books, since we do have four of them.

Frankenstein's Monster. My first thought was, "What's up with that? First vampire detectives and zombies, and now this?" That was my first thought. My second (after seeing the first two pages) was, "Cool." I couldn't help liking the finished black-and-white art. It gave a sort of SHADOWS AND LIGHT feel to the story, which unfortunately became full-color on page three. Being a story about monsters, it might have been interesting for the whole issue to have been B&W, but then Marvel would have had to lower the price. Christopher Golden's style fit the monochrome art like a glove, anyway, from the first seven words. Did I mention clichés last time?

I confess I didn't expect much from this issue after reading that it would contain Frakenstein's Monster, clones, and a guest penciller, but I think the last issue just left a bad taste in my mouth. I did predict Golden could write an excellent Spider-Man story, which he does here chiefly because of the connection made at the end between the Monster and Peter. It made all the difference. That is, Lilith and Hannibal King had little in common with Peter or Spider-Man, and the story suffered for it.

This time out, Golden tells a fine tale about just what you'd expect: what it means to be human, and what it means to be a monster. The Monster himself was all right; having neither read the novel nor seen any movie version, I can't comment on Golden's handling of it. I took at face value his assertion that Mary Shelley herself had been told the story of Frankenstein, assuming that either it was true, and Golden was showing off that he had done his homework, or that it was false, and Golden just made the claim to bridge some of the gap between that literary creation and this one. It gets a little hairy when established characters from prose literature are used or referred to in comics. Witness SHADOWS AND LIGHT #2, in which Spider-Man (in an otherwise solid story by Marc Andreyko) says, "I'm late, I'm late...for a very important date!" and attributes the quotation to the March Hare, instead of to the White Rabbit. When J.M. DeMatteis and James Robinson each touched Carroll, they did their homework!

The clone issue was treated expertly. The first few times clones were mentioned, it was done with a nudge and a wink, but as the story progressed, Golden mixed in real-life concern, and later, morals. What's the moral of the story? Just that good and evil come in many forms. And no matter how bad you think you have it, someone else has it worse. If you never thought you would read a good clone story, read this one. Sure, Golden borrows here and there, but he borrows well, and in a sense, he gives something in return.

As much as I like Joe Bennett, I thought Mike Deodato's work this issue was equally good, perhaps in keeping with the idea I mentioned above about it being good to have a little variety, especially in a book like UNLIMITED. Much of the art is blanketed in well-defined shadows, which look much better in black-and-white, as on Jonah's face on page two. His rendition of Betty is welcome, for one thing. Speaking of Betty, her relationship with Peter is also handled expertly; being only a minor part of the story, it is given accordingly only as much attention as it deserves, which is almost just a passing mention. Peter spends a moment (as any guy in his position would) admiring Betty's appearance, and although his being married might make some people condemn him, his previous romantic involvement with her, in my opinion, makes it only natural. I suppose you would call this sexual tension, but Golden is careful not to overdo it, since he knows that there really is no such tension between them, and that to fabricate it would be frankly stupid.

My only complaints about this issue are small ones (comes from being a member of The Nitpickers Guild): Peter investigates at night in a black bodysuit, because he doesn't want anyone seeing Spider-Man, yet he goes with nothing to conceal his face. Surely, someone seeing Peter Parker crawling up a wall would be just as dangerous to him! A paper bag would have done the trick (as it has on more than one occasion), and he doubtless had other, better material to work with. My second complaint concerns the dialogue. When the Monster begins to fight with a hunchback named Ivan, Peter says, "Back off, Quasimodo!" It's meant as a joke, but it comes off like a slur. He knows the guy's name--he's told it in the story--yet he opts for the low blow. I suppose the name-calling could have been from force of habit, from his ragging on his enemies, but I think "Back off, Ivan!" would have been a better choice of words. My last complaint is that the panels are poorly laid out in one of the full-page spreads, making the story flow difficult to follow. These complaints are by no means reasons not to buy this issue; I don't have any of those. They're just observations I feel obligated to make, after giving out so much praise.

General Comments

This was a great issue of UNLIMITED, with a solid creative team. I would only recommend against buying this book if you have some kind of deep-seated resentment for anything with Frankenstein's Monster in it, and even then, I don't know how faithful Christopher Golden was to the character, so that might not even be a valid reason against picking it up. Golden and Deodato definitely deserve a chance; if you were disenchanted with last issue, don't take it as a sign that this one should be missed.

Overall Rating

4.0 Webs

 Posted: 2004