Well, apparently, there’s a thing called Infinity that we’re supposed to be reading. I’m trying not to fall for these Big Events anymore. I bought every tie-in to Spider-Island and the thought of it still makes me wince. If the past is any indication, you won’t need to read the mini-series to follow this story (and vice versa).
A couple of issues ago, I lauded the transformation from Avenging Spider-Man to Superior Spider-Man Team-Up, not realizing that putting “Team-Up” in the title seems to serve as a substitute for actually having much of a team-up. The first sign of trouble is the recap page’s change from actually showing who the team-up leads are to a Daily Bugle facsimile. Actually, that’s the second sign of trouble. The first sign of trouble is a cover showing Spidey but no guest-star. Unless that’s the Beast in the lower right-hand corner, in which case “great,” except that he’s NOT IN THE FREAKING BOOK!!! Ah well. Let’s dive in, shall we?
There’s a bunch of big bulky aliens invading Manhattan because of this “Infinity” thing. Spidey is fighting them alongside Luke Cage (whom he calls “Power Man”…is Cage really going by “Power Man” again?) and Spectrum (who is, apparently, Monica Rambeau, the former Captain Marvel/Photon/Pulsar). And, really, you know, that is the extent of anything resembling a “team-up” in this book. If you read this series for actual team-ups, you can stop right now.
Spidey uses his noodle to deduce that the aliens, having come from different atmospheres and gravitational forces are probably wearing devices to allow them to operate smoothly on Earth. (Or as SpOck puts it, “It stands to reason that the majority of these marauders are from worlds whose gravity, magnetic fields and chemical composition are different from our own. They couldn’t function here without the aid of conversion units and it’s far easier to take out the devices than it is to topple the behemoths beneath.”) He starts ripping these devices off them, causing them to collapse, and making the whole “team-up fight” and “Infinity” portions of the story even more irrelevant.
Meanwhile, at the Cloisters museum, a Medieval Studies undergrad named Sylvia Prell loiters after a friend tells her to evacuate because of the alien invasion. She muses that, “Things were better in the old days, when people lived by the rhythms of the Earth and the passing of the seasons devoting themselves to gentle pursuits…to contemplation and fellowship…to serenity…uninterrupted by the shocks and upheavals of our crude, clamorous brutish era.” (Sylvia, though a Medieval Studies student, has apparently never heard of the Viking raids, the Crusades, the Black Death, the Spanish Inquisition, and so on.) Packing up her stuff, Sylvia heads for the exit, only to find the door locked. She then appears to be engulfed in a green vapor.
There’s a three-panel page with Spidey and Spectrum, just in case you forgot this was a team-up, then back to an exterior shot of the Cloisters, an interior shot with a big floating green egg, and then the apparent explosion of that egg. The trouble with this is that the exterior is not identified as the Cloisters. Anyone unfamiliar with its look might think the scene has shifted to some Medieval castle where Sylvia is materializing in a green egg (if they even identify the egg as the green vapor that surrounded Sylvia) rather than that Sylvia is still in the Cloisters and being transformed by the vapor that surrounded her.
Back to Spidey fighting aliens including a pointless sequence where a bystander gets insulted because Spidey says, “Still your terror, Citizen,” to him. One of SpOck’s spider-bots informs him of “a nonhuman disturbance in Upper Manhattan.” He goes to check it out and finds a scared and disoriented young woman made out of electricity flying here, there, and everywhere. He fends her off thanks to the damper field he is wearing (“Devised for when I deal with my old Sinister Six colleague Electro.”) and then converses with her, finding out that she is our old friend Sylvia transformed by the green vapor. Spidey is fascinated. “I’d very much like to study you,” he says, “but at the moment I have an alien invasion to contend with. How vexing that such a thing should get in the way of scientific inquiry.” He suggests Sylvia “come with me to Times Square, we’ll check in with my fellow Avengers, then I’ll be free to take you to my lab for a thorough examination.” He tells her that her powers may put her “in a position to help forge a better world.” To boost her confidence, he suggests that she take “a new and more fitting name.” (She chooses “Fulmina,” which is “based on the Latin world for lightning.”) Then he informs her that she can probably “hop the power lines and ride the grid to Times Square.” Fulmina does so but finds herself trapped in the Times Square lights, projecting calls for help onto the giant video screens. Soon after, Spidey’s phone rings. It is Fulmina calling. She is “figuring it out” and she tells SpOck that “Here in the grid, it’s all laid out for me…everything. Including my destiny. You were right. I can use my powers to make this a better world. Not a world of brute force and chaos, but a quieter, slower, more contemplative world. A world we haven’t seen in six hundred years.” When Spidey tells her she can’t “roll back the centuries,” she replies “Watch me.” And all of the lights in Times Square explode.
So, what is the story here? A luddite college student, Sylvia, gains powers for some completely unknown reason. SpOck, because of his pomposity, plays right into Sylvia’s perception of the Middle Ages as the ideal time to live, which convinces her to use her powers to try to return us to that “simpler” time, leading to this issue’s explosive conclusion. A simple, albeit sketchy story that nicely mixes Spidey and Sylvia’s characters to dangerous effect. But what does this have to do with a team-up?
To put it another way: Out of 73 total panels in the book, Spidey is only sharing 12 with a guest-star. And “sharing a panel,” is about the barest bones you can have and call it a team-up, unless you want to call “sharing in a big fight” the barest bones of a team-up. No, team-ups are supposed to delve into the characters’ histories and/or personalities and illuminate their similarities and differences. (And, yes, I know that’s what happens with Spidey and Fulmina but introducing a new character does not a team-up make.) The co-stars are not supposed to only fight mutual enemies and say a few words to each other. The guest-stars are not supposed to be interchangeable with just about anyone. Spidey could as easily be fighting alongside Squirrel Girl and Fin Fang Foom for all the difference the story makes here. Let’s hope this is the result of the trickle-down from a Big Event and that it does not become the norm for the series.
Michael Del Mundo’s pencils are nice enough but the real star here is Del Mundo’s colors. He gives the whole issue an earthy tone that reflect the dreariness of a cloudy day (just right for an alien invasion) and blend in the old parchment of Sylvia’s books and the drab garb of the Middle Ages. Fulmina’s electrical form erupts out of this like a bomb, foreshadowing the Times Square explosions on the final full-page.
It’s fairly mediocre stuff and I was going to give it two webs but the more I think about it, the lazier the whole affair seems, in spite of the nice use of SpOck’s pomposity to trigger Fulmina’s actions. Robert Rodi is one of the original Marvel letter-hacks from way back and should know better. I suspect he’s just cashing a paycheck. You’ll notice Chris Yost wiggled his way out of writing a tie-in issue. One and a half webs. Or Spider-Signal heads.
More of this story next time with no real team-up guest-star in sight. Unless it’s Fulmina. Or Thanos.