As one of Marvel’s longest creator runs comes to an end, Dan Slott is taking time to stop and smell the roses with Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42. Will the quiet story centered the classic Spidey supporting cast members be the start of Slott’s big Spidey send-off? Also, the mystery of Kamala Khan’s disappearance in Ms. Marvel #27 thickens! Is the gang any closer to finding out where she might be? Find out in The Marvel Rundown!
*NOTE – Due to a personal matter, my pal and Marvel guru Alexander Jones won’t be joining the Rundown this week. We hope to catch him back for the next one!
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Cory Smith
Colored by Ive Svorcina
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by AJ Frost
With Dan Slott’s run with Spidey coming to a close, there is much to ruminate on. Throughout the course of his tenure with Peter Parker, Slott has equally earned accolades and skepticism from readers. Even with this history in mind, I took to reading this forty-second annual edition of Amazing Spider-Man with an open mind. In truth, I expected to finish reading the book with an attitude of not liking much. Maybe my opinions were pre-formed from some prior reading experiences? Maybe I’m just becoming too jaded from the constant assault on the senses from every super-powered meta-individual of page and screen. In short, I expected to come into this book not liking and leave not liking. What actually happened was much more surprising. While the early pages of the book seemed extremely rote and trite in their construction of evil goons talking in the patois of every cheap gangster movie known to man, the story quickly kicks into gear. It’s a really fun ride.
The bulk of the annual’s story centers on the partnership of Peter and his friend Betty Brandt as they try to get to the bottom of a municipal scandal involving a Revolutionary War memorial statue near City Hall. Thrilling, right? Who doesn’t love city politics? But as Betty delves deeper into the story of the statute (and the non-existent battle it’s meant to commemorate), the closer she comes to uncovering the dark secrets of what exists below New York City. Yes, the underboss moniker is taken quite literally here. On the other side of the coin, Peter’s story seems relegated to more of a supporting role, or maybe more precisely as an arachnid avatar for some deus ex machina moments to save Betty and her allies from the next machination of some mafiosi creep. I may be doing a disservice to the material by explaining all this so plainly. In the course of going through the issue, every beat was thoroughly entertaining while the action moved along at a quick pace.
Slott’s storytelling here… How to best describe it? Holistically, I tried to approach considering the dialogue from an honest place. Who is the audience that will best enjoy? How will they contemplate and internalize it? In the end, I found that, on the whole, this book really pays a great deal of homage to the classic vein of Spider-Man’s corpus of influence. There’s references to his turbulent monetary affairs, quick turns of witty banter, and ever-heightening action. All in all, it’s just your dependable and friendly neighborhood Spider-Man on another adventure.
As for the art, there was something about that simply didn’t jibe with me. That’s not to say that penciller Cory Smith’s art is substandard or anything like that, because it’s not. But the overall aesthetic that the book utilizes here probably just isn’t my scene. Terry Pallot’s inks and Brian Reber’s coloring work are both strong and do much to complement Smith’s art. For readers who enjoy this style of comic art, however, I think there is much contained in here that they will appreciate. As stated before, the action never seems to slow down, and Smith does a good job of conveying Spidey’s sense of speed and dexterity. The art definitely livens up when Spider-Man goes for his big power stances and readers will take away a lot of value from that alone.
Also included in this annual is a back-up story from playwright David Hein and artist Marcus To (colors from Ian Herring). Hein’s contribution is a pleasant, meditative complement to the Slott’s main story, focused more on the interiority of Peter Parker as his goes about a normal day Hein uses this conceit as carefully thought out character study. For even one with great responsibility must deal with the neuroses of having to be beckoned night and day with his titular Spider-Sense. Knowing that this Sense is constantly gnawing at his soul even when he can’t answer it causes a lot of anxiety. And rightly so.
So, what’s the final verdict here? For all my skepticism going into the book, I was quite surprised that I finished it invested in the overall story. I think a STRONG BROWSE is appropriate here. Comics fans should read the book. And with the Dan Slott-era of Spider-Man coming to a close, every new release is an opportunity to examine his work with fresh eyes and open thoughts.
Final VERDICT: Strong Browse
Ms. Marvel #27
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Illustrated by Nico Leon
Colored by Ian Herring
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by AJ Frost
The third part of the “Teenage Wasteland” storyline of Ms. Marvel #27 begins in a small, cramped room. A young man’s eyebrows are furrowed in mean concentration. “You have information. Information I want,” says the man. His vessel for information, a heavy-set over man with gray hair and a bushy mustache leans in purposefully. It’s the set-up to a million-and-one interrogation scenes. Finally, the older man replies, “Is this one of those prank shows? Is this the MTV?” It’s all a joke… Or is it? Well, yeah. But it has a purpose! As of late, writer G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel has been exploring the circle of friends that surround the Jersey City-based hero to great effect.
Two issues ago, Wilson introduced Naftali, a yeshiva student and friend of Kamala’s whose sole character purpose so far has been to uncover her whereabouts. For me, every scene that Naftali appears in (which tragically have been too short) has been comedic gold. He’s an odd character for sure, but his brief appearances in these issues are always a highlight. And, to be sure, the larger story of Kamala’s circle of friends banding together to team up as Marvels in their own right continues to blossom.
As always, Willow does an excellent job crafting a thrilling and dynamic story with lots of heart right at the center. The central action piece of the issue—the crew of Mike, Nakia, Zoe, and Gabe, along with the mystifying Red Dagger fighting the tortoise monster concocted by the Inventor—is a heart-pounding sequence. Artist Nico Leon does an admirable job of ensuring that all the action is easy to follow and clear. Indeed, there was never a moment where I tried to discern which character was which. Add to top it all off, the issue ends with a juicy cliffhanger that I can’t wait to see actualized in the next part of the story.
VERDICT: This is a BUY. Ms. Marvel continues to be one of the most fun and enjoyable reading experiences on the comics scene today.
Join us next week for another edition of The Marvel Rundown!