Marvel always has huge storylines in development and this week the publisher happens to be wrapping up Monsters Unleashed, their latest crossover. We’re going to take a look at the fallout from the big story and cover a brand new chapter in the life of Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man #25.
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Stuart Immonen
Inks: Wade Von Grawbadger
Colors: Marte Gracia
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewer: AJ Frost
“Sometimes being Spider-Man is fun. Silly. Even weird. And sometimes it hurts.” It’s an odd line to place in the middle what is objectively supposed to be an adventurous romp through fictional nations while people in costumes scheme to beat each to a pulp all in the name of good vs. evil. This moment is a comic hero at his most solipsistic; this is the medium at it’s most meta. The concept of Spider-Man is ludicrous of course, but that doesn’t mean we can’t feel empathy with Peter Parker or his pen and ink travails. As fans invested in decades of his growth, evolution, and reinvention, anything that happens in these pages is made more apparent when something feels amiss.
While it would be nice to say that the entire book contains this sort of metaphysical weight, in truth, this is a meandering, packed-to-the-gills, and gauzy installment of the tales of favorite web-slinger. If there is something exceptional about Amazing Spider-Man #25 is that in contains so much content that readers should be able to find something of value in its pages, even if the whole cannot live up to the padded bonus length.
In a nutshell, the push of this comic’s main storyline “The Osborn Identity”— written by Dan Slott and drawn by the always fabulous Stuart Immonen—is Peter’s quest to uncover the whereabouts of his archenemy, Norman Osborn. This is Spider-Man at his most James Bond-ish (or perhaps Bruce Wayne…shhhh!), with Mockingbird in tow to serve as his female counterpart and scold. And while it’s amusing to ponder the thought of Peter with oodles of cash at his disposal (there is a line about Peter owning two private jets), knowing that he was usually a struggling kid just trying to make ends meet zaps some of the narrative tension away. But then again, this is the first part of a multi-issue arc, so the fact that seems to be loath to jumping around in mood and tone makes sense.
Speaking of moods and tones, this issue is more reflective of a collection of stories than a single overarching story. (The $9.99 retail price should be self-evident proof of this.) Like anything, some of the stories stack against each other well. I actually enjoyed one of the lighter backup stories: The A-May-Zing Spider-Aunt, which has a zany cartoon style courtesy of Cale Atkinson. I feel that most readers won’t dig this little story, but I’m a sucker for that style of comics art. I think for some of the other stories… let’s say, thanks for trying, but maybe we don’t try that kinda thing again.
So, what else is there? This is an ambitious if uneven, attempt to showcase the many facets of Spider-Man. A gluttonous issue of a monthly comic if there ever was one, Amazing Spider-Man #25 is something that I feel that only the most hardcore of followers of Spider-Man will treasure, though I can already see its potential as an essential component of a likely paperback trade edition.
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Adam Kubert
Colors: David Curiel and Michael Garland
Letters: VC’s Travis Lanham
Reviewer: Alexander Jones
I believe the intentions behind Monsters Unleashed are a little more pure and less cynical than big events can be at times. I also believe that writer Cullen Bunn was trying to bring together a large scale event narrative and let a bunch of huge artists tell a story with big Monsters and high-octane fun, but when the art is lacking and the story stitching together these narratives is falling apart at the seams, Monsters Unleashed begins to outstay its welcome in the final installment of the mini-series. While this story was never supposed to be a huge event with consequences for the full Marvel Universe, I can’t help but wonder why the story wasn’t paired down in this series made to be more focused. Having the entire conflict center around a new Inhuman may not have been the best approach for this series.
I’m not sure how much time artist Adam Kubert had to draw this issue, but the anatomy on several characters in this story leaves something to be desired. Newcomer Kei Kawade in particular has more than one bizarre, distorted facial expression joining the likes of Moon Girl’s elongated neck and Elsa Bloodstone’s narrow torso. The monsters in this issue are very detailed but the level of craft seems to be lacking in this big-budget Marvel crossover event. Kubert may not have had enough lead time on this book but seeing pencils with technical hiccups in a huge crossover is disappointing to say the least.
The mythology built around his event with talk of summoners and small children is more than a little silly. Bunn hasn’t quite invested enough time to really instill lead Kei Kawade into the Marvel Universe just yet. Kei Kawade sticks out among his contemporaries like a sore thumb as there isn’t quite enough about him to make him stand out in a crowded Marvel Universe. Kawade’s razor-thin characterization and motivations are but one flaw in this series that has had some noticeable trouble with finding ways for the full Marvel Universe to interact with the story.
There are several Marvel heroes that have been able to act like the muscle of the series, but seeing Elsa Bloodstone only related to Kawade because of her monster-hunting background feels like another relationship about this series that doesn’t cut deeper than surface level character dynamics. After this mini has finished, Bunn gives readers the impression that Kawade is supposed to feel some sort of bond with the Marvel Universe after he helped saved the day but that is yet another aspect of this series that feels more forced than it should.
Trying to analyze where Monsters Unleashed went wrong is tough…maybe the story wasn’t focused enough? Maybe the characters aren’t as interesting as they should be? Maybe there’s one too many artists on the series, causing Monsters Unleashed to lack the visual consistency for the series. While this crossover did have the best of intentions a few monster fights and a charming new character doesn’t automatically produce a good story. Thankfully the future of Marvel still looks bright (or should I say bleak) with Secret Empire coming right around the corner.
Final Verdict: Pass. Monsters Unleashed stumbles at the finish line with an uninspired storyline