This week, Marvel winds Dan Slott’s epic Spider-Man run down with his second-to-last issue on the title, The Amazing Spider-Man #800! Join us as we reflect on the title and the publisher’s milestone issue while taking a look at Marvel’s Lando comic, which ties into the recent Han Solo film.
It’s time for The Marvel Rundown!
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Stuart Immonen, Humberto Ramos, Nick Bradshaw, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Marcos Martin
Inked by Victor Olazaba, Cam Smith, Wade von Grawbadger, Edgar Delgado
Colored by Edgar Delgado, Java Tartaglia, Muntsa Vicente and Marte Gracia
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Jones: Stuart Immonen’s retirement and Dan Slott’s last days on The Amazing Spider-Man are marked by this huge anniversary issue! Joe, what did you think of the massive new milestone entry into Peter Parker’s life?
Joe Grunenwald: Alex, 800 issues of anything is a huge number with a lot of history behind it. The Amazing Spider-Man #800 easily could have buckled under the weight of its own importance, but I thought it did a nice job of honoring the history of what’s come before it while also wrapping up the current storyline and pushing the series forward in a satisfying way. What did you think of it?
Jones: Joe, I was extremely disappointed in this installment. All the pieces seemed to be here, but there was something about this story which dragged. There was a lot of dialogue and smaller scenes bogging the whole thing down. At the end of the day, I think the biggest problem with the entry is the feeling of the been there, done that brand of storytelling Marvel comics has been full of lately. Let’s face it, Norman Osborn becoming a Goblin again is well-tread territory and if you are going to back to the idea, there has to be something about it to really stand out as unique or interesting. This chapter did not give me enough twists and turns to surpass the masterful original Green Goblin story from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko but maybe nothing will–still, I don’t feel this installment even worked well as a companion piece to the story.
Grunenwald: So, full disclosure from me, I check in every now and then but I haven’t read The Amazing Spider-Man regularly since before #600. That said, I didn’t think this comic dragged at all. This is an 80-page comic and I felt it flew by. The Spider-Man stories which have always stuck with me are the ones I read as a kid – “Round Robin: The Sidekick’s Revenge,” “Maximum Carnage” – big, action-heavy stories with huge stakes, and the tone of this installment was so much like one of those stories I couldn’t help but eat it up. This may be the first story I’ve read where Norman Osborn is the Goblin, as Harry wore the mask when I was younger and whenever I checked back in for an extended period of time afterward Norman was nowhere to be seen or was off running around as the Iron Patriot. In my mind, he’s always been Peter’s ultimate foe, and I thought adding the Carnage symbiote to the mix, while super-gimmicky, was also a really fun way to amp up the danger. I don’t know about comparing this story to Lee and Ditko, but I really enjoyed it.
Jones: The intention isn’t to compare the two really but just mention The Amazing Spider-Man #800 is not the first time we have seen the two characters in a situation such as this. We have seen Spider-Man battle a lot of different Goblins over the years and I’m just not sure this was the storyline to make the idea feel fresh and nostalgic again in the right way for me. The big factor changing up the storyline was introducing all of the Symbiotes, but at the end of the day, I don’t think the Symbiotes were enough to keep a storyline this fresh. There are multiple lines of dialogue in here which are too obvious and on-the-nose and there are a couple twists in here I expected to happen a couple chapters ago. The resolution of the story, in particular, is painfully obvious and unsatisfying for me as a fan. As someone who is hugely invested in the Spider-Man mythos, this was not the story to reignite my appreciation for the character. Even the J. Jonah Jameson material seemed like a regression of the interesting character we have seen in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man.
Grunenwald: I have been reading Peter Parker, so it was interesting to me to see how another writer is handling the relationship between Peter and Jonah now that old JJJ knows Spidey’s secret. I agree that Jonah’s actions in this story did feel like a bit of regression for him, but I also found the coda between he and Peter in the cemetery really affecting.
Jones: I want to stay away from the larger spoilers in the issue and let readers get a chance to pick the issue up. However, the final moments here did not work for me in one way or another. A huge plot point I feel did not work at all was Mary Jane’s role in the story. Parker’s relationship with her is not very well defined and putting her life on the line felt particularly strange for me emotionally. Lots of the material with Harry felt silly as well as Osborn has been through this cycle so many times and hasn’t gotten much of the focus in the past couple years. I did feel the artwork was imprecise and fractured with material from Slott spanning from the greatness of Stuart Immonen to the lows of Humberto Ramos. Immonen’s work is particularly solid here and the art undergoes quite the transformation and getting artist Marcos Martin back is an absolute joy for some of the character moments but overall I felt the change in artists was jarring and broke up the flow of the story–what did you think?
Grunenwald: I didn’t have an issue with the shifting artists like it sounds like you did. The way the issue was split up into chapters worked much better for me than if there had been an artist change mid-scene. In general I thought the art was fine, with Martin being a standout – I’m glad they saved the quieter coda and final big splash for him. The other artists on the book were solid, to the point they really didn’t make an impression on me one way or the other. They told the story well, and I didn’t find anything particularly unpleasant about the art, but there wasn’t anything that really made me sit up and take notice, either.
Jones: I guess at the end of the day, I just feel overall this issue is average. There is the typical Marvel problem where I think creators are just retreading the same territory with which was better cultivated elsewhere. I personally found the execution and premise lacking. Over the past couple decades or so, there are really only a handful of creators have gotten Spider-Man right. I hope in the next few years Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s take on the hero there will be more experimental. What did you think of the title as a whole?
Grunenwald: I hear what you’re saying about the issue being average. Having not been immersed in it on a regular basis, I really enjoyed it, but I could see how it could be more of the same for someone reading the series regularly. I’m interested to see in a few months what Spencer and Ottley have in store for the character and the title. As for the issue as a whole, at the end of the day this is a $10 comic, and while I did overall enjoy it, I’m not sure I $10 enjoyed it. I’m calling this one a BROWSE.
Jones: I think bad is probably too harsh for the entry, but mediocre seems like a fair assessment. I would say unless you are heavily invested in The Amazing Spider-Man #800 this comic embodies the attributes to make it a SKIP.
Final Verdict: Joe says BROWSE, Alexander says SKIP!
Written by Rodney Barnes
Illustrated by Paolo Villanelli
Colored by Andres Mossa
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by AJ Frost
Whatever one thinks of Solo, there’s no doubting that one of the most impressive parts of the film was the introduction of Donald Glover as the swashbuckling gambler/raconteur/scoundrel Lando Calrissian. Lando, maybe even more than the nerfherder Han Solo himself, is the personification of cool in the Star Wars mythos. No other character from across the vast galaxy holds the same caché of nonchalant sophistication and spirit as Lando. And while the new film might not be making waves to the level Disney execs might have wanted, there is still enough material from the film to be expanded out for fans to enjoy. Star Wars: Lando – Double Or Nothing #1, while not being groundbreaking—even for a Star Wars comic—does an admirable job of filling out some of the finer points of Lando while never losing sight of the main man’s role in the Star Wars universe.
While Lando has always flirted with the dangerous elements of the galaxy, writer Rodney Barnes crafts a safe story which doesn’t veer too far from the tried-and-true formula for these types of Star Wars tales: the Empire enslaves an entire race from a recalcitrant planet, one survivor attempts to free his or her people, hire a rouge with ambiguous moral (but is usually always good) to defeat the Empire. So is this case here, with Lando being the hired gun by a “crime lord named Kristiss, who is in desperate need for Lando’s smuggling skills and fast ship (some piece of junk called the Millennium Falcon). Can Lando, along with his sassy first mate L3-37, step up to the plate and liberate a people while also getting some scratch on the side to help furnish his many dreams and his ego?
There’s much to admire about this story, while also acknowledging too much of what is here is purely superfluous to the Lando character. One of the major challenges of Star Wars’ reliance on transmedia to build its mythos is that casual fans usually miss out on the nuances of what happens during the films; the comics have been are usually the most fecund outlet for growing out character traits and fan-pleasing world-building. While Lando has always operated on a level of being much more composed and cool than his fellow scofflaws, his descent into extreme full-blown narcissism is frustrating to the point of distraction. On the other hand, the addition of L3 to the Star Wars canon is a welcome one. Her passion for justice and expanding Lando’s sense of empathy is a nice counterbalance.
Paolo Villanelli’s art for the issue in on par with other current Star Wars books on the market. The Lando here is firmly on the Glover side and the outer rims of the galaxy are rendered well, though with nothing particularly memorable sticking out even after a second read. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s bad in any way, because it’s not. Rather, it just doesn’t stick out as unique.
These criticisms aside, Star Wars: Lando – Double Or Nothing #1 does a good job at giving readers a look at a younger Lando while also setting up an exciting mini-adventure. The inclusion of more banter with L3 and a full look at Lando’s hubris make this an issue worth checking out!
Final Verdict: This is a tricky one because while I liked the issue fine, there were some barriers to entry for more casual readers. For this reason, Star Wars: Lando – Double Or Nothing #1 is a STRONG BROWSE. There’s much to like here while also being aware of some of the finer points of the book may be lost on readers not familiar with the larger mythos.
Written by Tom Taylor
Illustrated by Pascal Alixe
Colored by Chris Sotomayor
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
The Marvel Universe is in a constant state of flux especially when it pertains to the X-Men franchise. This week the publisher is exploring this concept in detail via the X-Men Red Annual #1 which takes place between Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey and X-Men Red #1. In a world where the lines of distinction are becoming blurry towards what in the X-Men cannon is an actual story as opposed to what is a nostalgia-trip. So far, X-Men Red has always done a great job carefully navigating the line.
X-Men Red Annual #1 is a particularly amusing fish out of water storyline for someone who is on the inside of the X-Men franchise. Watching Jean Grey acclimate to her life and not have to worry about fighting a greater battle is a massively charming introduction to her life and premise for the story. Readers are treated to a similar story as the publisher previously offered with Phoenix Resurrection but some of the darker elements of the story are quelled. Grey has a couple nice character moments to reflect on all the different status quo shifts of the Marvel Universe. Some changes horrify her while others delight her. Author Tom Taylor finds so many of these moments and has an incredibly sunny disposition when it comes to the writing on the page.
While the storyline and script of X-Men Red Annual #1 are delightful, the artwork is the main drawback of the tale. Pascal Alixe’s stilted expressions and stiff characters are incredibly awkward. Looking at the cast of X-Men devoid of movement makes the issue hard to recommend. The first page of the story also drawn by Alixe shows the artist may not have had enough time to make sure each page in the story was crafted with the same attention to detail. The art seems to get less detailed and even more stiff as the issue progresses until Alixe draws the final horror scene of the issue with an evocative flair for drama.
X-Men Red Annual #1 is also an overall inconsequential tale which does not introduce any new information readers don’t already know. Marvel has too frequently placed a restriction on giving creators not enough plot and too many issues. Also, I’m not sure the X-Men franchise is capable of supporting all the books in the line while retaining a high quality. At the end of the day, if you are an X-Men fan and like Jean Grey or X-Men Red, this is a formidable entry into the title. Seeing the wide-eyed enthusiasm creator Taylor injects into all his scripts make this issue a fun-filled entry into the overall title, just don’t expect the next evolution of the franchise. The core problem with the issue lies in a low ambition and with Alixe’s lack of art detail and stiff, lifeless storytelling.
Next week there’s a whole lot of stuff! The Immortal Hulk, a new Dazzler comic, Doctor Strange, Deadpool and more!