Marvel can’t get away from the milestones! The publisher is doubling-down on the anniversaries this week with Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #300 and you bet we have something to say about it! Plus, the GREATEST Inhuman ever, Lockjaw, is getting his own mini-series and we have thoughts. Time for The Marvel Rundown!

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #300

Written by Chip Zdarsky
Illustrated by Adam KubertGoran Parlov and Juan Frigeri 
Colored by Jason Keith
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham

While Chip Zdarsky’s time with Peter Parker found a definitive high point in the incredible Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #6, the rest of his Spider-Man stories have left me feeling…cold. Zdarsky’s penchant for heavy prose and unambitious plotting has made the much of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man difficult for me to read through each week. No matter how much I respect Zdarsky and Adam Kubert for other Marvel titles or previous Image works, the problems with this title have proven to be a consistent annoyance which simply cannot be ignored. While the idea of a new Sinister Six full of villains from Nick Spencer’s and Steve Lieber’s beloved Superior Foes of Spider-Man mini-series is an engaging plot thread to kick of the story off with, the dull characterization for each villain and the large amount of exposition and dialog end up detracting from the work instead of helping it. Zdarsky’s grand plans for pairing Spidey with characters like Ironheart and the Tinkerer seem good, but those good intentions have not always lead to solid stories. And again, this week, they do not.

One of the definitive problems that has plagued this run from the debut issue has been a lack of stakes. When Spider-Man goes up against the familiar version of the Sinister Six paired with The Tinkerer and a couple Avengers, readers wouldn’t think for a second the hero is in any kind of real trouble. Later on in the story, Zdarsky tries to up the stakes by increasing the scale of the conflict, but the the way the narrative is presented keeps me at arm’s length. The main conflict in the narrative even draws to a close before the issue formally ends, leading me to wonder why this story was so thin. While I do respect and like some of the additional heroes Zdarsky ends up bringing into the title, I wonder why these heroes ended up in this book in the first place.

Adam Kubert and Juan Frigeri turn in solid work throughout the issue. Without a clear understanding of how the division of labor was dispersed through reading the credits, it is difficult for me to praise one artist over the other. Most of the artwork on the series is nimble and polished, clearly articulating what a Spider-Man comic book should have and surpassing some previous talent on the Amazing Spider-Man sister series throughout the years. Some of the scenes with a surprise guest at the end of the issue serve to elevate the work and the slick layouts for some of the Kubert scenes are standouts.

That said, with Peter Parker already starring in his own solo title, it can be difficult for a sister title like this to find a clear sense of identity. And this problem permeates in the artwork as well as the writing of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #300. The book has the right creative team, cast of villains and intentions, but can’t seem to capture some of the greatness implied by its ideas and lacks something new to say about Peter himself. I hope the future will bring more ambition to the Zdarsky-written series which would better complement the dynamic artwork from Kubert and Frigeri.

Final Verdict: SKIPPeter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #300 offers a mildly amusing story but doesn’t bring the substance Marvel readers are looking for.

Lockjaw #1

Written by Daniel Kibblesmith
Penciled by Carlos Villa
Inked by Robert Poggi
Colored by Chris O’Halloran
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles

The single greatest Inhuman in all the Marvel Universe is back and starring in his own solo mini-series. The idea of the premiere canine of the Inhumans getting his time to shine is endearing, but there are a large number of Marvel readers likely to reject any Inhuman line books following the fallout from the failed ABC show and years of Marvel’s attempts to replace the X-Men with the Inhumans. So Lockjaw definitely faces an uphill battle from the start. But how does the first issue itself fare?

Marvel’s premiere canine takes center stage on the issue as the book certainly starts off on the right foot. In fact, the mild amount of time the lead spends interacting with other Inhumans characters is the strongest asset of the issue. Lockjaw plays off the different personalities of each member of the team and is clearly a revered and essential aspect of their lives within the issue. Since this is a story about a teleporting dog, the narrative doesn’t feel beholden to just one location or plot thread. From there, Kibblesmith brings the hero to other locations to meet up with some lesser known heroes, lesser known than even Lockjaw himself. While this idea is certainly endearing, the sense of humor or plotting doesn’t quite make the issue stand out from the pack.

With such a crowded field of comics hitting store shelves each week, it’s more important than ever that comics find a way to stand out. Unfortunately, Lockjaw #1 doesn’t really manage to do that in any way beyond its novel premise– focusing on a dog.  It cannot be argued that the lead is anything but cute and seeing his conversations with average pedestrian brings a sense of whimsy to the title. However, the story in the issue feels largely pedestrian, even with the slight attempts at subverting some of the standard dog story cliches– that is, until the end which teases a wild change in concept and tone for upcoming issues of the series. But it’s not quite enough to really distinguish Lockjaw #1 from the rest of Marvel’s pack.

Carlos Villa’s artwork is fantastic when the artist has a chance to offer his sense of polish to the work. While the scenes with a more casual version of the character later seen came off as rushed or unfinished, almost as if there was a different artist to the story rather than the one listed. For the most part, Villa turns in stellar artwork that is a perfect match for Lockjaw. It is unclear to me whether the massive deadlines were difficult to break through for the creative team art-wise leading to some rushed pencils.

While Lockjaw #1 is certainly a fun issue, I didn’t think the installment was enough to win shelf space or to really be able to compete with Marvel’s best titles.

Final Verdict: SKIPLockjaw #1 toys with a couple neat ideas but leads me to wonder if I need to come back for the next issue of the series.

Next week why don’t you join as the Infinity Gems/Stones usher in the next Marvel event via Infinity Countdown #1!