Friday, September 2, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #668

Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Company: Marvel Comics

The whole Spider-Island plot, kicking off in Amazing Spider-Man #666, started off fairly well.  It seemed to be that the "fun" was finally returning to the title and that Dan Slott, known for his off the beaten path humor and crazy stories, was finally returning to form after a bit of a hiatus.  It also proved to be a good jumping on point for anyone.  The characters, their motivations, the setting...All of it was laid out in a methodical and creative way.  It was extremely well done, I would say.  There were a few missteps though, most notable being the ties to the Clone Saga and some of the more notorious 90's characters and stories.  It was a bold move, but one that set my spider-sense a' tingling.

Now, one prologue and one issue of the main story in, and we're starting to see the cracks.  Sure, there are still fun things going on, but the basic ideas and the villains behind the bed bug infestation that is giving New Yorkers spider powers is feeling less and less cool.  In this second issue of the plot specifically, we start out with a "flash-mob" of Spider-Men attacking a section of downtown New York.  The New Avengers, sans Captain America (see Venom #6), is on the scene in an attempt to handle it.  It's a decent scene, one that utilizes artist Humberto Ramos' exceptional ability to render great action scenes.  Still, there's a point where the other heroes bench Spider-Man, as he's viewed as a nuisance and a liability in the fight as they can't tell the real Spider-Man from the fakes.  While I understood why Slott would do this, it felt non-heroic to me and something none of those characters would traditionally do.

Besides that though, this issue tackles many of the Spider related characters, be it Venom, Anti-Venom, Spider-Girl, Jackal, and lets not forget Madame Web either.  That coupled with Slott's introduction to the equivalent of Peter Parker's Army and there's a lot of stuff going on.  Almost too much, all told.  He handles most of it well, though there are some choppy moments that either could have been omitted or condensed in order for it to read smoother.  The best however is Peter's continuing relationship with Carlie Cooper.  There's no way that she's ever going to come close to being Mary Jane Watson, but Slott has made her a character to watch and given her a defined set of characteristics and personality.  Seeing the two characters interact and inspire one another to do better is actually one of the issues best moments.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Humberto Ramos draws one of the best renditions of Spider-Man.  Right up there with John Romita Jr..  Seriously.  His quasi-exaggerated line structure works so well to convey the wall-crawler and his backgrounds traditionally have so much depth and detail to them.  Here though, working from Slott's script, something seems to be amiss.  The movement that he accomplishes in his panels is still tremendous, but there are several scenes in this issue that felt flat and not as grand as they could have been.  The backgrounds are also a little on the less than refined side too.  Whether or not this is due to him having to rush or that maybe Olazaba's inks are not the greatest fit for his style, I can't quite be sure.

All things said, this isn't a bad issue.  Slott is slapping down some great ideas on the page, ideas that really let the reader sink their teeth into not only the world of Spider-Man but the Marvel Universe as well.  My main concern though is that it feels as if he's cramming too much into each issue, filling it to the bursting point, and the clean narrative of the story is getting lost.  It would also be better if the villain wasn't as hammy as Slott is making him, but what are you going to do?

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