Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Giuseppe Camuncoli
‘Death Won’t Stop Me’
THE WRAITH stands unmasked and all of her secrets are revealed. What will this mean for SPIDER-MAN? And how will this effect the growing gang war in Chinatown? And if ANTI-VENOM wants to get his hands on MR. NEGATIVE, he’ll have to get past HAMMERHEAD and THE SPOT first! Of all the days for Aunt May to return to the F.E.A.S.T. Center…Dan Slott been receiving much critical acclaim since he took over as the head writer for Amazing Spider-Man. Has all the praise gone to his head, though? I mean, really, bringing back Jean DeWolff (hey, it’s been a month since last issue, I can spoil what I want)? Follow the cut to see whether or not Slott is truly getting too big for his britches.
Just as a note, this first paragraph strongly hints at spoilers, though it doesn’t specifically address them. Read at your own risk. One thing that you have to realize about Dan Slott is that he is possibly the world’s biggest Spider-Man fan. As such, he knows how fans are going to react to… well, pretty much everything he does. He knows that bringing back a character like Jean DeWolff is going to have repercussions, but that bringing such a character back and going “nah, I’m just playing” is going to cause even more outrage if it isn’t handled gracefully (see: Jason Todd’s supposed return in Hush). The reveal of the true nature of the Wraith, though, is done with respect, creating a sense of fulfillment where a lesser writer might have caused the reader to feel cheated. A tip of my hat to you for that, Mr. Slott.
Many critics (myself included) have praised Slott for knowing almost exactly how to write Amazing Spider-Man. Just as much as it is a book of superhero action, ASM has long been a book of character-driven drama, which helps the action from getting too stale. Every issue of Slott’s run so far has had a significant amount of character exploration with at least one character, and this issue is no exception. This time around, the spotlight is on Eddie Brock, and how exactly he has changed personality-wise since becoming Anti-Venom. And it’s great. Really, the two or so pages near the end where we really get to peek into Brock’s mind and see how far he’s come are just as celebratory for us as they are for the character, and all while seeming natural. Slott debuted Brock’s Anti-Venom persona in his Brand New Day story “New Ways to Die,” and with his appearance shortly before “Spider Island,” I can only hope that we’ll be seeing more of what Slott has planned for the character that used to be one of Peter’s most prominent nemeses.
Another reason why Slott gets such praise is his ability to tell modernized stories while evoking the tone of classic Spider-Man scribes like Gerry Conway and, of course, Stan the Man. Artists do this relatively frequently, but it can be harder for writers to do so without seeming cheesy. There’s something about Slott’s style, though, that succeeds in evoking a similar tone to the book in the 60s and 70s, without seeming silly (I do love Stan Lee’s early work, but you have to admit that it’s hard to read some of his dialogue without letting loose a giggle or two). And, really, that’s why this book is so good. The serious parts have just the right amount of melodrama, and the parts that are just supposed to be fun? They’re pretty much the most fun you’ll get in “mainstream” Marvel comics.
Similarly, we’ve been seeing a lot of artists trying to match that classic writing style with a similarly classic vibe, and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli fits that bill pretty well. It’s not as noticeable as, say, Marcos Martin’s work, but if you look closely you can see a lot of Romita Sr. influence in how he shapes his figures, with a his own bit of modern stylization thrown in to make it unique. Camuncoli is also one of those artists who can make every punch count. That one page where Mr. Negative gets the drop on Brock? Man, you can just feel the pain on that one. Then you turn a couple of pages and you’re being pummeled by an all-out melee that you might as well be a part of. He could use maybe a little bit more technical precision, but not too much – sometimes you have to bend the rules of static art a bit to create great sequential art. I can only hope that we’ll be seeing Camuncoli’s work in the pages of ASM again soon.Continued below
The one thing that hurts this story is that up until now, Big Time has been pretty much self-contained – so long as you started where Slott did, you’d be fine. And, to be fair, Slott has provided all the information a reader might need regarding Mister Negative and Anti-Venom. Still, if you haven’t been following the book since “New Ways to Die,” this issue might not carry the “oomph” that it otherwise might have, though I’m sure it will still entertain you. If you have been following since the Brand New Day, though, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is yet another solid issue from a man who has demonstrated how much he loves Spider-Man time and time again.
Total: 7.7 – Buy it!