Hello, readers. Look at your comic cover. Now back to me. Now back to your comic solicit. Now back to me. Sadly, this comic isn’t its cover or solicit, but if it was and gave us a comic about Spider-Man and Morbius, it could be something like it.
Look below for the full review.
Written by Joe Keatinge
Illustrated by Valentine Delandro
With Dan Slott and Marco Checchetto
As Doctor Octopus’ schemes take shape, MORBIUS THE LIVING VAMPIRE returns with a Vengeance!
Will he be able to resist the siren song of blissful bloodsucking or will Spider-Man sling him straight back into the slammer?
Your first look at next month’s all-new Morbius ongoing series.
If there’s one thing clear immediately from “Amazing Spider-Man” #699.1, it’s that it has very little to do with Spider-Man. A staging ground for a Morbius ongoing launching next month, the issue is supposed to be somewhat of a teaser of what fans can expect: a glimpse at the writer’s techniques, the characterization of the lead, a hint towards the plot, etc. It’s similar to the last “Amazing Spider-Man” Point One issue, which was a prelude towards the “Venom” ongoing.
Yet, between the two issues, there lies one clear difference: only one of them did the job asked of it. “Amazing Spider-Man” #654.1 introduced the new Venom, explained his role and gave a tease as to what we might expect from Rick Remender’s ongoing. It operated as part of the ongoing story, albeit with a side-step to the left so a one-shot could be done. “Amazing Spider-Man” #699.1 doesn’t follow the same formula, instead telling us the origin of Michael Morbius in an issue that feels more forced than anything else. His past is changed from the simple and classic origin, with a new character added to flesh out a few angles that hadn’t been explored in the previous “this happened like this” story, leading to us spending what feels like an exorbitant amount of time on the subject only to be told a story that your average “Amazing” reader knows or could find on Wikipedia in the span of a sentence. And in the end, we’re really no closer to understanding what the “Morbius” ongoing is about beyond the obvious, nor does it get explained to us why it should be read.
What the issue generally suffers from is the need to over-explain everything. Morbius’ origin is relatively simple all things considered, as most comic book origins from yesteryear often are. Yet with this issue, we’re given an expansion to this story that’s supposed to bring us closer to the character’s plight. It works and it doesn’t: it works because you can see what Keatinge’s intentions for the character are in the ongoing, with a sadder take than we’d seen Slott do with the character in the past. It doesn’t work because a lot of time is dedicated to things that are ostensibly uninteresting about Michael Morbius, in a way that seems more about meeting the page count than it does bringing us closer to him. Everything we’re introduced to about his past somewhat becomes irrelevant once you understand his future, so a story that could’ve been interesting further down the road – perhaps used as a break between arcs of the “Morbius” ongoing to flesh out something we may later see – is delivered now in a way that’s not very compelling.
Of course, it doesn’t help that this issue comes out during one of the most exciting and tense periods of Spider-Man’s history. That hurts this story more than anything else; Peter is all but dead, Doc Ock is running around in his body, and most fans are anticipating the events of “Amazing Spider-Man” #700 with baited breath. Throwing in a Point One like this breaks the momentum to whatever climax awaits us, and having that Point One be an issue full of revisionist history feels like a miss. If this had been “Morbius” #0.1, for example, the issue would have made perfect sense: bring in new readers to a story some may think old enough to need a re-telling, clue old readers into what they might be seeing otherwise and maybe catch the eyes of a few stray collectors. But this isn’t “Moribus” #0.1 — it’s “Amazing Spider-Man” #699.1, and this story is just horribly timed. It’s essentially just a bump in the road towards the story we’re driving to see, or at most it’s a pit-stop that happens to have some kind of roadside attraction to temporarily distract from where we want to go.Continued below
What’s ultimately a shame is that, if this had been a story about Morbius facing the Superior Spider-Man, it actually could have easily been more entertaining. Keatinge’s a solid writer and has proved that he can bring ambitious and thoughtful takes to established characters with “Glory,” not to mention showing us that he can introduce their histories in more clever ways than this (see: the first three issues of Keatinge’s “Glory” with Ross Campbell). Maybe given the shackles of continuity a Morbius/Spider-Man issue wasn’t in the cards, but it seems unlikely that most undecided readers unsure of Morbius as the lead character of an ongoing will find what they’re looking for here, primarily since we don’t spend any real time with Morbius as he is now to convince us he makes a good lead. What’s worse, the awkward branding of “Amazing Spider-Man” on the cover in a more prominent fashion than “Morbius” is a detriment to what conceivably could’ve been a good way to sell readers on why a C-List villain gets his own book, instead of leading people to believe that Spider-Man — whichever Spider-Man is available — has to face Morbius on his escape from the Raft.
Suffice it to say, this isn’t a great showcase for either Keatinge or Delandro’s talents. Both collaborators have proven themselves as creators worth following in the past; Keatinge’s “Glory” is fantastic and “Hell Yeah” is a ton of fun, and Valentino Delandro’s work on “X-Factor” was wonderful. Neither seem to be at home here, though – Keatinge’s writing seems forced at multiple points, trying to provide sentiment where there really isn’t any, and Delandro’s art doesn’t measure up to his work in the past. Both are essentially just fine, not particularly as good as we’re used to from either but not inherently bad, and the book essentially skates along a single line straight down the middle. It’s a bit of a shame as the book was Keatinge’s debut at Marvel, and while the “Morbius” ongoing does seem like it’s worth checking out simply due to factors like Keatinge’s involvement, his established love of comics and his two previously recommended books at Image, this book doesn’t boast much confidence to the future of the series.
More than anything, I’m reminded of ‘The Gauntlet’ storyline that “Amazing Spider-Man had a few years ago. It was a villain showcase, in which all of Spider-Man’s classic villains came back in one form or another to put him through the ringer. That story features a lot of great and dynamic tales of villains and why they do what they do, and Morbius was included in it with a one-off story (#622) where Spider-Man hunts him down for the wrong reasons. It was a great little story, and it gave perfect reason to like Morbius and to want to see more about the character. Unfortunately, #699.1 is not #622, nor is it #654.1. It simply is what it is: a book that came out at the wrong time as part of a long legacy when it really should’ve been released as something else. I wouldn’t give up on the idea of a Morbius-led title yet, but this issue is certainly otherwise skippable.
Final Verdict: 5.0 – Browse