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    “Spider-Man Annual” #1

    By | June 28th, 2019
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Going in, I was pretty excited to see Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I was so confident it would be good, I bought my aunt and brother tickets, just so they could see it with me on opening night. Still, it managed to go above and beyond and completely blow me away. In my humble opinion, Into the Spider-Verse is the best Spider-Man movie there is. I would put it in my top five superhero movies, period, it’s that great. If you feel differently, well…I can’t ‘technically’ tell you your wrong. (I can think it though.) As for me, I can’t wait to see the Spider-Verse explored further on the big screen.

    Cover by David Lafuente

    Written by Jason Latour, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
    Illustrated by David Lafuente, Jason Latour
    Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
    Colored by Rico Renzi, Jason Latour

    FEATURING SPIDER-HAM! When Spider-Gwen’s dimension-hopping web-watch falls into the wrong hands, it’s up to everyone’s favorite wisecracking web-slinger, the wily waddler known as SPIDER-HAM, to save the day! From the same creative minds that brought you INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE and Spider-Gwen creator JASON LATOUR, you won’t want to miss this interdimensional epic!

    Fortunately, “Spider-Man Annual” #1 is here to tide me over in the meantime. In this comic, the focus is put squarely on Peter Porker a.k.a. Spider-Ham as he gallivants across the multiverse. The annual really is fun, from start to finish. Even if you don’t like pork (little Spider-Ham joke for you), you can have a plenty good time just guessing the puns/names of Spider-Ham’s rouge gallery. (I correctly guessed Green Gobbler and Sandmanatee myself.)

    One surprising positive is the amount of characterization poured into the titular pig. It would be easy to just write a comic where Spider-Ham just cracks jokes the entire time and go no deeper than that. He’s not just a talking pig though, he’s Peter Parker as a talking pig. They don’t just share superpowers. Ham shares Peter’s sense of humor as well as plenty of his neuroses and his overwhelming sense of responsibility. On the other hand, he is a talking pig, so he takes that responsibility to cartoon-ish extremes.

    At the beginning of the main story, ‘Boared Again!’, all of Peter Porker’s enemies are sent to other dimensions. He can finally take it easy but when he should be happiest, the pig is just a mess. He is completely lost without foes to vanquish. Spider-Ham passes out, becomes physically weak and has nightmares of being late for work. Finally, he travels into the multiverse yet again to bring them back. When they’re all scattered, he’s thrilled that there’s more work ahead of him.

    On top of that, it’s pretty funny. Comedy is subjective but I found myself cracking up repeatedly. Parker Peterman is a great gag. He stands in stark contrast to Spider-Ham, taking all of Spider-Man’s positive qualities to cartoon-ish extremes. He’s so well-adjusted, he can practice his hobbies mid-battle. The constant alliteration is noticeable but doesn’t go overboard into annoying territory. Jason Latour’s dialogue is terrific, filled with gems like ‘three-ring ding-a-ling’ and the ever-classic, ‘I may not know karate, but I know ka-razy!’.

    That great humor extends to the art as well. How can you keep a straight face seeing bears shake a guy down for money? The little touches are fantastic. Colorist Rico Renzi makes sure that everything is bright and colorful, boosting the cartoon-iness of it all. There are the sleeping zzzs, classic hypnotic swirls and the stars when someone gets bonked. The eyes on Spider-Ham’s snout match his own, winking when he winks and so on. The panels showing off Peterman’s hobbies are accompanied with different fonts…I just noticed the exclamation point after science is a beaker while the vowels are numbers. There’s some anime influence too. When J. Jonah Jackal yells, there’s little bits of spittle and an angry red background like you’ll see some times in anime. There’s also some adorable chibi-style art sprinkled in here or there. Spider-Ham could easily have five fingers but four fingers just feels right. The same is true for the Looney Tunes ending to the tale.

    Likewise, the back-up story is phenomenal. This time, Jason Latour writes alongside Into Spider-Verse producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. The cartoon dog equivalent of Uatu, Chewatu, narrates a ‘world-ending’ battle between silly and serious Marvel characters. The big battle panels are great to behold, bombastic and funny all at once. I don’t know if Speedball is on the side of the silly characters but I like to think that he is. Instead of fighting, Spider-Ham opts to have a drink with Howard the Duck. I love the conversation the two engage in, as well as their meta-commentary on comics.

    Continued below

    Howard wonders if any character really dies and points out that silly characters exist just to contrast their serious counterparts. Peter Porker muses that the more serious comics try to be, the more silly they often are. I was surprised at the genuine emotion in the interaction. The dialogue and art reinforces just how tired both the characters are. When Chewatu dives into a dramatic monologue, you think they don’t hear. They’re really just ignoring him along with the chaos outside. They are fully aware that in about six months, there will be some other ‘world-ending’ kerfuffle. Spider-Ham casually reveals ‘Meows Morales’ origin to him and wishes the newer character luck. The end brings it full circle. Another reboot, another day. It’s a rare example of a back-up story that’s just as good as the main one. The annual’s all the stronger for it.

    Final Verdict: 8.5 – Spider-Ham’s sizzling in this annual!

    Michael Govan