It’s funny, I’m always complaining about how comics are never just comics anymore and how we never get a good old-fashioned action yarn. Then, when a story does capture that old school feeling, I almost miss it. I’ve been so bogged down in the heavy-handed story arcs happening with Fear Itself and X-Men Schism that Amazing Spider-Man #667, the kick off of Spider Island seemed goofy. It wasn’t goofy, it was entertaining, it was the kind of rock ‘em sock ‘em good guys and bad guys story that I grew up with.
What makes Spider Island so effective is Dan Slott’s ability to pace the story. He keeps the old school parts fun and then, right when you least expect it, drops in some more serious tones, usually in the way of the exchanges between Shang-Chi and the new Madame Web. With all the craziness happening around Spider Island, the two of them act as narrators, a small touch of Our Town for old web head.
Another effective piece of the puzzle is that we get a straight villain.. No conspiracy, no fear gods, no massive alien attack, just the Jackal. Yep, the Jackal, an old villain Spidey’s been hacking it out with since the seventies, is the cause of Spider Island. Using genetically altered bedbugs, Jackal has created a criminal gang of spider-powered villains, not to mention filling the streets with spider powered folks. I also love the idea that it’s bed bugs – it offers a creepy undertone to the whole thing.
Slott does a great job of introducing Peter to the fact that his girlfriend Carlie has gained spider powers. Instead of some heavy-handed exchange, Slott has Carlie enjoying every aspect of her new mutation. She tries to get Peter to agree to build her spider gadgets, sticks to the ceiling of their apartment, lifts Peter up with one arm and even leaves him in the dust to swing into action. Watching Peter deal with what he’s made so many others deal with is really funny. The only serious tone to it is Carlie’s honesty about the whole thing and her matter-of-fact way of telling Peter the truth about her secret. That pokes and prods at Peter’s guilt for lying to her about who he is and it’s another deft tone switch from Dan Slott.
Issue #667 brings the idea of Peter Parker’s new wonderful life full circle. Right as he’s at his highest moment, the fates turn and life falls apart. It’s not just Carlie; it’s also the fact that his powers are now useless to him. The chaos of Spider Island even has Spidey’s own Avengers team beating him down, convinced it’s just another Spider-Man imposter. The issue ends with a beaten and broken Spider-Man lying in the ruins of Spider Island. It’s a shift in tone that states no matter how fun this is, things are about to get deep for our hero.
Back in full swing on issue #667 is Humberto Ramos, and he’s having just as much fun as Slott. Nobody captures the visual fun and excitement of a comic book like Ramos does. His pencils take a modern style and merge it with a time when comics popped off the panel, bigger than life. There’s a real sense of being a comic book to what Ramos does and it’s exciting to watch unfold. Every panel is a bold statement with something happening, even if it’s not action. When the action does drop in, Ramos takes it all to another level. The marriage between his art and Slott’s words is the perfect storytelling device. I miss when comics were this much fun and I’m really intrigued to see where Spider Island goes next.
CRAVEONLINE RATING 8.5/10