When is the last time you can recall an "event" book that actually left you satisfied once it ended?
With Amazing Spider-Man #672, Dan Slott has just shown us all how it's done.
It didn't need it's own 8-issue series. It didn't need an Alpha and Omega book, and it didn't have to sprawl all over everything Marvel published. In fact, the entire thing was contained in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man (and Rick Remender's Venom, which you actually didn't really NEED to read to follow along, but you should, because it's Rick Remender), and there were a small number of tie-ins that actually served the purpose of trying to buoy some characters and books which needed the exposure and/or launching pad, like Shang-Chi, Hercules, Black Panther, the new Spider-Girl and Cloak & Dagger. It didn't need a gratuitous forced death scene or some out-of-nowhere, hard-luck, kick-in-the-gut, no-happiness-allowed twist to make everybody miserable (at least not in Slott's book – Remender makes that his stock in trade, as evidenced in his latest Venom) and, in fact, Slott seems to be satirizing the modern event book in certain ways while making Spider Island a complete blast.
#672 opens by recapping the relevant events in this week's Venom #8 – namely, the fact that Steve Rogers and Flash Thompson are taking the fight right to the Queen just in time to watch her completely metamorphosize into a massive 20+ story Spider-Queen monster, all while millions of people on Manhattan Island are still serving her will as big ugly spider monsters. Then we get the freshly-cured Kaine bantering with Peter Parker while trying to protect his secret identity from the folks at Horizon Labs, which includes underwear-related slapstick. It seems that having his cellular degeneration and scarring issues fixed means that Kaine's lost a lot of his 'grimdark' and he's got the same kind of back-and-forth with Peter that Ben Reilly used to have. Is there anyone doubting that Kaine is intended to be the new Scarlet Spider in the near future? Didn't think so.
We get Mary Jane Watson swinging in with spider-powers to find out she's a late-bloomer with the infection thanks to a tolerance gained from years of schtupping the real Spider-Man, we get the Spider Queen monster housing Wolverine and Fat Cobra and the Red Hulk (who also gets to bust out a 'milksop') and giving us a very convincing final battle, we've got Pete and MJ working together to show off why we loved them together so much, we've got a refreshingly novice prognosticator in the new Madame Web completely screwing up and being overwhelmed by her own powers, we've got Kaine gearing up in Peter's old stealth suit to deliver the coup de grace and such a fantastic feel-good climactic moment that we're all left a little breathless, wondering how the hell this managed to be everything that Fear Itself was not.
Seriously, the big happy smile that Peter has when he excitedly realizes he's actually going to save the entire city for once without something horrible happening to jinx it makes us realize how much we miss that in these big event books, and just how much great pacing, true character work and entertaining dialog are necessary for a successful saga. Again, all stuff Fear Itself had none of. Fear Itself didn't seem to understand what it should have been, or even really know what it wanted to be. Spider Island knew from the get-go that it was going to be, as Slott put it, "deep fried butter on a stick."
Humberto Ramos' incredibly expressive and kinetic art did a fantastic job of serving Slott's dense, action-packed story as well. Ramos' tendency towards angular, elongated physiology can be an acquired taste, but once you do acquire it, you're rewarded for your effort handsomely. It never feels like turgid posturing with Ramos – stuff is actually happening, and it's crackling in its energy and life. It's busy, and you're never left with that 'whole lotta nothin'' feeling you get too often when super events come to their awkward, anticlimactic conclusions. Slott and Ramos are a fantastic team.
This issue is just an amazing read, all the way from Gravity's great one-liner satirizing event-book-death to Kaine's WTF wisecrack when trying to sell himself as Spider-Man to weaving in Julia Carpenter's utter befuddlement at trying and failing to become one of those annoying soothsayers to Mary Jane's quiet confession that Peter doesn't hear in his moment of triumph – the latter of which opens up a host of new questions about the future of Amazing Spider-Man. Can Slott actually defy the Quesada Edict and hook Peter and MJ up again? Is there any way MJ can keep those spider powers for a while, given how straight-up delightful it is to see them fight alongside each other and swing across the city side-by-side? And what's happened to Eddie Brock after his whole Anti-Venom suit got drained for the cure? And what's the deal with Michael Morbius being the secret lab tech at Horizon? How can Peter bitch about the Parker Luck when it's quite obvious from Venom #8 that Flash Thompson wouldn't have any luck without his crap luck?
There's so much to see. So much to enjoy. So much to love about Spider Island. Thank you, Mr. Slott, for restoring our faith in the ability to tell epic stories without sacrificing character or charisma.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 10/10