Its safe to say that over the last few years, we’ve been bombarded by various events from the big two comic book publishers. And even within this year there’s been plenty to talk about, with Fear Itself, Flashpoint and the new 52.
However, for me, without a doubt Spider Island has been the event of the year. Heck, to be honest I found it the most enjoyable comics event I’ve read since the Sinestro Corps War. For me it was pretty much perfect. And as someone who fell out of love with the main Spider-Man books years ago, it really felt brilliant to be picking them up again and enjoying them that much. So be warned, what follows is a bit gushing.
Ok, I’ll admit, as someone who got into regularly collecting comics during the Clone Saga, in many ways Spider Island felt like a love letter to fans like me who got into Spider-Man during that time. Ever since the Clone Saga ended, and Marvel adopted its “lalala we’re pretending it never happened” policy, it had always felt like they were ignoring the good elements of that story. Throwing the baby out with the bath water. And as I’ve talked about before on this blog, over the last few years, its been a joy to see that policy slowly be reversed.
And its affects were no more apparent than in Spider Island, with the Jackal returning to orchestrate events, infecting the inhabitants of Manhattan with a virus that gives them all spider-powers. Throw into the mix Kaine, recently further mutated by the events of the Grim Hunt and the Jackal into a spider monster called Tarantula, and there’s a lot to appeal to those fans of the clone saga. Especially in the final issues, when Kaine is finally cured and joins the fight by borrowing Peter’s stealth suit (before leaving town to head towards his own new series, as the new Scarlet Spider).
But despite all this, this story wasn’t about Dan Slott showing some love to the Clone Saga. Not at all. This was about him celebrating the character and his history. All of Spider-Man’s friends turn up to help contain the situation in Manhattan, as criminals are also gaining powers, and later, as the population start mutating into monsters. Peter’s scientific mind is at the fore-front of the story as his new job at Horizon Labs finds him in the middle of trying to find solutions to the plague (and infact, Peter eventually saves the day without throwing a single punch). Its about Peter being free to use his powers publicly without fear of recriminations. To let him be himself without hiding behind a mask (although, in true Spider-Man style, it does eventually backfire on him). More recent stories play heavily into things as well, when the main villain who the Jackal is working for is revealed as the Spider Queen, and of course, it wouldn’t be a Spider-Man story if the old Parker luck wasn’t around to kick Peter just as things are going great.
And as a fan who was never impressed by the One More Day thing (to be honest, its something that I suspect will be more successful over at DC, due to it being a line-wide reboot, rather than the more specific changes Marvel brought on Spider-Man – also the reasoning works better without damaging any of the characters in the same way), seeing Mary Jane get a big role was a thrill as well. Initially stuck on the side lines as everyone around her gets powers, the issue where her own powers finally kick in was a lot of fun. While they may still be split up,seeing the two characters working together in the story, and drawing on that past relationship strikes me as exactly how things should be handled. Despite not being a fan of the break up, and having previously tried an failed to get into the Spider-books post One More Day, their relationship here really worked for me.
Of course, being a cross over, the other Spider-characters all have their own part to play in the story. I must admit, I was a bit light on picking up the other tie ins to this story line. I haven’t much interest in the current Spider-girl, or the Cloak and Dagger stuff, but I did like Julia Carpenter as the new Madame Web in the story itself. However one book I have been picking up was Rick Remender’s Venom series which has been excellent. Thrown into the middle of the Spider Island events. Remender still managed to stay focused on the character arcs he’s been telling, especially in terms of Flash and Betty’s relationship. I’ve been greatly enjoying this new take on Venom, and thought the big role he ended up playing in Spider Island was great. Likewise Eddie Brock became an important part of the story and events in Spider Island make me wonder what they’re planning next for the character.
So, as I said, pretty gushing. But then, I did really love the storyline. Unlike many of the longer stories I’ve read over the past few years, it kept up the pace throughout, with no real filler jumping out at me. The love to the history of Spider-Man felt great, with Jameson, Spider slayers, and the Clone Saga all playing their part, and there’s loads of interesting setup in place, while still feeling like the last issue was more concerned about wrapping up the storyline (a particular complaint I’ve had with DC events). Dan Slott’s always been a writer whose work I’ve enjoyed, but reading this has made me keen to not just keep collecting Amazing Spider-Man, but also to go back and grab the issues of his run I’ve missed. Great stuff.