Writers: Fiona Avery and J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: John Romita Jr (p), Scott Hanna (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
When Spider-Man and numerous cosmic beings get the sense that something unsettling has entered the world, we see Loki, the God of Lies, is drawn to Earth to investigate this situation. As he's drawn to Spider-Man, we see the entity that has emerged is also drawn to our web-slinging hero, as she wishes to reward him for the role he played in allowing her access to this world. As a result, Loki decides to become Spider-Man's best friend.
Spider-Man versus Loki! Now sure there's no way that that Spider-Man should walk away from this encounter as the winner, but it's always fun to watch him square off against an opponent that he stands no chance of beating, because occasionally the writers do hand him the unexpected victory (the Juggernaut, Firelord), and there's also a sense of pride attached that Spider-Man was involved in fisticuffs with a Thor level baddie, and he walked away none the worst for wear. I'd put this encounter up there with the tussle that Spider-Man had with Thanos during Erik Larsen's run on "Spider-Man" back in the early 1990s, as both clearly establish that none of Spider-Man's attacks are making the slightest impact, and most of the battle is making the reader believe that Spider-Man would still be standing at the end of this fight. Now while the fight is what grabbed most of my attention the book also does a solid job of introducing this new villain into Spider-Man's corner of the Marvel Universe, as the writing neatly sets up a reason why both this villain and Loki would seek out our friendly neighborhood crime-fighter. The book also deserves credit for working Spider-Man into a magic-based plot, while remaining true to the character's street-level roots, as the character is shown to be woefully out of his element, as he even makes the monumental mistake of entering into a partnership with Loki, the God of Lies.
John Romita Jr. gets a chance to play in the sandbox where I suspect he gained a great many of his fans, as elements from the pages of "Thor" make their way into a Spider-Man adventure, and he does a fantastic job of playing up the notion that Spider-Man is clearly out of his league, with his presentation of the fight between Spider-Man and Loki being a wonderful mix of visual comedy, and a very real sense of danger. The visual design of this issue's villain is also quite interesting, as there's very little doubt that she's evil when she burns her way through Spider-Man's wall of webbing. He also does a lovely job delivering Loki, as the character pretty much exudes power, and one is left with little doubt that he's up to no good. So much so that one almost expects Spider-Man's spider sense be going full tilt when he's shaking hands with Loki. There's also a lovely sequence as we see Spider-Man weaving his way through Loki's flaming attack, as one can't help but be impressed by the character's agility as he's able to evade most of Loki's attacks.
This issue takes a little too long setting up its plot, as while I'll give the writing time to establish the new villain as a viable threat, and develop a connection to our hero, this issue is almost halfway done before we get to the first encounter between Spider-Man and the big, bad threat that will drive this arc. What's more given this arc is only a surprising two issues in length (something truly unheard of at the new Marvel), the fact that this issue spent so long getting its pieces into place leaves me a bit concerned that the next issue is going to be a hurried affair that will be resolved with an unsatisfactory, quick-fix solution. I also have to express some concern that Spider-Man is coming across as a bit naive, as while I don't believe he's had much experience in dealing with Loki, surely he's tapped into the super-hero grapevine which basically states that Loki is about as trustworthy as a coiled rattlesnake. Now I realize both of my complaints about this issue are based on my looking ahead in the story and this really isn't my job as a reviewer, nor is it really fair to the writing to harp on problems that may never materialize. However, they are concerns that stem from this issue, and pointing out problems with the foundation of a story allows me to pat myself on the back if and when I'm proven right. There's also the opposite side of the coin that affords writers the opportunity to surprise me by taking the story in a direction that I didn't predict in advance.
Pants On Fire, Sitting On A Telephone Wire:
Normally I would be joining the bandwagon that basically jumps up and down whenever Spider-Man becomes involved in a magic-based plot, as while I've enjoyed the various team-ups that he's had with Doctor Strange over the years, Spider-Man has never really shown himself to be a character that fits in all that well into the magic-based plots. However, this issue manages to succeed based largely on the simple notion that Spider-Man is shown to be out of place in this environment, as how else could one explain the extremely foolish attempt at resolving this problem by getting into a slugfest with Loki. In fact one has to smile at the panels where Spider-Man is shown to be raining punches down on a completely unfazed Loki. The interaction between Spider-Man and Loki was also a lot of fun, as Loki's annoyed arrogance makes for a fun contrast to Spider-Man's continuous banter. The scene where Loki has to apologize to Spider-Man does a solid job of playing up the notion of how unlike many villains, Loki is willing to adopt a trustworthy, almost conciliatory facade in order to gain the trust of his victims.
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