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Spectacular Spider-Man #15

Posted: Sunday, June 20, 2004
By: Zarik Khan



Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artists: Michael Ryan and Studio F

Publisher: Marvel

Plot:
A relatively normal day in New York City is interrupted by a city-wide hypnotic screech, emitting from a seemingly non-threatening lady in a dress. Peter Parker's spider-sense is affected, and so as Spider-Man he goes to investigate what turns out to be general chaos in the city. As he arrives, he meets up with Captain America who has come at the behest of Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., and the two superheroes confront the mysterious lady, leading to an unexpected outcome.

Comments:
I knew there was going to be trouble surrounding this issue, the moment I saw the unusual headline above the title of this book:

"Avengers: Disassembled Prologue."

Now I'll be perfectly honest--I'm not an Avengers fan, I haven't read much of their past work, and until Brian Michael Bendis began to portray them in Ultimate Six, I had not really been well-versed on them either; as far as their history, their membership, etc. But after reading this miniseries I gained a general appreciation for the team, though I still wouldn't consider myself a "fan," per se--I have never collected any Avengers' books. Unfortunately, that appreciation that I had gained was about to go by the wayside--after some more research, I found out that this issue was going to serve as a pre-party for the upcoming Avengers extravaganza. To be perfectly honest, I was disgusted. Discovering that this was a crossover between many Marvel characters, including Spider-Man, only increased my anger--primarily because one of the ramifications from this arc has to do with a huge, over-used change to Spider-Man himself.

The beginning bit of the comic, with the short peaceful interlude starring Peter and MJ, is nothing special, doing nothing at all in my opinion to advance their relationship (at least in this book). Paul Jenkins had seemed to try a different approach with the "Return of MJ," compared to his counterpart on Amazing, Joe Michael Stracynzski, by having the two lovers not move back in with each other right away, but see each other as "familiar friends," as it is said in Issue #6 of this title. That experiment seems to be over, as this scene basically implies that they have moved back in together, and what particularly irks me is that Jenkins completely dropped his development of their relationship after Issue #10. The typical back-and-forth humorous banter between the couple, a casual offer of "snuggling" or the like, and then a catalyst to start the "real" story behind the issue--all this adds up to a disappointing display of conforming to the standard Peter-MJ scene.

Now, I must take issue with the fact that after this little scene, Captain America is shown just standing idly on a rooftop, looking off in the distance stoically, and suddenly Nick Fury hovers down in a helicopter and asks him if he's free and wants to help S.H.I.E.L.D. out, as if Rogers would say "no." This also just seems too coincidental. What also bothers me is how there is loads of violence taking place in the city, which means loads of innocents dying, thanks to the villainess that has just "appeared,"--and meanwhile, it is clearly shown that Spider-Man just watches a helicopter crash into a building that he is climbing, without even attempting to save it or the people inside. Is he more concerned about "checking out" the villainess than preventing deaths? When he does finally confront her, perhaps the humor is the only thing that salvages their short conversation and resulting battle, which is "interrupted" by Captain America. He apparently seems to know her, calling her "Ana," and before he can reveal more to the bloodied Spider-Man, she takes care of Rogers and then turns her attention to the wall-crawler, finishing him off in an odd, but easily anticipated way based on some of the dialogue during the fight.

Basically, things just do not seem realistic enough, Spider-Man is written way out of character, and most importantly--nothing is revealed (beyond the villainess' name and her capabilities). Even if the higher-ups at Marvel are just using this title to set up what will probably be touted as an alternative to DC's MIdentity Crisis, meaning that this arc probably won't matter in the long run, certain things should be done right. With this issue, Paul Jenkins (the regular writer of this title!) simply gets it wrong.

Although the art is not stunning, it is definitely a step up from the jumbled mess given to us regularly by Humberto Ramos, who will return in several issues. The only real problem is that Michael Ryan's work does not seem to fit the sinister tone of most of this issue--it works in the scenes with humorous dialogue, but it just seems too cartoony. Perhaps it would have worked better in one of the more "reflective" issues that Jenkins seems to excel at. This is the first issue in a long time where Jenkins has not had to worry about covering the psychological aspect of Spider-Man, something that made the "non-fightworthy" art tolerable. Consequentially, it simply doesn't fit in this issue--with perhaps the only exception being the final splash page, where we are treated to a twisted parody of a fairly old cover done by Kaare Andrews for a Jenkins Spider-Man issue. The curiosity that arises from that image, and the quality of the image itself, are the sole reasons this issue is not a total waste of money.

Final Word:
A title's regular writer is handed a "crossover" assignment, an event that the Marvel higher-ups promised fans would never happen again unless it "made sense." This issue is quickly proving that the upcoming crossover and story arc makes anything but sense. If you are looking for a Spider-Man book that can be written with quality, sample Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, or Marvel Knights, but steer clear of this one until this nonsense is over.



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