"Wild Blue Yonder, Part One"
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: Billy Tan (p), John Sibal (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Plot: The Absorbing Man escapes from jail, while Peter Parker adjusts to recent changes that have occurred in his life. He's now a card carrying member of the Avengers, and he's living in Stark Tower. After the summer teaching job he had lined up falls by the wayside, a dejected Peter returns home where he distressfully discovers that there are elements from his costumed life intruding upon his out-of-costume life. He also finds himself in an odd position at the Daily Bugle, as he's assigned a new partner who sets off his spider-sense.
Comments: On one hand I rather like the idea that Peter would be unsettled by the idea that elements of his costumed life were intruding upon his civilian life. One of the more engaging elements of the character has been the clear line that he had managed to establish between the two roles. Peter Parker was plagued by troubles, while Spider-Man was forever offering up the non-stop jokes, and seemed to be Peter's escape from his troubles. However, Reginald Hudlin looks to have trouble expressing why Peter would be bothered by his new living situation, as we see him get into an uncharacteristic chest-thumping scenario with Logan, which has both characters acting more like plot devices than real characters, and this plot contrivance continues on to the final page where it results in a downright strange cliffhanger that seems to exist simply because the issue needed a cliffhanger moment. Still, I did like how the removes Peter from his position as a school teacher, as frankly I've never been a huge fan of this job. There's only so many times you can show the character showing up late for class, or skipping out early before you begin to question why he hasn't been fired. Now I'm not sure pushing him back to his job at the Daily Bugle was the right move as it does feel like a step backwards, but it does bring him back into contact with a well established, and highly engaging supporting cast so I'm not all that disappointed by this move. Still most of this issue seems driven by awkward character moments, and the overall pace has an uneven quality about it that makes for some rough scene transitions, with some scenes like Spider-Man's battle with the Absorbing Man being dropped for no better reason than the writing deciding to move on to the next scene.
Billy Tan looks to be a fairly new artist as his work has some decided rough edges. For example, his characters look more like they are posing for a photo instead of natural body movement, and his backgrounds lack the three-dimensional quality that more accomplished artists seem to have no problem with. However, since both of these elements look to be qualities that plague most artists early in the careers I think it's pretty safe to say they are also elements that are smoothed over with experience, and as such I'm not going to make too much noise about them. However, a more troublesome area is that the art struggles to the clearly delivery the action, as Spider-Man's battle with the Absorbing Man is a rather flat experience visually, thanks to some extremely poor manner in which the action on the page was laid out. He also makes Mary Jane look like a teenage girl, and Peter spends most of the issue missing his neck, both of which were distracting visual elements during key sections of the issue. We do get a nice cover shot from Steve McNiven though.
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