"Spider-Man: The Other--Evolve or Die Part Five: Retreat"
Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: Pat Lee (p), Dream Engine (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Oh bloody hell. Is that elderly Native American gentleman supposed to be Aunt May? Frankly, I didn't think Pat Lee's art could get any worse, but I truly think this might be the worst art job in the history of the Spider-Man titles. It baffles me that Pat Lee is still working professionally; if it weren't bad enough that he's (allegedly) a dodgy businessman, he's an absolutely terrible artist. He does an okay job on the Iron Man suits in this issue, but they're the early models, and a child could draw those without muffing them up. But the rest of the issue. Oh, the humanity...
I wish I could say that the writing makes up for any weaknesses in the art, but it's pretty awful too. Hudlin's previous effort wasn't too bad, but with this issue, I can now see why his comics work has been so derided. The pacing was fast last issue, but here it's Warp-Factor-Nine-the-ship's-falling-apart-Captain fast; I fully applaud a move away from Bendis-style non-plotting, but when the story is moving so fast that the individual scenes become a meaningless blur, then there's a problem. How are we supposed to engage with Aunt May's feelings about visiting herself in the past when we only get to see two panels of it? The general feeling is of a pissed-off tour guide at the end of their shift: "Here's Louis XIV's chamber pot, as you can see it's very ornate. Next!"
Oh, and you did read that correctly. Pete breaks into Doctor Doom's castle in Latveria, bringing along May and MJ in two of Stark's old Iron Man suits, and no Avengers back-up, so he can use Doom's time machine to go back and visit his parents. But only for about thirty seconds, apparently. He appears to have forgotten that his good buddies at the Fantastic Four probably have about four or five time machines, and Stark probably has a couple too. But why go the easy route when you can instead send an old lady into combat against Doombots?
And the scripting is similarly terrible. From Morlun's overly dramatic "The time has come... it is time for me to feast" to Stark randomly quoting Jon Favreau movies like some demented film student, this has one of the most embarrassingly amateurish scripts I've seen in a while.
So, "The Other" takes a further slide in quality. Do we live in such cynical, unprofessional times that Marvel are content to put out utter shite, safe in the knowledge that because it's a crossover, we'll buy it anyway? Or is JMS not only the architect of the crossover, but a Machiavellian schemer who has lined up all this awfulness so as to make his own forthcoming issues look better? If it's the latter, his friends have left him a very deep hole to dig himself out of.
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