Current Reviews


Marvel Knights Spider-Man #20

Posted: Friday, November 18, 2005
By: Paul T. Semones

ďThe OtherĒ (Part 5 of 12)

Writer: Reginald Hudlin
Artists: Pat Lee (p), Dream Engine (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Iím sorry, but this is just inept. What a shame.

Iím not even talking about the immediate contributions of Lee and Hudlin here. Iíve expressed my distaste for both creators elsewhere, so itís hardly worth wasting the time to note once again that Pat Leeís art is an atrocious fit for a Spidey book, and Reginald Hudlinís scripting ability is just way too clunky for an issue thatís supposed to be all about personality and emotional resonance.

So let me point out the real disservice the editorial staff and plotting team are providing with this supposedly monumental story arc so far.

Apparently, the crux of the matter now, nearly half of the way in, is that Peter is dying and has decided to spend some time enjoying the precious remaining moments of his life with his loved ones. You know what the problem is here? The structure of the story has kept the nature of this terminal illness as a tease. Iím sorry, but I canít invest myself in the emotional impact the story team is trying to convey here if Iím still not entirely convinced thereís an actual death sentence hanging over Peterís head. Showing Peter in the previous issue, crossover-wise, visiting a host of Marvel heroes who decide they have nothing curative to offer isnít enough. Tell me what the freaking malady is! Give me something to grab hold of, so that I can share in the apprehension of Mary Jane and Aunt May. Is it cancer? Is it the certain knowledge that Peter is about to devolve into an unthinking animal forever? What? Just tell me. Everybody in the story now knows, and whatever the dramatic payoff may be when itís finally revealed to me, the reader, I just canít see that itís going to be so powerful that it was worth alienating me from the emotional moments of the present issue.

Peterís dying? Convince me. Reading a whole issue of dirge doesnít do it, because the story team has chosen to keep me in the dark. Theyíre playing a pointless game with me, and the result is that an issue I should be feeling deeply is just frustrating.

On the matter of this 12-parterís pacing, the present issue wastes an unbelievable amount of time on pages of inconsequential story material that border on farce. In fact, flipping through the book again, Iíd evaluate all but about three pages of the story as doing nothing but marking time.

Iím not spoiling much to reveal that MJ and Aunt May don old Iron Man suits to tag along with Peter on a brief little jaunt to Latveria. Yeah. Aunt May wearing Iron Man armor. Have I used the word ďstupidĒ yet in this review?

The purpose of their jaunt is to use ďthe only existing time machine in the worldĒ to go back and look at the little boy Peterís last moment with his parents. For a fleeting moment, I thought the time travel thing was actually going to be what finally advanced the story in a big way, but no such luck. Technobabble prevents the trio from being able to interact with or be seen by their family in the past. Okay, fine, whatever. Despite the totally flippant way in which the time-travel technology is established (the approach here is something better suited to a Calvin & Hobbes Sunday strip than a purportedly serious superhero comic), the idea is something that could really have been turned into a poignant moment. But itís wasted.

(Yeah, Pat Lee is hopelessly incapable of driving it home, but like I said, itís not worth complaining about that anymore. Weíre stuck with him for the duration.)

The scene is wasted because someone decided this issue needed a little kick of hero action, so Spidey, Iron-MJ and Iron-May have to rush back into the present to fight off a few of Doc Doomís robots. Cursory action replaces meaningful character moments. Utter dross.

A few more pages are wasted later in the issue as Peter muses about heading off to Vegas. The scene doesnít actually happen, luckily enough, because the idea of Peter using his spider sense to win a few million bucks at blackjack to bequeath to his family after heís gone is pretty implausible. But why in the name of Jack King Kirby do two pages have to be wasted on something that doesnít happen? Itís not particularly cute, itís not all that clever. Itís just more unbelievable wasted real estate in the middle of an issue that should be striking an emotional chord. Dare I say it, the pages would have been better used for advertising.

When the comic industry ultimately dissolves in the mists of history and all accounts are one day settled, this issue will be nothing but chaff blowing away in the wind. Utterly, unforgivably pointless. And it didnít have to be.

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