Editor's Note: Spider-Man and the Secret Wars #2 arrives in stores tomorrow, January 13.
The second issue of Spider-Man and the Secret Wars sees the titular web-slinger and the Fantastic Four's Ben Grimm explore the city of Denver, Colorado, which has (for reasons best left vague and mysterious) been abducted by the Beyonder and placed on Battleworld. Getting to know a few of the locals, they prepare to repel an alien attack, whilst also keeping tabs on the activities of Dr. Doom. Whilst this might sound like a good setup for an enjoyable story, there's unfortunately not much more to the issue than that.
The strange thing about this issue is that you would think that its core concept would present all sorts of interesting and unique storytelling possibilities. The Beyonder's decision to transplant the entire city of Denver to Battleworld was always one of the more absurd elements of the original Secret Wars, and after the tongue-in-cheek jokes of this titl'ís first issue, I was looking forward to seeing this second instalment have some fun with such a silly concept. However, the book plays it reasonably straight, with most of the humour coming from throwaway gags rather than the inherent ridiculousness of the situation.
Much of the issue sees Spider-Man and Ben Grimm explore Denver to see how its inhabitants are coping with the unusual relocation. That said, despite spending a fair bit of time with the people of the city, we never really get a strong sense of how the "man on the street" feels about suddenly being transported across the galaxy to an alien planet. It feels normal and mundane when it should feel exotic and exciting--and even a vaguely interesting mystery subplot involving Dr. Doom doesn't really come to anything, save for a nicely played demonstration of Victor's nobility and honour in battle.
I don't want to sound too down on this book. There are some fun moments, such as Spidey showing off his abilities to an excited young boy, or his later disappointment at realising that he's not as popular as The Thing in some circles. The artwork is also nicely judged, with an exaggerated cartoony quality (in the Humberto Ramos mould) that never pushes things so far that they feel completely divorced from reality, and which copes well with the issue's big, colourful action scene.
Ultimately, though, the issue can't overcome its biggest problem, which is that it feels surprisingly boring and uneventful--and for a book that has one of Marvel's biggest, most bombastic and over-the-top crossovers as its backdrop, that's difficult to forgive. I'm sure that Secret Wars completists will again enjoy filling in some of the gaps in that storyline, but for more casual readers, there just isn't the same verve, energy and humour here as was seen in the first issue.
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