Friday, January 2, 2015

Superior Spider-Man, issues #22 and 23

Greetings and Happy New Year, citizens! What better way to celebrate this auspicious occasion than by looking at a series we’ve already looked at numerous times, and that most people don’t care about?
Okay, so there are probably better ways. However, we’re nearing the end of Superior Spider-Man, and I’m sure some people feel like I’ve drawn it out long enough already. However, I have my reasons for continuing to look at the series, not the least of which being that it is a new take on someone who was formerly one of my absolute favorite comic characters. So, let’s get right into Superior Spider-Man issues 22 and 23.

We’re back to Humberto Ramos doing the pencils for these issues, so the cover is also his work. I’m kind of at a loss for what to say about it, including whether or not it’s good. It is certainly eye-catching, being almost entirely black, and there’s a good balance to the whole thing. Spidey looking up at the title to this story arc is kind of a weird meta touch, and I don’t know how I feel about it. Speaking of the title, this is actually the first story arc we’ve had that’s not three parts, this one is instead a four-parter. Why are we only looking at the first half instead of the entire thing? Because doing three issues in a single review is difficult enough to keep a decent length. I think if I tried doing four, I’d lose just about all my readers by the end of the second issue anyway.

Before getting into the issue itself, I thought I’d bring up something that I’ve noticed with both Superior Spider-Man, and the re-launched Amazing Spider-Man. It’s become something of a cliché to start off a Spider-Man story with him swinging around New York. It’s a lazy and unimaginative way to begin a Spider-Man story, especially since we’ve seen it a dozen times, and we’re likely to see him doing more of that during the rest of the issue. Dan Slott has avoided this cliché with every issue of his that I’ve read, I think. Hell, most of the issues don’t even begin with Spidey or Peter, instead giving us the setup for the issue, and then showing us how Spidey/Pete gets involved. It’s a good way of playing around with members of the Spider-Man supporting cast.

The above is true with this issue’s opening, giving us Venom. Venom is one of my all-time favorite Spider-Man villains, which is impressive considering all the ways they’ve fiddled with him over the years. Currently, the symbiote is joined with Flash Thompson and is a hero. I was actually reading the Venom series when it first came out, but fell out of it after moving away to college where I couldn’t find a comic shop. It wasn’t a bad series, and I liked the struggle of Flash trying to maintain control of the symbiote, so I was pleased to see him here. He’s come to town because he’s heard that the Crime Master is doing business again, and Venom’s got some beef with the guy. Also, he’s supposed to be dead, so that’s mildly concerning. He takes the place of one of Crime Master’s men, having the symbiote disguise him. Ramos may not be my favorite artist, but he does an excellent job at drawing the symbiote. He makes it look like more than just goo, giving it a good sense of motion and life, so kudos to him on that.

We cut away to Peter, giving a speech to the newly hired employees of Parker Industries. It’s a little on the supervillain side of things, but it certainly gets across the kind of business he’s planning on running. After the speech, Sajani tells Peter that Jay and Aunt May are there, and he rushes off to greet his two investors, who are currently being given a tour by Dr. Wirtham. You guys remember Dr. Wirtham right? He was the “villain” Cardiac in issues 7 and 8. He’s going to be serving as a consultant to Parker Industries, which is kinda neat to me. Once Peter catches up with them, Aunt May insists on having brunch with him and Anna Maria in order to meet her. Peter accepts, and also informs May that his nanotech limb thingy is ready to be used, and insists that she be the first person to receive it.

Meanwhile, at the apartment of Carlie Cooper, we see Captain Watanabe going to check in on Carlie, but finds that she’s not there and her computer is missing. Kind of odd for a thief to only steal the computer, so she assumes that it’s connected with the Spider-Man investigation.

Back with Peter, we get a tender moment between him and Anna Maria in Anna’s lab. She’s been experimenting with bioluminescent light sources, so the lighting really sets the mood for the inevitable sex. I’m not joking, they start going at it right there in the lab. This is their first time together, too. It’s oddly fitting, actually.

But we don’t get to see any of this. Instead, we see that at Spider Island, the Spiderlings (as I have dubbed them) have learned of the situation with Venom and Crime Master, and decide that this is worthy of Spidey’s notice. He is annoyed at first, given what they interrupted, but tells them that they made the right call. He has them deliver a couple of special bracers and goes to the confrontation. Venom and Crime Master’s men are engaged in a firefight, except it’s not much of a fight, because Venom is Venom. Once Spidey shows up, Crime Master decides that he’s had enough of this and surrenders. He also unmasks himself and says that he’s not the real Crime Master, he just bought the costume and name from Kingsley. This makes yet another costumed villain that’s just leasing the name and such. Kingsley’s got quite the racket going on, if so many people are paying him obscene amounts of money for the privilege of being foiled by superheroes.

Anyway, with Crime Master’s surrender, Venom thanks Spidey for his help, and Spidey promptly shoots a jet of flame at him.

Huh, so that’s why this Spider-Man hasn’t really done any team-ups. Except for that one time with Deadpool, but that’s neither here nor there. The two fight for a few moments until Spidey manages to gain the upper hand. He also does enough damage to the symbiote that it can’t maintain the mask over Flash’s face, revealing his identity. Flash tries to talk to Spidey, but Spidey doesn’t recognize, what with not having any of the old Peter’s memories left. The issue ends with Spidey standing over Venom, about to execute him.

The cover for issue #23 is pretty good. It shows the Venom symbiote abandoning Flash, who’s reaching out for it with a pleading look in his eyes. Once again, I really enjoy how Ramos draws the symbiote, he’s got a great knack for it.

The issue opens where the last one ended, with Spidey about to kill Flash. Flash manages to do some quick thinking, surrendering in order to buy himself some time to escape. While he keeps Spidey distracted with talk, the symbiote sets off some smoke grenades, allowing Flash to fight his way free. The Symbiote’s weak though, so instead of throwing down, he escapes, disguising himself as an EMT. Spidey unfortunately has to leave in order to start getting preparations for brunch ready.

But enough about the struggle between good and… ostensibly good, let’s check in with some real villains. Beneath the city in the Goblin Underground, we see the Green Goblin, Menace and the Goblin Knight interrogating Carlie Cooper. Gobby is intrigued by Carlie’s findings, especially with who’s really in Spidey’s body, but he wants to know whose body that really is. Apparently all of Carlie’s notes omit Peter’s identity. Gobby decides to leave Carlie in Menace’s hands, while he goes out and pretends to be the Hobgoblin some more.

Back with Peter, we see him and Anna Maria arriving at his apartment to start preparing for brunch. Anna Maria is shocked to see that Peter’s place is cluttered with all kinds of equipment for Spider-Man. She’s not surprised by the equipment itself, just at how cluttered the place is. She insists on getting the place cleaned up, and Peter agrees, after mild resistance because some of the stuff is at “a critical stage.”

Over to Flash, who sneaks into a supply closet at the hospital and steals a bunch of stuff to help the symbiote recover. He finds a wheelchair and teels the symbiote it can relax, only having it provide him with clothes instead of also having to be his legs. Oh yeah, probably should have mentioned that for those not familiar with this Venom. Flash lost his legs while deployed overseas. He actually volunteered to be the host for Venom because the symbiote allowed him to continue serving his country. I don’t believe he’s working for the government anymore though. Last I heard he was with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Uh, anyway, Flash overhears a cop and a firefighter talking about MJ’s newly renovated club, which gives Flash the idea to lay low with an old friend.

And speaking of MJ, we get to see the re-opening of her club. While there, she gets a visit from Captain Watanabe. She tells MJ that the last call Carlie made before disappearing was to MJ. The two listen to the message, and Captain Watanabe develops suspicions about Peter, marking him as a person of interest.

Back to Peter and Anna Maria. Man, this issue jumps around a lot. Pete and Anna are continuing with the preparations when Flash shows up. Peter realizes this is a golden opportunity, providing he can figure out a way to get the symbiote away from Flash.

More jumping, this time to Aunt May. We see that her surgery went well, and she can walk just fine without her cane. Jay is kind of annoyed that neither Peter nor his son were able to be there though.

And speaking of his son, let’s see what Mayor Jameson is up to! He’s paying a visit to Alchemax, bringing them a big, fat government contract. What does he want them to do? He wants his own squad of Spider Slayers, and even wants them to use the research from the Smythe family to build them. This idea can’t possibly go awry.

Back to Peter! Brunch is more than a little awkward, with Anna Maria making wheat cakes better than Aunt May’s, and Aunt May is concerned about Peter dating a little person. Flash attempts to leave, in order to escape the awkwardness, but Peter insists he stays. He tells Flash that after how successful Aunt May’s surgery went, he’s ready to proceed to phase 2 of his nanocybernetics; full artificial limbs. He manages to pressure Flash into doing the procedure, because it will help other veterans who’ve lost their limbs.

So back at Parker Industries, we see Dr. Wirtham prepping Flash for the procedure, while Peter does some mysterious stuff. Flash is hesitant, but doesn’t change go back on his word. Just before everything starts, Peter comes back as Spidey, which surprises Wirtham. But because they’ve worked together before, he allows Spidey to do what he wants, which is to activate a sonic pulse. The pulse drives the symbiote off of Flash and into a containment tube. Flash demands to know what the hell is going on, and Spidey says that there’s nothing to worry about. The containment device was based on the designs that Reed Richards created. However, the symbiote has grown in power and breaks free from the containment unit, flying straight at Spidey. The issue ends with… well, I’ll just let the final panel speak for itself.

These two issues are not bad. My only real complaint is that the second one bounces around so freaking much. Most scenes are only a page long, and it breaks up the flow of the story. But the dialogue is, as always, good and the overall plot is also solid. The artwork is for the most part good, but there are a couple of weak spots. However, I think the excellent artwork on Venom makes up for any shortcomings.

Next week we’ll take a look at the second half of this story arc, which will bring us into the final plotline of Superior Spider-Man. We’re in the home stretch now! So join me next week! Until then, citizens!

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