Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more. For more of our thoughts on this week’s new comics, take a look at Wednesday’s Deadshirt Comics Shopping List.
Joe Stando is reading…
Amazing Spider-Man #13, Spider-Verse Team-Up #3, Spider-Woman #3, and Scarlet Spiders #3
Written by Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Tom DeFalco and Ron Frenz, Dennis Hopeless, and Mike Costa
Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Justin Ponsor, Dave Williams, Dexter Vines, Chris Sotomayor, Ron Frenz, Sal Buscema, Andrew Crossley, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Frank D’Armata, Paco Diaz, and Israel Silva (phew!)
Lettered by Chris Eliopoulos, Joe Caramagna, and Travis Lanham
Whoa, what a week! The biggest “Spider-Verse” output yet in terms of single issues, and maybe not coincidentally the strongest week yet. We’ve got a lot to get through, so let’s start from the bottom and not waste any more time!
The “bottom” here is Spider-Woman, and even that is better than it has been. All told, not a lot happens in this book that you can’t find summarized elsewhere in the event, but it’s a decent enough spotlight for Jessica Drew. This week did a little of what I’d hoped they’d do early on: splitting focus to other female Spider-characters, namely Silk and Gwen. The story is still much more of a cog in the machine (basically, it got the Prophecy into the hands of the Spider-Army) and a soft launch for the book than anything, but it was fine, and it got three key characters to Loomworld for the endgame.
Next up is Scarlet Spiders, which comes to a close rather predictably, but satisfyingly nonetheless. It’s cool that we get a little glimpse into the alternate Ben Reilly’s past (especially what looks like a failed attempt at “Dying Wish,” the set-up to Superior Spider-Man), and he gets a lot of the spotlight before his inevitable death. We knew Kaine had to last until the end, being The Other and all, and getting killed off in a side book in a crossover would be a sad way for Ultimate Jessica Drew to go, seeing as she’s one of the more popular characters left from that universe. It’s a nice wrap-up to the series, with some good lines (Jess’ diss about color-coding the buttons for Johnny Storm was particularly funny), and it served a key role of rendering the Inheritors vulnerable.
Spider-Verse Team-Up was a mixed bag. The back-up story is sort of a space-filler, focusing on Mayday Parker yelling at the team, this universe’s Uncle Ben, and everybody else. I think the main story has served May well, and her frustration and rage at how her family has been treated and the other Spiders’ focus on the big picture has felt somewhat justified. Here, she just kind of looks like she’s throwing a tantrum, and I wasn’t feeling it. The lead story, though, was great for a lot of reasons. We got to see a bunch of different Spiders interacting in a way that spotlighted their personalities, instead of just their fighting styles, we got to see Aunt May, Spider-Ma’am (wonderfully designed by Dave Williams), and we got what will be a major plot development: the Spider-Army recruiting Karn. Karn is an interesting character who’s been sort of sidelined throughout the event, and it’ll be cool seeing him play a larger role.
Amazing Spider-Man #13, though, was not only the strongest issue of the week, but probably of the event so far. With tie-ins wrapping up and the clock winding down, it finally feels like they’re done stalling. There are a ton of good character beats in this issue, from Pavitr’s meta realization that he might not be the “main” Spider-Man and thus is expendable and Spider-UK’s rebuttal, to both Peter and Otto dealing with the Doc Ock-destroyed universe, and an Uncle Ben who ran away when it mattered most. The Spider-Army has been cut down to the point that most characters can be afforded at least a line or two, and the book is better for it. Over on Loomworld, Kaine manages to for-real kill Solus, but is then defeated/possibly murdered by Morlun, who’s finally starting to take the lead in an event that seemed partially written around him. With the core Spider-Army and the Miles Morales-led reinforcements heading for Loomworld, and just a few more issues left to the event, it looks the odds are starting to tilt in the Spiders’ favor. Of course, it’ll probably be out of the frying pan and into the fire for more than a couple of them when Secret Wars begins this summer, but that’s another story.
Jason Urbanciz is reading…
Written by Greg Pak
Art by Ardian Syaf (pencils) and Jonathan Glapion, Sandra Hope Archer and Jaime Mendoza (inks)
Colored by Ulises Arreola
Lettered by Rob Leigh
“I always bet on blue.”
The current story arc of Batman/Superman feels like a comic that came out of the same focus group that led to The Itchy & Scratchy Show introducing Poochie. “So, you want a realistic, down-to-earth (comic)…that’s completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots?” This is why we have Superman chasing an assassin that is killing everyone he’s has inspired using bullets that are really shrunken Kryptonians from Kandor. Yes, people are getting shot dead with tiny supermen. This is what we’ve come to and it is the dumbest goddamn thing.
I’ve been sticking with this comic because I have been enjoying the way Greg Pak writes Superman, and the first few arcs were good even if Jae Lee’s constantly slipping schedule led to a lot of fill-in artists and delays. However, now that they’ve handed art duties to Ardian Syaf (and a legion of inkers), the story has fallen off a cliff. Pak still writes a very in-character Superman, but it’s like they’re inserting him into a Marvel comic. Ten years ago, this storyline would have been about Superman narrowly saving his friends from the assassin’s bullets, but the directives of the New 52 (and modern comics themselves) call for carnage, and that’s what we get. While this kind of stuff is passable in the Marvel Universe (since Marvel is supposed to be closer to the real world and the real world is a shitty place), but the DC Universe is supposed to be a more fantastical, idealized place, so dropping Superman into those situations feels like you’re staring into the uncanny valley. It’s just so frustrating reading this book, because all of the characters are so right—Superman, Batman, Lois Lane hit their marks perfectly—they’re just dropped into a story they shouldn’t be in.
Another result of moving from Jae Lee to Adrian Syaf is that the book loses its sense of style. While Syaf is competent, he is very much a DC House Style artist. Everything is very straight forward with that nineties sharpness of line that just looks out of place in a comic published in the year two thousand fifteen. Add into that a color palette that can best be described as “various shades of brown” and you get a really lackluster-looking book. Over the past year, DC has definitely seemed like they’re loosening up the style of the New 52, and Pak’s Superman books seemed to be on the forefront of that. Unfortunately, here things seem to be devolving back to form.
Adam Pelta-Pauls is reading…
Written by Brian Wood
Art by Greg Smallwood
Lettered by Travis Lanham
Colored by Jordie Bellaire
“Most people tend to fight back when attacked. What happened to the Marc Spector I used to know so well?”
It’s interesting to see where Brian Wood has taken the Moon Knight character after taking over the reins from Warren Ellis, five issues back. Ellis’ take on Moon Knight was a study in sequential art, and a portrait of a dichotomy: the white-suited detective, Mr. Knight, and the gadget-happy vigilante, Moon Knight. The books were quiet and intense, lacking a lot of dialogue in favor of visual action.
Brian Wood has gone in a completely different direction with the character, stripping Marc Spector of any persona but his own. Khonshu, Spector’s patron Egyptian moon god, has abandoned him for his psychiatrist, Dr. Elise Warsame. Issue 11 sees Marc, in captivity after the events of the last issue, struggling with his captors, both mentally and physically. The masked staff at the facility he’s in which he’s being held doesn’t really seem interested in his well being, nor do they seem to be proper government employees. Meanwhile, he still has Khonshu visiting him in his head, testing him, taunting him, and telling him he’s not worthy.
Wood tends to put his politics into most of his work, and that’s no different here. His Moon Knight has something to say about how war criminals are dealt with, or maybe about how we ignore goings-on in Sub-Saharan countries. To be frank, though, I don’t really know. The message is muddled in occasionally Sorkinesque monologue and unexpected action sequences. The art team does an excellent job of pulling off the creep factor in Spector’s hallucinations, and Travis Lanham makes Khonshu’s dialogue really stand out, but this issue felt slow. The twist ending was neat, but it didn’t do much to improve on the A-story of the book, and I just felt like more could have been accomplished in this issue with less. There’s an awful lot of “mysterious” dialogue in it that doesn’t move anything forward; it just feels opaque. Wood does his best work when he lightens his touch, and I feel like, here, he’s pulling on those reins a little too hard.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!