WEEKLY WEB-UP RETURNS! MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER REVIEWS ASM #653, SPIDER-GIRL #3, and raves about the return of THE LOOTER!!!!

SPIDEY’S WEEKLY WEB-UP

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #653 & SPIDER-GIRL #3

STORY: Dan Slott (ASM), Edward Paul Tobin (SG).

ART: Stefano Casselli (ASM), Clayton Henry (SG).

REVIEW: Master Filmmaker Mark Mackner

Hola, Arachno-philes!!!! Tis I, your favorite Amazing Spider-Fan and local indie horror icon MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER with the triumphant RETURN of one of PopTards’ flagship features, SPIDEY’S WEEKLY WEB-UP. Yeah, it’s been a while, and sorry about that, but I was working 2 jobs there for a while, and now I’m back in school. Plus, I’m a Daddy and a hubby, then there’s the whole filmmaking thing. In short, I’m a busy guy.

But NOT TOO BUSY FOR SPIDER-MAN! Or SPIDER-GIRL! So, at the demand of absolutely NO ONE, I bring you yet another installment of the WEEKLY WEB-UP!

First, let’s check in on the man himself, Peter Parker, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Last I wrote, we were knee-deep in the HOBGOBLIN arc, and now we’re in the thick of the SPIDER-SLAYER saga, so let’s get right to it. ALISTAIR SMYTHE has resurfaced, and he’s still harboring a major grudge against J. JONAH JAMESON, Mayor of NYC. He’s amassed an army of insect-attired assassins, armored with his own brand of mad technology. Each of these fiends has their own axe to grind with Jameson. His chief lieutenant is MAC GARGAN, once again operating under the guise of THE SCORPION.

After the events of SIEGE, the alien symbiote has been forcibly removed from Gargan, so they may never unite to terrorize mankind again. Problem for Gargan is, his body became dependent upon the symbiote for survival. That’s where Smythe steps in, providing Gargan with a souped-up super-charged Scorpion suit, complete with pincers and a helmet that grants Gargan a “scorpion sense”, identical to our hero’s famed Spider-Sense. The seemingly indestructible suit also keeps Gargan alive.

Meanwhile, in the life of Peter Parker, things are going rather well for a change. Things are still going swell with new girlfriend CARLIE COOPER, he’s got a dream job at Horizon Labs, and he’s living in a swanky hotel room.

COL. JOHN JAMESON, JJJ’s son and noted astronaut (And sometimes MAN-WOLF), is about to embark on another heroic space mission. It’s here where Smythe decides to strike. He has his insect army overtake the mission control center, then attack JJJ and his staff. Spidey nobly rushes to the aid of the man who publicly humiliated him and ended his photojournalism career, while the shuttle takes off, sabotaged by Smythe. Smythe blames JJJ for the death of his father, SPENCER, creator of the original Spider-Slayers. So now he wants everyone JJJ cares about to die a horrible death.

THE AVENGERS drop in to help Spidey with his bug problem, freeing him to attach himself to the shuttle to figure out how to save John and his co-pilot. But Smythe planned on this eventuality, and placed Scorpion on the shuttle, waiting to intercept Spidey and see that their nefarious scheme comes to fruition. Simultaneously, more insect invaders attack the new Daily Bugle offices and a day spa where JJJ’s wife MARLA and new stepmother AUNT MAY are having a relaxing day off.

So, yeah. LOTS of action in this issue! And that’s the way I like it. Lots of fun Spidey zingers, too, and that’s always a good thing. I’m liking this story more than the Hobgoblin arc, I think. One reason is the art. I can deal with Ramos, but I can’t say I’m a fan. Casselli is technically proficient, and I dig his stuff more than Ramos’, but it can be a little generic, also. He draws all the characters pretty well, but he doesn’t do much to make his work unmistakably HIS. Like, there’s no defining characteristics that make his work stand out from what others are doing. But, his stuff is more traditional, and I actually prefer more traditional artwork for this title. Ramos is a little overly stylized for Spidey, in my opinion.

Another reason this story is playing out better for me is the villains. I mean, at least the man in the Scorpion suit is Mac Gargan, the REAL Scorpion. I felt the Hobgoblin story was kind of a ripoff, in that it wasn’t the REAL Hobgoblin under the mask. In the press leading up to the Hobgoblin story, Marvel was all “The RETURN of the villain YOU demanded!”, but that was really misleading. Sure, there was a guy in a Hobgoblin suit CALLING himself the Hobgoblin. But it wasn’t the character we grew to love to hate over the years. It was Ben Urich’s nephew. Blah! Like, ANYONE can put on a Hobgoblin mask, but that doesn’t make them THE Hobgoblin to me.
And what’s worse, they had Phil easily kill off the REAL Hobby, Roderick Kingsley. I didn’t like that.

And at the end of the arc, Slott killed off ANOTHER longtime Spidey foe, MONTANA of the ENFORCERS. Totally unnecessary. On a side note, though, now that it’s done, I’d like to see an issue that addresses the reaction of FANCY DAN and OX to the passing of their friend and teammate Montana. When a minor character is offed, you rarely see how it impacts other minor characters, and I think there’s potential for a good story there.

So Phil Urich is THE Hobgoblin of the New Status Quo. While I’ve been off not writing the Weekly Web-Up, I’ve had some time to stew over this, and I still don’t like it. Does anyone think that was a good idea? The wings and the flame sword are cool, but they’re stolen. He hasn’t earned the right to use the name, as far as I’m concerned. And Kingsley didn’t get a proper sendoff. So BOO to Slott for that boner. BOOOOO, I say!

But, back to this SPIDER-SLAYER story. While I wasn’t exactly clamoring for the return of Alistair Smythe, he hasn’t been around in a while so it feels a little more fresh than say, having MR. NEGATIVE pop up again. And, while I learned to love Mac Gargan as Venom (Took a while to accept it, but I liked that he didn’t have the morality issues that plagued Eddie Brock. He was just a mad psycho who ate people. I can dig that!), I’m glad to have the Scorpion back. The fight on the side of the space shuttle was cool, and the mid-air/plummeting-to-Earth struggle was especially fun. Good stuff.

The Insect Army and storm troopers dressed like ants is something that could easily figure into the plot of a kids cartoon show, and I’m actually OK with that. I like my super-villain schemes to be larger-than-life, with colorful characters and themed costumes.

And the REAL shocker comes at the end of the issue. SOMEONE has stumbled upon Peter Parker’s secret! And he figured it out rather quickly. But that’s cool, too. You can swallow all sorts of things in the wonderful world of comic books, but even then, you really have to suspend your disbelief at times when it comes to secret identities. When there are geniuses working with these characters who can’t piece simple facts together and figure out that so-and-so is actually a super-hero… come on. But somebody’s got Spidey’s number, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out. And I also enjoyed the DR. OCTOPUS appearance, though I won’t spoil what he does.

This issue has the conclusion to the back-up story that began in the last issue, Fred Van Lente’s LOCK AND/OR KEY. Van Lente mixes elements of KICK-ASS and the real-life super-hero phenomenon in Seattle (New POWER MAN has an ad on craigslist offering his services as a hero), National Treasure (Convoluted conspiracy plot involving famous figures of our nation’s history), and KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (SPOILER ALERT!!!! Aliens are involved!)

This is my first time meeting this new Power Man, but apparently he’s the new apprentice of IRON FIST. He’s a young, brash blowhard, and I don’t know if I’d care to follow his solo adventures, but he does make for a good sidekick. His banter with Spidey is pretty funny, and they’re an amusing team to observe.

The villain of the piece is THE LOOTER, who absconds with the key to the city, armed with the knowledge that the key isn’t just for show, but it unlocks a secret stairway to a long lost treasure. It was fun seeing The Looter portrayed as somewhat formidable (He manages to knock both heroes silly), and anything with villainspeak like “Forget about my Dazzlegun, wallcrawler?”, and “I shall use the interstellar vapors contained within this fallen star to increase my power a thousandfold!” gets my vote. Yay, Looter!

ASM #653 wrap-up…

STORY: I’ll give it an A-. Good action, good humor, exciting villains, no needless killing of classic villains. This is the way to do things, Slott!

ART: A-, too. Casselli’s got skills, and I do admire them, but again, I wish he was just a tad more distinctive.

BACK-UP STORY: A. Light, breezy fun with no pretensions. A Spidey story for all ages. Fun team-up, fun dialogue (My favorite bit… SPIDEY: On your feet, Looter! We’re gonna stuff you back in “Atlas Shrugged” where you belong, you obscure Ayn Rand reference, you. LOOTER: Huh? SPIDEY: What?), and wonderful use of a D-list villain.

Which brings up to our second item of discussion, SPIDER-GIRL #3. First off, terrific cover art, courtesy of Jelena D. Striking image of Spider-Girl standing over a gravestone, beautifully done.

Inside, not a whole lotta action or fun, really. But, that’s to be expected. Anya’s Dad was killed last issue (Technically, the end of the 1st issue), and she’s understandably bummed about it. She turns to friends who have lost loved ones due to super-villainy, and attempts to thwart a car theft, when she’s confronted by the RED HULK, who, by all appearances, seemed to be her father’s killer.

From there, secrets are revealed, conspiracies are alluded to, and in the end, an unlikely alliance is forged with Red Hulk. Does Anya forgive him for what happened? No, but she’s willing to believe that there was more to her father’s death than Red Hulk knocking a wall on him, so that sets up some future stories concerning her quest for revenge against the shadowy organization RAVEN that Red Hulk claims is the real culprit. All of this is handled really well, and I’m curious to see where Tobin is taking us with it.

So this concludes the first arc of the Spider-Girl series. It’s been a largely somber affair, but most great heroes’ stories begin with a great tragedy, and this was Anya’s. I really like this character, and your heart really goes out to her. The Tweeting gimmick is still working as a storytelling tool, and beneath the cloud of sorrow, Anya still has a lighthearted approach to crimefighting and life in general, and it’s a welcome antidote to the overcrowding of dark, brooding anti-heroes that populate countless other titles. We get an ending, but it’s open-ended, as the mystery behind her father’s death still lingers in the air.

But, up next, she’s going up against ANA KRAVINOFF, KRAVEN’s psycho daughter, and that promises to be a good read. These two first met during the instant-classic ASM story GRIM HUNT, and it’ll be cool to see Anya go up against someone who’s a more even match for her, physically.

STORY: A. Tobin writes this character really well, and deftly sets up future storylines and a FUGITIVE-like quest for our hero.

ART: A. Henry’s an ace, and I really dig his pencils. Here’s hoping this creative teams sticks with this title for a while.

And THAT is THE WORD, so sayeth THE MASTER!!!!!

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(MASTER FILMMAKER MARK MACKNER is the resident Poptards Spider-Man nut, and the author of SPIDEY’S WEEKLY WEB-UP right here on this site! Also, true to his name, he is the writer/director of the locally made films DAISY DERKINS, DOGSITTER OF THE DAMNED!, EVIL BREW, and THE HALF-LIFE HORROR FROM HELL or: IRRADIATED SATAN ROCKS THE WORLD!)

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