by Dan Slott (writer), Marcos Martin & Javier Pulido (art), Javier Rodriguez (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Mysterio’s plot comes to its explosive conclusion.

What’s Good: Thus far, I’ve been somewhat underwhelmed by Dan Slott’s “Mysterioso” arc, but this final issue is probably the best of the lot.

One of the chief reasons for this is that Slott suddenly remembers to bring the silliness and sense of humor that has marked out much of his writing, particularly on ASM.  Most of these comedic moments come thanks to Mysterio himself, who really is a fun read.  His fight with Spidey in particular was absolutely hilarious, as was his eventual fate at issue’s end.

Slott really makes Mysterio into an almost unconsciously self-deprecating character.  For all his pomp and ornamentation, Quentin Beck’s just a petty criminal at heart and this juxtaposition between costume and man leads to some pretty humorous moments.  At times,  you also get that “retro-villain” feeling of Mysterio’s setting himself up for failure, which only makes the character more enjoyable.  Certainly, seeing his very self-aware “performances” is also quite the laugh, especially as he gesticulates wildly and speaks with gusto in his portrayal of Silvermane.

Meanwhile, the art on this arc continues to be generally enjoyable, furthering that retro, pulpy feel that the Gauntlet seems to be aspiring towards.  Certainly, it lends itself well to Spider-Man himself and the always ridiculous-looking Mysterio.  Martin’s work really brings out the old school flavor inherent in these colorful characters, bringing out their core, campy essences.

What’s Not So Good: There’s simply no taking away from the fact that this arc has just had a generally uninspired feeling.  After seeing Sandman and Electro take such diverging paths, it’s somewhat underwhelming to see that Mysterio has nothing remotely approaching complex motivations.  Considering the work that’d been put into Sandman and Electro, I would have thought Slott would have tried a bit harder with Mysterio.  He does try to bring up an interesting psychological complex that drives his villain, but he introduces it far too late.  If only he’d emphasized this development, and done so much earlier, we may have gotten a far better arc.

In the end, it’s hard not to feel like this entire arc has just been weighed down by some of the more bland aspects of Spidey’s corner of the Marvel Universe.  Mysterio simply didn’t have enough time to develop and blossom as a character, as we’re also forced to deal with Carlie Cooper, Mr. Negative, and the fairly ho-hum and clichéd Maggia.  The result is that nothing really feels as inspired as it should and everything just feels kind of there.  Neither Mr. Negative nor Carlie feel as engaging as they ought to, the cut-and-dry mob element is just that, and we just don’t get enough Mysterio.

Also, on art, the presence of Javier Pulido is disconcerting.  While Pulido’s style is similar enough to Martin’s to avoid any really jarring moments, it’s also abundantly clear that he’s simply not as good an artist as Martin.  But they’re close enough that you could get by thinking this issue was illustrated by one artist.  The end result is a fairly equivocal feeling about the arc; there were several pages that I really liked, but just as many that I was completely underwhelmed by…  Furthermore, I really don’t like either artist’s depictions of Carlie.

Conclusion: Being the best issue of an uninspired arc still means being trapped in a field of mediocrity.

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans