By: Zeb Wells (writer), Clayton Crain (art & colors), Clayton Cowles (letters) & Stephen Wacker (editor)
The Story: We learn how the Carnage symbiote returned to Earth and what plans a nefarious corporation has for it.
What’s Good: Pretty fun story. A SPOILER warning is probably in order….and….I like how Wells brings the Carnage symbiote back to Earth in the hands of a corporation that is planning on using the symbiote to create prostheses and super-powered suits. It’s clever and doesn’t run over the top of any other story that Marvel is telling and even though it does star Spidey and Iron Man, it avoids major “I-can’t-buy-this” continuity problems by keeping the action in NYC. Well done!
Wells even shows some knowledge of how corporations function with their legal agreements and how they protect their intellectual property. I usually don’t like to drag my personal fan baggage into a review, but in this case it is worth pointing out that I LOVE this aspect of the story because it happens to be very close to my own professional career. He’s got a few tidbits wrong (e.g. contracts are governed by state law, not federal law), but it is a gleeful personal delight to see a comic book delve into my boring workday and inject superheroes! I only wish that I could run into Spider-Man during my next technology licensing deal, but I digress…
Clearly the end result of this story is going to be a new host for the Carnage symbiote. We may be getting some answers to that in this issue, but I have a pretty strong feeling that we haven’t seen the final answer about who will be in the suit at the end of the day.
It is no surprise that Wells has a good grasp on writing Spider-Man since he was a member of the rotating group of Spidey-writers that only recently ended (writing the EXCELLENT Shed story arc, btw), but he also writes a very good Tony Stark who sounds just like the guy Bendis is writing over in Avengers.
Clayton Crain’s art is one-of-a-kind. When you open a comic by Crain, you are not going to confuse it with anything else you might see. I’ve been pretty hard on his art in the past, but I actually like most of his work in this issue. He uses very dramatic layouts to frame the story and he is no slave to traditional, rectangular panels. I also like how he has a very clear sense of where he wants your eyes to linger on a page. He is just a very experienced and professional artist. Even on a few of the panels that may not be to my personal taste, he is “going for it” and that’s something I always tip my hat to.
What’s Not So Good: I do have issues with Crane’s art in a few places. Some of this is due to personal preference, so I’ll be very specific about my quibbles. When Crane draws and colors normal humans, they look soft and the art looks painted (which is how I think Crane works), but Spider-Man himself looks very CGI. Sometimes seeing the two styles in a single panel is a little weird. I’d love to know what process Crane uses for his art. Oddly, Crane’s Iron Man looks AWESOME and not CGI at all, especially one splash page showing Iron Man pulling Spider-Man like a water-skier.
One of my historic complains with Crane’s art has been how dark it gets in places. His art is so much brighter in this issue except for a fight sequence or two. It was like someone turned off the lights for the fight. I really want to see the punches connect and see the choreography of the fight and you just can’t see that when Crane darkens the action.
It’s also a shame about the bi-monthly release schedule for this title. Painted art takes a longer time, but I just cannot imagine that a bimonthly title revolving around a secondary villain is going to be a sales winner in this difficult comic sales environment. It isn’t a “must read” title anyway and making it bi-monthly makes it easier for all but the hardcore fan to ignore it.
Conclusion: This is a neat story. It is by no means issue-of-the-year or required reading, but if you’re a Spidey fan or just like to see some unique and non-standard sequential art this is well worth your money.