By: Dan Slott (story), Fred Van Lente (script), Stefano Caselli (art), Marte Gracia (colors), Joe Caramagna (letters), Ellie Pyle (assistant editor) & Stephen Wacker (editor)

Bug Time Infestation intro by: Dan Slott (writer), Barry Kitson (art), Edgar Delgado (colors) & Caramagna (letters)

Ghost Rider team-up by: Rob Williams (writer), Lee Garbett (art), Alejandro Sicat (inks), Fabio D’Auria (colors), Caramagna (letters) & Pyle & Wacker (editors)

The Story: Spider-Man goes on a swashbuckling Caribbean adventure with the FF (the Future Foundation)…

What’s Good: I think we’ve found a couple of writers who would do a great job with the FF whenever Jonathan Hickman leaves the title.  Both Dan Slott’s story and Fred Van Lente’s script capture the fun, family dynamic that we’ve come to expect when Spidey interacts with the FF.  These are characters who are comfortable around each other because they’ve known each other for decades.  Heck, the FF all know Spidey’s true identity!  But, Spidey still interjects a slightly different and awkward feel into the group because he is new.  It’s kinda like the difference between knowing someone socially and staying at their home for a week and having them learn about your bathroom habits.

The story itself is fun as hell as the team finds themselves sucked into a Caribbean pirate adventure with the Thing playing dress up!  Basically they go down to the Caribbean to investigate some dimensional anomaly and end up running into zombie pirates guarding Blackbeard’s treasure.  And that is all fun, but this is very much a Van Lente script with his mix of pop culture references and high-level humor.  For example, we have Spider-Man and the Thing enjoying an ongoing Beastie Boys joke with the word “booty” (much to Sue Storm’s chagrin) and Reed Richards being called “Mr. Elongated Man” to which he tells the villager, “I hope you have good lawyers.”  It’s just a great little story that ends up with a bunch of Spidey villains and the FF kids getting into the fun.  Every page has something that makes you smile.

It looks like Van Lente learned how to toss softballs to Stefano Caselli during that Spider Slayer story arc a few months ago, because this art is a LOT tighter than that work was.  I really didn’t see a shaky panel anywhere and the highlight was when Caselli busted out some zombies that reminded me a lot of Rafael Albuquerque’s vampires in American Vampire.  In case you haven’t read my reviews of AV….that is high praise.  Nice coloring too!

What’s Not So Good: Small things only… For one, I’m a little personally bummed at the direction that Carlie Cooper’s story is heading.  Her choice of tattoo is not going to end well.

And, as neat as the Sinister Six are individually, this squad just isn’t going to be much of a match for Spidey plus the FF PLUS Franklin and the other kids.  Slott and Van Lente are going to have their work cut out for themselves next issue to make this a credible fight.

A final quibble is with the back-ups.  I really do appreciate that Marvel is giving us these back-up stories, but sometimes when the main ASM story is great, they just don’t measure up.  It’s kinda like eating a glorious meal at a fine restaurant and then having an Oreo for dessert.  Oreos aren’t bad and in a vacuum you would be happy to eat Oreos, but it just isn’t what is called for after a great meal.  If the waiter came out after the fine meal and said, “I’m sorry sir, but we are out of the white chocolate mousse with raspberries.  All we have left are Oreos.” ….  well, you’d probably just skip dessert even if you like Oreos.  I guess what I’m trying to say is this issue would have been better served without the back-ups at all.

Conclusion: There are so many good things in this issue that this review could have been a lot longer.  But, this is a really good issue that has all of Dan Slott’s fun plotting, combined with a typically erudite script from Fred Van Lente.   Nice art from Stefano Caselli too.  The only thing dragging this down were the kinda average back-ups that served to diminish the whole package.  For my $3.99, I’d have rather just had the main story.

Grade: B+

-Dean Stell

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