by Dan Slott (writer), Stefano Caselli (art), Marte Gracia (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Life is good, and very busy, for Peter Parker, but unbeknownst to him, more and more people in New York City are gaining spider-powers.

What’s Good: Apparently, Dan Slott and the rest of the crew in the Spider-office take that $3.99 price-tag really seriously.  This is a lot of comic book.  It’s 30 pages of dense storytelling, packed with characterful dialogue and narration that’s entertaining, regardless of the exposition.  It’s also amazing quite how many bases Slott touches upon in these 30 pages.  Not only does Slott set the stage for Spider-Island in ever conceivable way, he also gives us an update on more or less every nook and cranny of Peter Parker’s world.  As a result, the number of characters in this book is pretty damned massive, but because Slott keeps it, for the most part, tightly focused on Peter, Spider-readers won’t get lost.

What’s even more remarkable is what a firm grasp Slott has on this immense cast.  Obviously, his Peter Parker is great, but everyone elses’ dialogue is fun and energetic and every character has his or her own distinct voice.  With so many characters on hand, here, that’s pretty impressive.

All in all, this is just a really big, well-rounded package.  It sets up the state for Spider-Island quite well and will leave you ready and willing to dive in, but more than that, you get a little taste of literally everything and everyone relevant to Slott’s run on ASM thus far.  No stone is left unturned, and as a result, you get a Spidey comic that really feels like a Spidey comic.  With so much in this book, this is a pretty immersive experience, one that really brings you into Peter’s world.

Of course, Caselli’s art doesn’t hurt.  It’s as lively and energetic as ever and while Caselli often puts a lot on the page, in both content and panels, it’s never confused or claustrophobic.  Whether it’s a dialogue scene or an action scene, Caselli’s work always feels fast-paced.

What’s Not So Good: Despite being a prologue for a Spidey event, this couldn’t be any worse for new readers.  Not only is there that massive amount of content and characters, but Slott really does go too far this month in his referencing of past issues.  There seemed to be an abundance of editorial notes to this month’s issue, drawing our attention to previous issues and stories.  At one point, Slott even revisits last month’s issue of Venom, for no particular reason that I can discern.  That one was the breaking point for me, personally, and all of this referencing ends up being distracting and mildly irritating, almost making me want to shake my fist and yell “just tell your damned story, already!”

Which brings me to my next point: this really is a prologue, as advertised.  But in touching so many bases and being so meticulous and thorough in his stage-setting, this book does feel a little dry at points.  For instance, I felt that in the first half of the issue, Slott hammered the message that “Peter’s life is good” just a little too much, and it ended up feeling repetitive and familiar.  The “Peter’s life is so busy” theme he had running throughout the issue also felt a little too heavily emphasized.  Slott just seemed to keep hitting us over the head with these two messages for far longer than necessary.

Honestly, while I praised the amount of content, I imagine that this issue may be a bit disorienting even for long-time readers.  I myself and still a bit confused by the identity and nature of some of the villains revealed this month, and am not sure of the extent to which that was intended.

Conclusion: An A for effort, but still a prologue, and perhaps one that’s a little overexcited.

Grade: B-

-Alex Evans