Review: Avenging Spider-Man: The Good, the Green and the Ugly trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at Hell Yeah '80s Marvel!]

Multiple Spider-Man titles are by no means a new thing, but in the aftermath of the “One More Day” reboot, the various books were all converted into extra issues of Amazing Spider-Man. However, the allure of multiple ongoing books was too strong, resulting in the launch of Avenging Spider-Man last year.

Despite the name, Avenging is not a Spidey book in the vein of Sensational or Friendly Neighborhood. It’s actually the newest version of Marvel Team-Up, which has traditionally featured Spidey teaming up with a various Marvel hero. The title makes sense when you consider that Avengers and Amazing Spider-Man are two of Marvel’s most recognizable titles, so combining them is a good marketing strategy.

That’s not to say that the book always teams up Spidey with an Avenger; the last story in the collection Avenging Spider-Man: The Good, The Green and The Ugly features Deadpool. But Spidey is the equivalent of Nightwing in that he knows and is (mostly) friendly with the majority of Marvel’s heroes. The first story sees him teamed up with another Marvel social butterfly, She-Hulk. They memorably shared the spotlight in an issue of She-Hulk’s much-missed title in which she helped Spidey sue J. Jonah Jameson for defamation. It’s always fun to see them together, partly because they have similar experiences as both Avengers and replacement members of the Fantastic Four. They’re also two of the Marvel Universe’s premiere quippers.

Kathryn Immonen injects Spidey and Shulkie into a standard museum exhibit opening with the added twist of Egyptian cultists. In the process, gods are summoned, Shulkie gets a tail, and Spider-Man gets to make allusions to Sebek, my favorite Egyptian god and the subject of a comic book pitch I’ve been working on. Illustrating this fun single-issue story is Stuart Immonen; it’s been a while since the Immonens have gotten to work together, and Stuart’s slightly cartoony and very kinetic art definitely helps the story.

The trade skips the next issue (which was part of the “Ends of the Earth” storyline of Amazing Spider-Man) and instead goes to a two-parter featuring Captain Marvel. As the included issue introductions allude to, this was a not-so-subtle ad for the new Captain Marvel series; it’s even written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. Spidey and Carol Danvers developed a strong chemistry during Brian Michael Bendis’ various Avengers runs. While I’m not entirely sold on the idea of a romantic relationship between them, it would potentially be the most stable pairing for both of them. It’s one of the promising storylines derailed by the new Superior Spider-Man concept.

DeConnick’s story is a bit muddled, involving the Occupy movement, privately-funded counter-protesters and a mysterious super-powered vigilante. The newness of the Captain Marvel identity plays a part, as few people seem to know that Ms. Marvel has changed her name. There’s a lengthy mid-air sequence since the Captain Marvel title uses flight as a key theme. Terry Dodson keeps the story moving briskly; he’s a personal favorite, and since his wife Rachel inks his work as always, that makes two married couples on this book’s creative team. (It would have been great to have Walt and Louise Simonson do a story for the trifecta.)

The aforementioned Deadpool two-parter both reads and looks different from the rest of The Good, The Green and The Ugly. As always, I dislike changing artists in the middle of a trade, but since Avenging is an anthology/team-up series, I don’t mind giving them leeway. I also think that this was a story not originally intended for this title. Instead, it feels like it was supposed to be in the defunct Deadpool Team-Up book, and this was as good a place as any to put it. Aaron Kuder’s artwork is darker and more heavily inked, closer to Scott Kolins than either Immonen or Dodson. There’s quite a bit of stylizing going on with the characters, which fits both the characters and the story being told.

Most of the first part of that story takes place in Peter Parker’s mind (clearly the man needs some anti-mind-control lessons from the X-Men), which Deadpool has entered with the help of a mysterious benefactor. Inception is name-checked, along with a half-dozen other films thanks to Deadpool’s madcap dialogue. Kuder does some great work in creating Peter’s inner demons from high school, such as a disembodied shop class teacher and ridiculous renderings of Spidey’s classic supporting cast as the members of The Breakfast Club. When this story took place, Deadpool had a second internal voice in white caption boxes as well as a desire to end his life, two elements which have been eliminated (in my opinion, for the better) in the new book.

Issue #13 transitions the story into the real world and the revelation of the true villain: the Hypno-Hustler, an infamously lame villain who hasn’t been seen for a while. As it turns out, the “inner demons” Peter beat up were actually the Hustler’s prison guards. Hustler uses the same illusion powers to turn the low-rent supervillains in the prison into better ones, including turning the equally lame and weird Painter of 1,000 Perils into J. Michael Straczynski’s Morlun. The ending involves a few jokes about the supposed influence of Spider-Man on Deadpool’s outfit and some comeuppance for the Merc With a Mouth.

Avenging Spider-Man: The Good, The Green and The Ugly is by no means an essential read. If you’re a fan of She-Hulk, Captain Marvel, Deadpool or a lighter take on Spider-Man -- and I happen to be all four -- then it’s worth a look. It’s the comic book equivalent of a beach read: fun and brief, with three great creative teams to boot.
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