Marvel Knights Spider-Man 10 – “The Last Stand, part 2”
By Mark Millar and Terry and Rachel Dodson
The Story: To save Aunt May, Spidey must cross a dangerous line.
The Good: Millar does a nice job of ratcheting up the tension here. The stakes of Spidey’s damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation are made abundantly clear in the introduction, and there’s a nice (if unexpected) subplot introduced that adds a greater sense of urgency to the breakout.
The characterizations for the principals are spot-on, as they have been throughout this series. Of particular interest for this issue is the interplay between Spidey and Black Cat. These two have a lot of history, but Millar distills it to its essence through a quick, touching scene. These are two ex-lovers, and while they didn’t work out, they still care about each other a great deal. It’s a good moment, personal and heartfelt without being Hallmark.
The Dodsons show their usual flair on the art chores. Really, this series has been a treat for their work alone. Most of this issue is more subdued, as befits the action, but the moment comes when everything busts loose, and the art takes advantage of it, presenting some impressive action and a double-page splash towards the end that hits just the right note.
I don’t think the Spidey mythos really needs Venom anymore, but if Marvel’s going to insist on having him around, I think it’s a good move to take away the Eddie Brock element and give us a new face inside the suit. Eddie’s character was pretty much chewed up and spit out by overexposure in the 90’s, and it got so I winced every time I saw his name in the solicits. Maybe this new approach will work, and maybe it won’t, but at least we’ve finally closed the book on the whole “Venom as anti-hero” mess.
The Bad: MJ is way too bitchy in the opening, particularly in regards to Cat. I know what Millar’s doing here, but it just doesn’t fit the character. I’m also not wild about her carrying a piece, but that has more to do with an awkward plotline from almost 15 years ago than anything else, so I’m passing on it for now.
“Witness Protection Program.” Yeah, right. Mark, you’re better than that kind of red herring, and you know it. I’m ashamed for both of us.
The Quote: “You know your trouble, Spider-Man? You always think the best of people. You always think that everyone is just as nice as you are.”
The Final Word: Not the best chapter in the whole enterprise, but worth my money, and I’m really looking forward to the next installment.
The Grade: B
New Thunderbolts 4 – “Sword and Claw”
By Fabian Nicieza and Tom Grummett
The Story: While the team licks its wounds from last issue, Baron Strucker goes up against not one, but two deadly antagonists.
The Good: I talked about parallel plotting yesterday. Nicieza’s another good example of it. Even in a story where the T-Bolts themselves take a side role, he still manages to keep all the balls he’s thrown up in the air. The character arcs each progress a bit here, leading to a moment of truth next time around.
Since this story depends heavily on events currently happening in Wolverine, this issue by necessity requires a bit more setup than most. That’s gotten out of the way quickly and effectively, and best of all, in a way that doesn’t make the editorially mandated “Previously” page superfluous. It’s also a step towards making the MU more cohesive than it has been in the past, which I think is the good thing. The whole fun in this shared universe business is the sharing.
Grummett gets off light here, mostly tossing us a slam-bang slugfest. It’s not his best work, but it does the job just fine.
The Bad: Hey, where the hell are the T-Bolts? Seriously, while the Swordsman/Wolverine fight is fun to look at, it doesn’t really carry the book. We’re meant to care about Swordsman, Strucker, and Wolverine to some degree, but the first is too much of an enigma, the second too much of a cliché, and the last his usual superfluous guest star self. As a result, the issue comes off as filler. I know this semi-crossover was Fabian’s idea, and not thrust at him by the suits, so I guess I’m just disappointed it didn’t turn out better.
Purple Man’s monologue throughout just hurts. It’s full of mixed metaphor, pretension, and forced self-consciousness. Maybe Fabes is trying an unreliable narrator thing, maybe the point is to show us how much of a pompous ass this guy is, but it’s laid on way too thick to be digestible. For God’s sakes, man, rein yourself in.
The Quote: “I don’t like wine. An’ I never liked you.”
The Final Word: After the last three issues, a disappointment. I hope for better next issue.
The Grade: B-