Amazing Spiderman #800
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Stuart Immomen, Alex Ross, and others
The anticipation of milestone issues is something the comics industry thrives on. This is even more so for flagship characters like Spiderman. It’s often difficult to rehash and recycle characters who have been around for decades, but Spiderman #800 does a bang-up job, for the most part. The conclusion of the “Go Down Swinging” story arc is 80 pages that never really let up. With illustration duties taken on by Stuart Immomen and a veritable parade of others, it’s a dazzling and gorgeous book. It’s a dense storyline, peopled with what seems like the entirety of the Spiderman universe. It’s all held together by the greatest villains in Peter Parker’s rogues’ gallery, all beautifully corralled by Dan Slott.
The biggest menace, of course, is Red Goblin; a nasty hybrid of Norman Osborne’s Green Goblin and the Carnage symbiote. The mind of Cletus Cassady is in there somewhere, gleefully watching a totally unhinged Osborne murder, torture and generally wreak havoc. The web-swinging anti-hero Venom loans his symbiote to an outmatched Spiderman, and it’s some top-shelf fan service to see Spiderman rock the black suit again. With so much going on, the issue warrants close reading, and some events and characters get overshadowed. #800 is an incredible ride, even if the price of admission is the loss of one of the best characters Marvel has had in recent years. Here’s to another 800 issues, webslinger!
Doomsday Clock #5
Writer: Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
There’s no shortage of strong opinions on Watchmen, whether it’s the groundbreaking original story, the expanded mini-series or the DC crossover, Doomsday Clock. Much like the original Watchmen, this is a far cry from the standard books that DC prints, and the plot is a slow and low boil. There’s no shortage of symbolism, call-backs, foreshadowing, and dialogue. Geoff Johns has his work cut out for him, writing not only for Watchmen heroes (and villains) but also the mainstays of the DC universe. Gary Frank’s straightforward yet highly detailed illustration approach is both in line with the original panels of Watchmen, and the slow pacing of Johns’ grand storyline.
Quite possibly the biggest standouts of this series are the imported Watchmen universe villains Marionette and her husband The Mime. While these aren’t original to the series, they feel like they could be. For all the whirling events occurring meanwhile, seeing their powdered-white faces finally meet the Man Who Laughs makes just about everything, uh, pale in comparison. The story is a graduate course in cross-universe matchups, and we’ve already gotten an amazing Rorschach/Batman tête-à-tête in issue #3. As controversial as Watchmen beyond Alan Moore may be, it’s definitely a course worth signing up for.
Writer: Ivan Brandon
Artists: Esad Ribic
If Ridley Scott and Philip K. Dick got together and decided to upgrade The Hunger Games for the post-graduate set, you would have VS. One of several books in Image Comics’ considerable stable of science fiction, VS pushes the envelope with its dystopian dream. Esad Ribic’s illustration of a gleaming future is breathtaking, from the first panels of the story to the cliff-hanger ending of the 4-issue exposition. While the museum-worthy illustration often reads as operatic, the storyline is anything but plodding. VS is an immersive experience, and one that assumes its readers can follow a complex story with deftly delivered satire.
Ivan Brandon has created a world where war is now a streaming team sport, with the combatants fighting for ad revenue. The story is soaked in this universe’s corporate culture, from the discussions of sponsorship to the pop-up ads in the corner of panels. The reader is both watching the live feed of the sport of war as well as the discussions behind closed doors, and the experience can be a little jarring and confusing. For those willing to turn the pages a little more slowly, VS is a lush and compelling dystopia. The shared vision of Brandon and Ribic holds great promise.