REVIEW CONTAINS A MINOR SPOILER
Ever since he burst onto the scene, the diving bell-wearing, spear wielding, essence consuming spider-hunter has been a strange, deadly mystery. However, especially observant readers may have noticed certain aesthetic and practical similarities to a villain we haven’t seen since Spider-Man’s foray into The Other. Christos Gage, with Dan Slott, however, in his an expert storytelling method took us in one direction and swerved us in another. It’s a minor spoiler to let you know: it’s not Morlun, but he is RELATED to Morlun! DUN DUN DUUUUUUN! And this actually has a precedent as Morlun’s introduction briefly mentioned that there were others like him, but in the massive JMS run, none of them were ever addressed. We actually also get some backstory that explains the motivation of this strange, vicious antagonist as well as his odd fashion choice. Gage has a TON of juggling to do here, between the strange Spider-Folk and their new antagonists, and it works so amazingly well. Characters are given their chances to shine and speak up, to develop their own personalities with an incredible quickness and, while Otto is obviously in the spotlight, the others at least feel like real, developed characters.
Giuseppe Camuncoli handles pencils for the main story and the way he captures the illusion of motion, never more important than when dealing with a character as acrobatic as Spidey, let alone an entire horde of similarly powered characters. There’s a fluidity that makes the action frantic but the reader never loses sight of where it’s going and how it got there, and part of that is the solid, strong inks of John Dell. Dell’s linework puts the emphasis where it needs to be and adds an incredible sense of kinetic force behind every punch, stab and shot. Inking is all about emphasis and that’s so critical to drawing the eye to the appropriate place in the panel and helping the reader follow the action from one page to the next. The colors are darker and moodier than what we’ve seen in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, but courtesy of Antonio Fabela it comes off as entirely appropriate for this much darker, more dreary tale. The palette is diverse and razor-sharp, despite the darkness, it’s never murky nor indistinct and everything serves a purpose, whether to communicate story or establish tone. And not to forget the backup story: linework is provided by M.A. Sepulveda with colors by Richard Isanove and the visuals on this origin story are likewise dark, but far, far murkier, which suits the flashback into a different, more mysterious time and dimension. There’s a surreal, mystic quality that matches the stranger storytelling.
As great as the action is, it’s punctuated by a ton of speech balloons which drags the actual pacing of the fight to a much slower, more methodical pace. This is an issue in both the main and backup story and also serves to illustrate how lopsided the issue is in terms of content. We get a ton of action up front, followed by a veritable info-dump, but both have comparative amounts of dialog across all of it.
The reveal we get here is incredibly significant, and in fact it's one of a couple, but there's little pomp nor circumstance to it. It's tossed off as if the audience already knew despite it being an extremely clever call back to a storyline almost ten years old.
This is one of the most interesting Spider-Man books on the shelf right now. I’m absolutely thrilled to see the return or more accurately follow-up, of one of my favorite villains we haven’t heard a peep from in almost ten years. It’s also a great juxtaposition seeing Superior Spidey on the shelf at the same time as Amazing and seeing the massive differences between the two.