Written by Marc Guggenheim
Pencils by Mike McKone
Inks by Andy Lanning
Colors by Jeromy Cox
From Marvel Comics
This annual does a lot of things well. First and foremost, Mike McKone is fast becoming one of the better Spider-man artists around. His command of the mask is equally emotive and impressive. His pages are beautifully laid out, with each panel sequence serving the scene perfectly. McKone's work is always viscerally jubilant, in a style that suits the web-slinger perfectly. He sprinkles Spidey-logo shaped panels throughout the issue, punctuating moments with extreme web-i-tude. He and Andy Lanning have established a solid rapport, and their work brings out the best in one another.
Marc Guggenheim does his job, too. His Peter is a funny guy, but just as important, he's pretty annoying. This is actually spot-on, because really, people who are constantly being funny, or trying to be funny, are oftentimes just obnoxious. This doesn't detract from one's overall likability, but it is something that friends of “funny people,” have to accept. Betty Brant is a great supporting character that really solidifies the history of Peter's life. She knows him well enough to not simply let him get away with his aloofness. We also see Spidey interacting with the broader Marvel Universe, going to Reed Richards to solve his science enigma. We don't get any reason that Reed wouldn't be trying to hand Spider-man into S.H.I.E.L.D., but at this point that is no surprise.
We are also treated to one more of Spidey's new class of villain, with Blindside. His trick? He makes you blind! While the concept is limited, the real strength of this new breed of bad-guys is really that they are pretty much an army of hired help, with each having his or her strings pulled by some bigger baddie. It isn't just that the mythos needed a ton more Norman Osborns gunking up Peter's life; it is also that he needed more Rhinos and Shockers- grunt level thugs to take up pages and fight scenes. They don't all need to be classics; they just need to pester our fair hero.
Further, in this issue, is “Mogul,” Walter Declun, recently from the pages of Wolverine. Declun seems to be pretty much like any wealthy bad guy, but the fact that he was introduced in another Marvel book continues the recent revival of shared characters. For too long, creators were bringing their own toys to the sandbox, and refusing to share. Recently, though, with the emergence of The Hood in New Avengers, Gravity in Beyond, Scorpion/ Venom in Thunderbolts and Marvel Boy in Secret Invasion, creators seem to be remembering that the original trademark of Marvel Comics is the inclusive nature of the universe. Mogul still needs more meat on his bones to be a strong villain, but mixing up his appearances proves that he is on the right track.
But no one is really interested in the villains of this issue. This annual was hotly awaited due to promises of the final reveal of the Brand New Day wifey-lookalike, Jackpot.
Well she's not M.J. But you knew that already.
Without explicitly spoiling it, because there is not too much to explicitly spoil, Jackpot is a person who felt compelled by the Superhuman Registration Act to take up arms, and become her own superhero. She made questionable sacrifices, and tried her best to be a good guy. Other than apparently patrolling the same parts of Manhattan, she has no connection to Spider-man.
And that kind of sucks.
The problem with the Jackpot reveal is that it feels like a cheap trick. At a time where the writers have taken extra care in intertwining the stories of the Spidey-villains to the Parker-life, learning that this is an almost non-sequitur character makes it truly difficult to feel anything less than jerked around. While many fans still harbor resentment over the merits of the soft reboot/ retooling of Spidey's universe, this reveal does little to quell the feelings that readers are being taken for a ride.
There are two ways to approach this; on the on hand, creating a desire for readers, or setting them up, to identify Jackpot's secret identity is an easy way to get people to care. Also, by tying her origin so closely to the Superhuman Registration Act, it demarcates her introduction perfectly, tying her to this time, and this place. She is someone you will remember as having arisen out of Civil War, and that's cool.
On the other hand, making everyone feel like she was someone to be identified, making it seem like a solvable mystery, and then having the truth come out of left field, satisfies no one. Readers, and this has been exceptionally true since BND, just don't want to feel screwed with. There is no fun in trying to solve a mystery if there are no clues. You end up just feeling like they're messing with you.
This issue offers us answers, but no real resolution. We find out who Jackpot is, and why she has taken up the life of a hero, (and why she has such long hair), but we never really find out why she's called “Jackpot,” or calls people “Tiger,” or, basically, why she's a character in Spider-Man and not any other book. In the end, she serves no purpose other than to distract us, make us believe something that isn't, and, likely, frustrate us.
Look, she didn't have to be Mary Jane. But she needed to be someone with some sort of Spidey-related hook. She had to have some sort of relationship with the character, or even the idea of “Spider-man,” to not feel like a cheap stunt.
Instead, she becomes the ultimate stunt. It is one thing to not give her the obvious identity, but if you're setting something up as a mystery, let the mystery be solvable. And really, at least spare us the after-school special origin. We're left with a woman with motives almost reminiscent of Black Cat, coif that reminds us of Mary Jane, and personal issues that aren't dissimilar to Patriot. It feels derivative and unsatisfying.
There may yet be potential for Jackpot to become a more dynamic character in the future. The note this issue ended on left her good room to develop, and be less of a 2-dimensional bit character. The particulars surrounding this story's tragedy is one very suited to our fair hero. But today, this story comes up wanting.
I liked this issue. I thought it was a fun story, as I have felt most of the Spider-man stories following One More Day have been. I think that the creative team has proven that there are much more stories to tell about an unfettered Spider-man than there was a married one. But I still want resolution to the story I read. The Jackpot character was nothing more than a manipulation of those who wanted some sort of closure, and that is unfortunate.
I wish she would have been Felicia Hardy.