Best Shots Extra: SPIDER-ISLAND Prelude, KIRBY GENESIS #2

Best Shots Extra: SPIDER-ISLAND Prelude

 

Amazing Spider-Man #666

Written by Dan Slott

Art by Stefano Caselli and Marte Gracia

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

It's easy to say that a hero has "never faced a challenge like this before!", but when discussing a character who has had hundreds of stories told about him over nearly 50 years, it's rarely the case that the statement is true.  In the case of "Spider-Island," well, the threat at hand is certainly unique in Spider-Man lore.  Spidey's old enemy the Jackal (most famous for his culpability in the infamous "Clone Saga" debacle) has been infecting hundred of unsuspecting Manhattanites with a version of Spider-Man's abilities, resulting in people who can cling to walls, shoot webs, and have incredible strength.  As yet, Spider-Man doesn't know what's going on, but with even his girlfriend infected, it's only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose.

Amazing Spider-Man #666 is the last issue setting up the event, with next month's #667 really kicking thing's off.  While the story hasn't really crept into the main feature of the title yet, there have been a number of back-ups showing the escalation of these incidents over the last few months.  It's been a really graceful way to bleed into the story without spending numerous issues focused on set-up.  Dan Slott has done his usual great job with this issue, judiciously visiting every aspect of Peter's life, visiting his supporting cast, his various allies, and even some of his enemies to establish the status quo that is sure to be shaken up by the event. 

It's everything a set-up should be, and it's a great point to get into Amazing Spider-Man.  Slott has done a great job of keeping things breezy so far, but having an issue that sets up the next arc for long term readers, while managing to make the world accessible to newcomers WITHOUT relaunching the title is a rarity these days.  Stefano Caselli, aided marvelously by colorist Marte Gracia draws a perfect Spider-Man.  His take is both modern, and iconic, and he manages to keep Spidey in motion as often as possible, contrasting his twisted, contortionist acrobatics with Peter Parker's almost slouchy meekness.  Gracia's biggest contribution is knowing when to change the mood of the art, so Spider-Man's costume is bright and flashy when he's saving the day, and dark and almost creepy when he's prowling the night.  Caselli even manages to make the Jackal look cool, which, along with Slott's cocky take on his personality, is a breath of life for a character that's best known for ruining the franchise. 

There are a lot of balls in the air here, as seen by the whirlwind tour of Spider-Man's NYC, but there's also a lot of potential.  The premise is intriguing, and if Slott focuses on the mantra "With great power must also come great responsibility," the idea of a city full of Spider-Men could really be a defining story for the character.  Madame Web's prediction that Spider-Man will have to take a life to end the plague is the same threat that's come up a few times in the last couple years, but Slott's Spidey hasn't failed to deliver yet.  Count me in for "Spider-Island."

 

Kirby Genesis #2

Written by Kurt Busiek

Art by Jack Herbert, Alex Ross & Vincius Andrade

Lettering by Simon Bowland

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Deniz Cordell

Two issues into Kirby Genesis and I feel that I need a scorecard of some kind to keep track of the characters, their stories, their motivations, and the “sides” they take.  For any other book that might be detrimental, but here – it is a very good thing.  The universe of this story is so populated with characters, and they’re all brought onto the narrative table so quickly, that it feels alive, pulsing with the joy of storytelling.  It moves quickly from scene to scene, telling us what we need to know, while moving everything forward – it resolves elements of mysteries while creating totally new ones – and it continues to delve into various elements of the Kirby mythology, including – at last – the appearance of one of Kirby’s greater later villains – Darius Drumm. (Silver Star also appears in a prominent role, and there is also a reference to the “New Breed,” which implies that we may be seeing more of the species Homo geneticus shortly.)

Kurt Busiek’s scripting doesn’t stop for breath, even in its more reflective moments, and if the crux of the first issue was Kirby’s relationship with his object of affection – Bobbi, then this issue places the focus on Kirby and Bobbi’s father Jake – an ex-policeman.  As he did with the previous issue, Busiek allows for a breaking of the fourth-wall as Jake engages in a direct address to the reader, discussing his feelings towards Kirby.  It’s a moment that – much like Kirby’s aside in the previous issue – allows artist Jack Herbert to unshackle himself from the universal grandiosity of the rest of the book, and indulge in a variety of different art-styles, forming a sort of collage-effect that works by juxtaposing the qualities of Kirby’s life and Bobbi’s.  There’s a tender knowingness to the scene as well, and it stands out as a delicate character study in an issue filled with smart, fast forward momentum.  What is also particularly worth noting is that many of the characters are introduced here with minimal (to no) back story – they simply appear.  The fact that Busiek is able to immediately make the reader latch onto these new characters, and understand and follow them without really knowing too much about them is pretty terrific, and it’s a great way of creating more intrigue to the story as little tidbits are dropped about the nature of each character, with the promise of more revelations to come.  It’s something that Kirby himself did quite often – especially in his Fourth World books.  The characters also have distinctive voices – culled from their character types, and sometimes playing against them to great effect.

Herbert’s art continues to have real presence – his depictions of Bigfoot are powerful, and he gives the face that distinctive Kirby-quality – the wide nose, the squared features, the feathered eyebrows are all a welcome, familiar sight.  His other work here is quite good as well – as he continues to develop and elaborate upon the Kirby aesthetic, bringing us to new worlds such as Mythlands, which is populated by a distinctive cast that – to simplify matters for the moment – has a look somewhere between Kirby’s Asgardians and his New Gods – with elaborate headpieces and gladiatorial garb mixed with angular, metallic looking accoutrements.  There are more direct Kirby references as well, including panels reminiscent of Mister Miracle and the original Silver Star series.

Though there is not as much Alex Ross art featured in this issue, it continues to be integrated well into the book.  Vincius Andrade’s colors here are crisp and bright, and he gives every setting a distinctive palette and look.  The bold orange/purple sky of the Mythlands calls to mind some of the colored gel skies that Jerry Finnerman and Al Francis created on the original Star Trek, he also manages to bring appropriately alien sheens to the costuming.  Simon Bowland’s lettering is clean and keeps the pages uncluttered – bringing interesting effects to each character’s dialogue – such as the typeface for Drumm that evokes antiquity.  Particularly grand is a moment when the character of “The Midnight Swan,” (who is possessing Bobbi – the object of Kirby’s unrequited affection) declares her name aloud, it appears in the typeface of what the header for the characters own magazine might look like.

Busiek and co-plotter Ross manage to take an amalgam of diverse concepts and wrangle them together into a unified story – the details of which are still unfolding.  There’s quite a lot going on, and lines that could be seemingly seen as “throwaways” have a great deal of weight and suggestiveness, as well – a moment when a military higher-up points out the advantages of the uniforms worn by four ancient knights, for example.  It’s all put together with a heady, dizzying pace, but it still finds time for humor, pathos and humanity.  When we leave Kirby, he finds himself in quite a pickle, and Bobbi finds herself confronting not only her new identity, but also an outside force.  Much like the previous issue, though the scope is cosmic, and the ideas are writ large, at its core, the story remains one about three people and their relationships with each other.  At the beginning of the book, one of the cosmic characters – a fellow named Jerek, refers to Earth and its population as “refreshingly complex.”  By a happy happenstance, that sums up the book, too.

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