Dark Reign - The List: Amazing Spider-Man #1
Written by Dan Slott
Art by Adam Kubert and Mark Morales
Colors by Dean White
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
It's been a lot less friendly of a neighborhood with Norman Osborn in charge, with every name on his list turning into havoc for Iron Man, the Avengers, the Punisher, and more. With the Dark Avengers in charge and the world going to hell, it's going to take a hero to pull the plug on this one-time Green Goblin -- to do what only a Spider can.
With Dark Reign - The List: Amazing Spider-Man #1, Peter Parker finally takes the stand we've waited to see against the Dark Reign, after months of dancing around the issue due to the restraints of a thrice-monthly title. How does it work? It's possibly the biggest example of "widescreen comics" that Dan Slott has ever written, and with Adam Kubert behind the wheel, this is one comic that oozes polish and panache.
In a lot of ways, Slott manages to juggle Peter Parker's sense of humor with the anxious, indignant anger that hides behind his heroism. "I've made a list," Slott opens. "Spidey's Top Ten Ways Norman Osborn took over America. My number eight: 'Rubbed a magic lamp.'" It's an amusing enough introduction, that he smoothly segues to the Front Line, giving us all the exposition we need for an all-out assault on what would hurt Norman the most: his reputation.
But Slott really takes you by surprise by pitting Spidey and his red-white-and-blue antagonist, the Iron Patriot, fairly early, and cranking the action to 11 for the rest of the book. Again, the main strength of these List books seems to be allowing the top-tier art talent to run wild, and Adam Kubert is no exception -- there's a real degree of speed to all this, as we watch Peter dive through a window, with his armored opponent in hot pursuit. There's a double-page, sideways splash that is particularly hard-hitting -- I doubt there are many other artists who could get away with it, but Kubert is still comics-speak for quality, and believe me, he lives up to the name with a larger-than-life moment of Norman triumphing over his victim. And it's all leavened with great humor, including my favorite line: "You looked like you swallowed a barbershop pole."
With all this action in tow, does Slott manage to stick the dismount? You bet -- in a lot of ways, the conclusion to this book isn't tied to spider-powers or Iron Man tech, but the everyman personality of Peter Parker going head-to-head with Norman Osborn's carefully crafted public persona. Certainly there will be people who say it's a little too pat -- and they might have a case -- but for me, I feel like it's really the best show of characterization on Peter's part in a really long time. Still, there are some issues with the book -- pacing is occasionally a problem, as Kubert is occasionally wasted with some double-page spreads, while other pages feel a little cramped. And perhaps most importantly -- this book feels right, but it feels late. Why not take down Norman at the beginning of the Dark Reign, or immediately after the American Son arc? In this case, the thrice-a-month format actually works against the Web-Heads, as their high-stakes enterprise leaves little room for turning on a dime for a story point.
Despite a few missteps -- and to be fair, many of them are not the fault of this creative team -- Dark Reign - The List: Amazing Spider-Man #1 is a long-overdue reckoning that is supercharged with the art of Adam Kubert. With Norman no longer knowing Spider-Man's secret identity, a lot of the emotional connection between the two may be muted, but Slott manages to take that status quo, and still give a rip-roaring battle that, more than any other issue in this eight-part series, might take the fight back to the Iron Patriot. Combined with a great backup by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley on a key moment between Peter and Norman, this issue is one spectacular, sensational -- even amazing -- fight to the finish.