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Amazing Spider-Man #664

Written by Dan Slott

Art by Giuseppe Camuncoli, Klaus Janson, and Matt Hollingsworth

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

Amazing Spider-Man #664 is a prime example of why Dan Slott's Spidey works so well. Since last issue, a mysterious figure known as the Wraith has been running around Spider-Man's turf, scaring criminals into submission while wearing the face of Jean DeWolff, and old supporting character who died back when Peter was wearing his black costume. While the Wraith is escalating her conflict with the criminal empire of Mr. Negative, Anti-Venom resurfaces with a mad-on for the same villain. Of course Spidey's in the middle of it all, and runs afoul of not only Anti-Venom, but Mr. Negative as well.

Why does this arc perfectly illustrate Slott's Spider-Man? Because all of this has been building since the first few issues of One More Day, where Mr. Negative first appeared. The build-up continued into The Gauntlet, where Anti-Venom's conflict with Mr. Negative began, and the groundwork was laid for the origin of this new Wraith, whose true identity is revealed in this issue. Finally, this two-issue arc tells a concise story, and still manages not only to call back to all those moments, but also provide a major climax of one of the current era's longest running sub-plots. On top of that, there's a moment at the end of the book between Peter and his current squeeze, Carlie Cooper, where we see just how Pete's attitude has changed since the onset of OMD.

All of that in only two-issues that, backstory aside, tell a complete story unto themselves? It doesn't get better than that in modern comics, period. Dan Slott captures the essence of Spider-Man like nobody has in almost as long as I can remember, giving Peter the perfect voice, and telling exactly the kind of continuing stories that I look for in comic books. This issue's artist, Giuseppe Camuncoli isn't quite up to the level of someone like Marcos Martin, one of Slott's previous artistic partners, but his strong sense of linework and facial acting make him more than a match for Slott's script. The only real drawback to the art is the coloring; while the palette is spot on, there's an overlaid quality that gives the art something of a washed-out look, whereas any book featuring a character like Mr. Negative would benefit far more from stronger, bolder blacks and harder lines.

Amazing Spider-Man #664 may not be a great place to jump onto the title, but it is a perfect example of the kind of storytelling that can be expected from Dan Slott's Spider-Man run; concise, energetic arcs that still recall the recent history of the title, buoyed by always enjoyable art and drama. As far as I'm concerned, Dan Slott can have Spider-Man for as long as he wants him.


The Green Hornet Strikes! #8

Written by Brett Matthews

Art by Ariel Padilla and Marcelo Pinto

Lettering by Simon Bowland

Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Review by Deniz Cordell

Here, at last, is the moment that connects this new, wilder Green Hornet to his forebears. Brett Matthews handles the moment with gravitas and an undercurrent of emotion, as the revelation of Luke’s ties to the Reid legacy is laid out. It’s a moment that is simultaneously one of the strongest elements of the issue, but also feels like something of a disappointment in the grand narrative scheme of things.

I shall explain the latter first — as well done as the sequence dealing with Luke’s birthright is – it registers as something of a tonal disconnect. So much of the development of The Green Hornet Strikes!, has been its detachment from the universe proper. Yes, the character existed in the same universe where there was once a Green Hornet who fought crime while pretending to be the very criminals he despised – but, as Luke himself points out in a pointed line by Matthews: “The Green Hornet. It was just a name. I thought it sounded cool.” It’s a line that so incisively cuts into the core of this new Hornet that to ultimately have him connected to the Hornet lore proper seems like the improper decision. Luke is a character who is interesting on his own terms, and to now have him suddenly defined by his relationship to previous Hornets feels like a compromise of the character, and a way of dovetailing this character into the larger mythology being constructed by the line of magazines.

That said, it is only in this issue that the reveal itself is made, with few pages remaining to sufficiently address the ramifications. Matthews is a clever writer, so I am very curious to see which direction he will choose to take this revelation – the effects it could have on the lead character are legion, and the after-effects of this issue will doubtlessly resonate for the rest of the comic’s run. This latter notion is a particular plus — there is no “easy out” here, things have been irrevocably altered, and while it’s not a new “status quo,” or a clean start, what this issue does is present new information, new circumstances, and some new (if ultimately expected) members of the supporting cast. You see then, the bind the magazine places on the reader and reviewer – it gives into and confounds expectation and convention all at once, and it’s a quality that lends the story its energy. It’s pushing and pulling all at once.

The corporate intrigue and subterfuge is still tautly written, and the villain — Kaast — and his support team are suitably sinister without resorting to the requisite moustache twirling. His writing for Luke remains strong — the character has a distinct voice and attitude that separates him from the other two Hornets. The introduction of (minor spoiler here) the new Kato — as well as his father — is handled well, and the immediate tension between Luke and his aide lends some color to the dialogue.

Speaking of color, colorist Marcelo Pinto’s work is quite admirable here, and complements Ariel Padilla’s art nicely. Padilla’s work is well-executed, from its opening sequence on a high-rise, integrating photo-backgrounds with his pencil art – to a page where the Hornet sinks to the bottom of a river, where the colorist and artist work together seamlessly — there’s plenty of visual variety on display, and Padilla never goes overboard in his design — it’s always easily digestible, and even though there’s not much variety of expression, the script doesn’t exactly call for rubber-faces or constant visible emotional turmoil. It makes the moments where Padilla provides nuanced faces, such as when Luke deals with the direct aftermath of viewing the video left for him by Britt Reid — stand out in stark relief to the tenser moments.

The plotting is crisp and fast, Matthews’ ear for dialogue is well attuned, and he manages to fit in some bits of humor that never seem out-of-place with the darker, more dangerous tone the rest of the book possesses. Padilla’s art is covered in shadow and obscures details to its advantage, and he draws another crucial element in lore quite well, as Matthews creates another connection to the past, and Luke Reid takes another large step into a mantle that he never intended to fill in the manner he is about to. The Green Hornet Strikes! is superhero soap opera combined with a high-tech action story. It’s filled with well-drawn (and slightly unbelievable — naturally) stunts, sly commentary on communication, and some quietly effective character scenes — and, what’s more, it’s quite a bit of fun.

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