Hearken back to the days of yesteryear, when our heroes were mysterious and pulpy. Fog fell from the sky like sunshine and the damsel in distress always wore red. The Spider has a mop of hair and fangs…if you want to know more details, you’re going to have to jump.
Story 1: The Spider: Death Siege of The Frankenstein Legion
Written by: Martin Powell
Illustrated by: Pablo Marcos
Story 2: Operator 5: The Faithful
Written by: Gary Phillips
Illustrated by: Roberto Castro
Both stories were
Colored by: Jay Piscopo
Lettered by: Josh Aitken
Editorial: Lori G
Cover(s) by: Dan Brereton (Cover A) and Doug Pagacz (Cover B)
For a number 1 issue, this book presumes the reader to be well versed in the mythos of our cast of characters. To clarify, I am not one of these readers. I’m fresh off the bus with a carry on suitcase, stars in my eyes and dreams of making it big in the city that never sleeps. This book is the sleazy modeling agency representative asking me if I have any problems with nudity. We’re no longer in a sleepy, non-descript Midwest city. As a matter of fact, we’re no longer in the same time period. As near as I can discern, the setting appears to be during the late ‘20s or early ‘30s.
Who Is The Spider?
Our hero is none other than The Spider. In his civilian guise, he goes by Major Wentworth (if he has a first name, it’s not shared with us here). Our damsel in distress is Nita Van Sloan, the romantic interest of our titular character. She’s visiting an ailing friend who lives away from the city and is located off in the desolate fog filled, countryside. Things start to go sideways for Ms Van Sloan so she places a frantic phone call to the police commissioner. After asking for the Major, the line goes menacingly dead.
How she would think to ask for Wentworth in the offices of the police commissioner is unknown. The chances that Wentworth would actually be present at the time of the phone call is beyond coincidence. The fact we learn through exposition that Van Buren has a radio controlled homing signal upon her person in case of such emergencies is staggering. Perhaps it’s best if we don’t think too much about things like the story’s plot.
What’s Black & White and Red All Over?
The art is black and white, adorned with many heavily penciled shadows. The only exception to the monochrome palate is the usage of the color red used sparingly throughout the entirety of the book. The Spider wears a suit, a long-haired wig and a mask. He also has vampiric teeth, which we have to assume are more than just a guise. He’s great in a scuffle and packs quite the wallop in his fists. This is the entirety of my knowledge of the character after reading this issue.
I’m normally accustomed to first issues taking some time to catch up new readers. I would especially expect this practice to be employed by an independent publisher such as Moonstone. Perhaps the comic would carry more weight if I had a better understanding on the background of The Spider. As it stands, the art has moments of real strength; at times I see some Bernie Wrightson and flashes of Neal Adams. At other times, the action is unclear and the storytelling could use some polish.
Bottom Line: Zombie Pulp Noir Without Much Brainwork
All in all, this is not a bad comic. If you’re looking for some pulpy zombie noir and are willing to leave your brain at the door, this is worth thumbing through. The Spider #1 earns 3 out of 5 Stars.
What’s More Evil Than Vegan Nazis?
Operator 5 is deep undercover of a surging fascist organization known as The Nordic Cross and the sect’s leader is Rev Gallows Sloan. Not only are they well-funded, offer members a stipend and firearms training but the most evil part of their training comes straight from Hitler himself. That’s right…Nazi overtones commence! Since Hitler is identified as a vegetarian, Sloan encourages his followers to follow a proper diet. Now THAT is truly diabolical!
While I make light of this revelation, it’s minute details in this story that make it more interesting than just another generic exploration of depression era bigotry. I’m impressed with the amount of story that writer Gary Phillips is able to inject into such a compressed page count. Unfortunately, the art provided by Roberto Castro is not as strong as the first feature. His storytelling is smoother but his penciling technique falls short when it comes to rendering facial features and body angles.
White Power – One Dimensional
Some of the ‘white power’ racist tones are a tad predictable, making the cult followers quite 1-dimensional. To the story’s credit, the Reverend does seem to have some layers to him, making him more than a 1-trick pony. For example, he employs technology to brainwash his most promising followers. What this will do to Operator 5 remains to be seen.
As with The Spider, very little is shared regarding the origins or capabilities of the lead character. We do know that he’s a spy of some type, which makes the murky background a bit more palatable. The fact that we don’t know a lot about a man who’s clearly a spy actually makes sense.
BOTTOM LINE: For Spy Drama & Racist Organization Infiltration, You Could Do Worse
There is at least one editing error in the story, which when combined with some of the choppy pencils and one-dimensional secondary characters, Operator 5 earns 3 out of 5 Stars.