REVIEW: Avenging Spider-Man Annual #1

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In today’s work-a-day world, it can be all to easy to forget that Spider-Man is more than just a crime fighter. He’s more than just a weirdo swinging through New York in his PJ’s. More than just a threat or just a menace. Down deep, Spider-Man is a funny guy, and that fact is best seen when he interacts with other heroes. And, is there a better straight man for Spidey than the Thing? Find out after the jump!

AVENGING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1
Writer: Rob Williams
Pencils: Brad Walker
Inks: John Livesay
Colors: Scott Sotomayor
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editors: Stephen Wacker, Tom Brennan
Publisher: Marvel
Cover Price: $4.99

Previously in Avenging Spider-Man:  High school loser. Radioactive spider. Dead uncle. Great power/great responsibility.  Other than that, it might help to know that Spider-Man has been a member of the Future Foundation and the Avengers, alongside the Thing and Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman’s kids: Franklin and Valeria. Oh, and the fact that people in New York are rude and argumentative.

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR (FRIENDLY) NEIGHBORHOOD?

In the tradition of The Iliad, The Road to Morocco, and The Warriors, this story is about our hero, Spider-Man, trying to get across town and the trouble that besets him along the way. Spidey is trying to get to the Daily Bugle, when a pair of ne’er-do-well brothers find an alien device that causes people to attack one another. (In New York? How do you even know it’s turned on?) Then the Thing happens to be walking by and gets involved, i.e. punching. (The coolest thing about living in Marvel Manhattan would be walking down the street, passing Ben Grimm and just giving him a little nod like it’s no big deal.)

Avenging Spider-Man is Marvel’s way of using this year’s marketing mandate of slapping the word “Avengers” on everything while resurrecting Marvel Team-Up. It’s not grim and gritty. It’s not mopey. It’s not “ You have to have read the last three years to understand what’s going on.” Instead we get “down on his luck” but still wise-cracking Spidey. It’s “why does this always happen to me” by way of Archie and Charlie Brown. It says “all readers are welcome”. If you want to read about that Spider-Man, this is your comic.

This comic is the rebuttal to the “This is not canon. This does not matter.” attitude. As you can tell from my “Previously” section above, you don’t need to know about current developments in Spider-Mythos to read this comic. You don’t need to have ever read the phrase “clone saga”. On the other side, you don’t have to have read this comic to understand what’s going on in another ongoing title. Although this is in-continuity, it doesn’t reference much continuity and I don’t think the events here will be referenced in future comics. And yet it’s still a good story about Spider-Man. If you like Spider-Man, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to read it. Many of my favorite comics are intricate, continuity-heavy sagas, but there is still room for the small tale that just explores the interactions between the characters. Not every comic has to change the status quo forever (for given values of forever).

DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN

This is a nicely drawn book. The art is particularly good in the three things that need to be shown well in a Spider-Man comic: New York, Spider-Man, Acrobatics. The city is almost a character unto itself in a Spider-Book, in this story even more than others, and we get excellent views of the city. From Central Park out to Brooklyn, the locations shape the story and the action, and the visuals really back that up.

Spider-Man himself is depicted well, skirting the edge where you want to be able to read his emotions behind the mask without making the mask some kind of magical, shape-changing cartoon. This is assisted by Spider-Man’s body language, including his acrobatic moves both in and out of combat. Spidey doesn’t just walk from point A to point B; he leaps, he swings, he flips. It’s a big part of who he is and the artist, Brad Walker, captures that without going too far into the mid-air yoga poses characteristic of say, McFarlane’s Spider-Man.

The only part that bothered me was the design of the Richards children. Their proportions looked just a little off, such that they reminded me of Judd Winick’s Barry Ween, Boy Genius, which was distracting. Any issues I may have had there are completely forgiven, however, after looking at Walker’s drawings of the Thing, which among the best I’ve seen. He makes a guy made of orange rocks look realistic, and that’s even harder to do than it sounds.

THE BOTTOM LINE: ACTION IS HIS (AND YOUR) REWARD!

I give Avenging Spider-Man Annual #1 four and a half stars. It’s a fun story about characters who you want to spend time with. I am a slightly better person for having read it. Buy it.

Rating: ★★★★½

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