Something happen to me during Spider-Island #4, I put down my comic and realized that I was ready for this story to be over. The middle of this series had become very repetitive and the final battle started in a way that I found fun, if not particularly inventive. The thrills were over for me, I was ready for Christos Gage to make his statement and provide a fitting end to this series before I lost all interest, and the book seemed to be heading there. Then it was over. It seemed clear to me with just a handful of additional pages everything could have been wrapped up but instead I would have to read a whole additional issue to find out what happened to Venom and his ragtag team of mutant heroes.
I’ve groused about the length of this series in the past, and unfortunately it continues to be my main concern. At the close of issue #4, Venom, Spider-Man and their monstrous company combined their strength to conquer Spider-Queen’s army. The (defeated) Spider-Queen erupted into a massive Spider-Monster as the heroes debated killing her — they were stopped, as usual, by Spider-Man’s “no killing” morality, which I don’t think fits in a story this apocalyptic. But even that was just a stopgap to allow for Spider-Queen’s “true form” to rise out of her corpse for this finale. This is a nigh-hopeless war setting, and the internal logic of Spider-Man’s merciful decision, particularly after defaulting to Venom’s judgment for the rest of the issue, seems faulty to me.
Venom’s fight against the Spider-Queen comprises most of Spider-Island #5, as his sonic-resistant suit is tested by the queen’s sonic scream. Venom’s ultimate plan ends up being quite simple, if somewhat confusing. The logic essentially boils down to a rock beats paper dynamic that undersells the level of danger and threat the team has faced through the story. Thematically, I suppose that this series of events is meant to show the connection between Venom and the Symbiote as well as his unwavering determination as a leader, which the heroes are sure to mention. Again.
Here in issue #5, it’s almost unbearable.
I must say, Paco Diaz and Frank D’Armata’s art is quite good. I still find myself scrutinizing the wonderful designs of the hybrid heroes and I thrilled at the brief appearance of the Symbiote-possessed Spider-Queen (also seen on the Humberto Ramos-drawn cover). The infected city, particularly by the end of the issue, takes on some wonderfully monstrous characteristics that please if only for their very existence. Additionally, I chuckled at the design and concept for the Thor (Dino-Thor that is) that appears here, whether that was because of the artwork or the name I couldn’t say.
I should also say something about the backup story, specifically that I thought this was the best chapter so far! Spider-Woman and her backup team fight Enthralla, Hope Pym, and the charmed Avengers, despite the dismal circumstances surrounding Enthralla’s charm powers. Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema’s art shows some classic Spider-action, and remains clean and evocative while efficiently conveying the plot. In this backup’s case, it seems like the beginning and end of the story were well-defined, while the middle chapters meandered a bit as the main story did. Spider-Woman’s ingenuity in defeating Enthralla is quite amusing and uses a particular MC2 character in an inventive manner. We also get to see Uncle Ben/Spider-Man (Uncle Spider?) in action, though briefly. His design is awesome—if we ever get more Spider-Woman MC2 comics, I can only hope he will be a large part of the storyline. It seems like that is what DeFalco was going for here—a potential finale to the character with the potential for future comics—and a new costume!
Spider-Island contained two middling stories, built on some really interesting ideas. As such, they delighted me at times and made me shrug at others. The art was consistently good (often great, particularly in the backup) but there was something off about the structure that made it a bit messy. Overall, it was an interesting exercise and a showcase for some nontraditional character designs, though I wouldn’t consider it a necessary part of Spider-Man’s comics canon.
Christos Gage wraps up Spider-Island in this week’s issue. Unfortunately, the conclusion is completely predictable and generally tedious, suffering from the unnecessary length of the miniseries and the lack of adequate characterization. The Spider-Girl/Woman backup story is similarly obstructed by its format, though this issue picks up from the last few chapters and delivers a solid ending.