After two long months the creative team that gave you Spider-Man and Deadpool fighting a sewage-filled Hydroman is back, and boy did I miss them. The past two fill in issues weren’t terrible, but it’s good to see Kelly and McGuinness in the driver’s seat once again.
We pick up where we left off back in May with… the conclusion to “Isn’t It Romantic?”… I was pretty perplexed when I opened to the recap page and saw that this was being billed at the final issue of the story arc, and that feeling of perplexity carried through the entire issue because Spider-Man/Deadpool #8 functions better as an epilogue than a conclusion. Going off of Fryetag’s pyramid (a classic tool for dramatic structure), #4 contained the climax of the story arc (Peter’s assassination), #5 contained the falling action (Spider-Man and Deadpool working to undo the assassination) and #8 is certainly the denouement (resolution of plot details i.e., answer mysteries surrounding Patient Zero). But before I dive deep into that, let’s talk about the art and the new costume.
McGuinness really spreads his wings with this issue, giving us some fantastic visuals, starting with a brand-new Spider-Man “Black Widow” costume. Little is said about the suit in this issue, so we’re left in the dark with what its actual purpose is. After getting killed twice by Deadpool, the ol’ Webhead dons the black suit to signal a change in attitude, so thematically it serves the same purpose as the black suit did in “Back in Black” Colorist Jason Keith does not give this suit the familiar blue accents normally seen on the traditional black suit though. Only a few gray lines used to detail Spider-Man’s physique break up the jet black body of the costume. Interestingly, the costume has two different emblems, both of which are a bright red. The first emblem is the expected chest/back spider. Both sides are identical and seem to be an enlarged version of the Tom Holland hexagonal spider, but with more pronounced legs. The second emblem is actually a black widow hourglass marking on the inside of both palms of the costume. The eye pieces for the mask resemble the angrier and more angled red lenses from Kaine’s Scarlet Spider costume. Another thing to note are the claws, a clear nod to one of Doc Ock’s additions to the suit during his stint as Spider-Man. Sadly, the toe claws are not present.
Outside of the new suit, McGuinness draws a set of truly ghoulish monsters as well as a ghastly-looking Patient Zero on part with his usual gold standard; some of the monsters may seem familiar with McGuinness using No-Face from “Spirited Away” and the Centaur from the “Fallout” franchise as clear references. The fights in this issue are filled with energetic posturing and extraordinarily creative and efficient paneling with Joe Sabino’s lettering dancing around the page with precision and clarity. Visually, the book is as good as it has ever been and I couldn’t be happier.
I’ve already mentioned a little bit about the story in this issue, but let’s dive in a little deeper. The fallout from #5 has caused Spider-Man and Deadpool’s morals to shift closer to each other, for better and for worse. Spider-Man, in one of his black suit moods, adopts a more violent posture while Deadpool begins to see more heroic tendencies manifest thanks to the influence from his new friend. The swirling of the two characters seems to be a motif of this issue; Deadpool mentions several times that Spider-Man is acting not like himself until finally landing on “darker than your usual, but Deadpool-like!” The last panel depicts a literal intertwining of the two, with (presumably) the new villain Itsy-Bitsy infusing her blood with two blood bags labeled Spider-Man and Deadpool. What does it mean? Hopefully we’ll find out next issue because this has gotten strange.
Which leads me to my major beef with this issue. This may be entirely my fault because I thought #5 was the end of “Isn’t It Bromantic?”, but this issue seems to be a stopgap of wheel-spinning and exposition-dumping to fill in just enough to bridge us to the next story arc, but not really enough to give us satisfaction. Patient Zero gives a murky and somewhat hammy reasoning for his name (which blows my theory about him being the Patient Zero from Punisher vs The Marvel Universe out of the water), but not much else. We now know that he has some past connection with Spider-Man and Deadpool, so unless Kelly is pulling something from far, far left field there aren’t too many places to look. I’ve already seen some pretty crazy speculation online (Paste-Pot Pete was one of my favorites). For a conclusion, not much can be concluded about his character, which is fine but it leads to the question “why now?” Spider-Man/Deadpool #5 ended with a strong implication that Mephisto was pulling the strings behind Patient Zero, isn’t that enough of a tease for us as the reader? Perhaps these bits of information are imperative for us to understand Itsy-Bitsy, but I can’t help but feel like this issue has been tacked on and I don’t think the two-issue detour helped. I think my biggest disappointment from this issue stems not from the exact content of the story, but the feeling that after a two month hiatus, we’re back and treading on old ground rather than blazing a new path.
That’s not to say that this issue was unenjoyable; it was certainly worth the price of admission. But picking up where we left off was a bit rockier than anticipated. Spider-Man/Deadpool has been a fantastic book in that each individual issue could serve as an entry point for the series – each sets up the conflict on the first two pages only for it to be resolved in the final pages while also moving the greater narrative arc forward. This is the first issue in “Isn’t it Bromantic?” that doesn’t have that same kind of structure, and I couldn’t say that’s because this is the conclusion story in the arc. After all, Spider-Man/Deadpool #5 could have worked just as well as a conclusion to the arc, and it followed that structure.
Am I cooling my opinion on this book? Well, not really. Not every issue is going to be a smash hit, and McGuinness’s art more than makes up for perhaps a weaker that usual narrative. Kelly doubled down on his “One More Day” tease this issue, re-quoting Mephisto’s taunt from #5 regarding Peter feeling something missing. Not to re-tread my on my feeling from #5, but I while really appreciate Kelly seemingly trying to better integrate “One More Day” into the Spider-Man mythos, I can’t help but think that he’s playing with fire by invoking the story, especially one that inspires so much passion – to put it in the most polite terms I can. This is a B-book, after all, so expectations regarding Kelly’s ability to influence the over-all continuity should be hedged. But to make explicit reference to something that is so teasingly obvious a reference to “One More Day” seems to imply otherwise. I’m just gearing up that small part of me for disappointment – the same part of me that can’t wait for Gerry Conway’s continuation of “Renew Your Vows”. So I would say that my opinion isn’t cooled, but instead I’m not entirely sure where the direction is going with Mephisto’s inclusion.
Joe Kelly and Ed McGuinness are back to tie up some loose ends with Spider-Man/Deadpool's first arc. While some questions are left dangling, Patient Zero's unsettling minions and Ed McGuinness's stellar art make this an issue worth the wait.