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Greatest Spider-Man/Mutant Stories: #10

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Spider-Man’s not a mutant, but he has hung out with them enough times over the years to warrant another SuperiorSpiderTalk.com list! This countdown will take a look at some of the very best stories involving Spidey and a mutant — including team-ups, battles and everything in-between!

For entry No. 10 we look at Avenging Spider-Man #12-13 by Kevin Shinick and Aaron Kuder:

Avenging Deadpool 02Let’s kick off this latest top 10 list by harkening back to the days where Spider-Mans could only get their web-fix by checking out Amazing Spider-ManVenomScarlet Spider and this team-up title that was initially launched as a showcase for superstar artist Joe Madureira, but eventually morphed into a mediocre-selling series with a constantly rotating team of creators.

Still, for all of its inconsistencies and lack of creative vision, Avenging Spider-Man still managed to produce a number of solid stories, including this funny bone-tickling gem, which also marked the Spider-debut for one of my favorite writers of the past few years, Kevin Shinick.

Shinick, of Robot Chicken fame (who also wrote a Spider-Man musical), appears to be an acquired taste for many Spidey comics fans — people either love his work or think he’s trying too hard – but I can definitively say that I classify myself as a fan of his writing, which often leans hard and on fast on one-liners and pop culture references.

Still, it’s exactly that kind of frenetic, fast-paced humor that makes this two-parter starring the “Merc with a Mouth” Deadpool (and the co-star of a brand new Spider-book that launches this week) a success, and probably my favorite story from the run of Avenging Spider-Man. Shinick is able to demonstrate his strong handle on Deadpool’s fourth wall-breaking irreverent patter while also flexing his Spider-Man continuity muscles (by using the Hypno-Hustler of all villains), leading to a best of both worlds storyline for Spider-Man and Deadpool fans.

The reader gets a sense of what kind of crazy ride he’s in for on the very first page when there’s an image of a teenaged Peter Parker in his underwear. Aaron Kuder, another relative newcomer to the world of Marvel, uses an overly cartoony-style for this story – almost reflecting one of those boardwalk caricature artists — and it works perfectly given its dreamlike qualities. Kuder’s spreads also feature a ton of other little details that really add to the out-of-left-field humor of this issue, like a bully with the word “luddite” across his letterman jacket and a Forbush-Man cameo.

Avenging Deadpool 03When Deadpool shows up, he immediately dates this story a bit by mentioning that Spider-Man is stuck in a dream, “four-levels deep” a la the 2010 film “Inception.” The mutant is there to help Spidey get out, though he’s apparently unable to see any of the characters Peter sees, which provides yet another wrinkle of humor whenever Peter acts horrified by the vision of Deadpool blowing away his former high school tormentors with a machine gun. 

Of course, this being a Deadpool comic, the arc contains a whole suite of meta-gags, whether its Deadpool’s inner monologue (that in turn, addresses the reader) or then-editors Stephen Wacker and Elie Pyle using references boxes to argue over what “RPG” stands for. Perhaps these gimmicks make Avenging #12-13 read a bit too much like a Deadpool comic, but Shinick and Kuder still find ways to balance the Merc with the Web-Slinger, including an uproarious visual of Peter and his friends (Flash, Mary Jane, Deadpool and a mystery person) resembling the main characters from the 80s classic film “The Breakfast Club.” I kind of shudder to think that there are some readers of this comic (and this site) that are maybe too young to get the “Breakfast Club” reference, but let’s just say this 80s kid loved it.

The story then kicks things into another gear of funny when the big bad is revealed to be forgotten Bronze Age-reject Hypno-Hustler, who has updated his power-set from his inaugural appearance in Spectacular Spider-Man #24 thanks to his prison cellmate, the Tinkerer. With some advanced technology, Hustler can now take over his adversary’s brains. Yet, despite the 21st century gadgetry, Hustler still talks and sings like it’s 1978, tormenting Spider-Man while also playing “Jive Talkin’” by the Bee Gees in the background

Avenging Deadpool 01The fish-out-of-water absurdity of Hustler is a welcomed touch from Shinick and Kuder as they reintroduce a villain that probably only the most hardcore Spider-Man fans had even heard of, while also playing him for enough laughs to create a new cult favorite for current readers. Probably about a year or so after this story was published, I conducted a “Bottom 10 Bronze Age Bad Guys” Spider-Man list for Longbox Graveyard and some of the feedback I received from readers on social media related to Hustler’s inclusion (“but he’s awesome,” they told me). I have to think this arc gets all the credit for making Hustler a *thing* again (or for the first time).

Apparently, this arc rubbed some readers the wrong way for its over-abundance of pop culture references, even making a Ryan Reynolds joke for Deadpool — a joke that seemed passé’ but somehow manages to be all too topical when read today. Granted, a joke about Lindsay Lohan is the definition of low-hanging fruit for 2012, but most of the references are more of the classic, evergreen variety so I don’t take terrible issue with any of it. 

For whatever reason, Shinick was never able to parlay this arc, his later work on Superior Spider-Man Team-Up and his clever Superior Carnage and Axis: Hobgoblin minis into a regular gig in the Spider-office, but hopefully somebody at Marvel will realize the error of their ways eventually. I would have actually advocated hard for Shinick to script Spider-Man/Deadpool if Marvel hadn’t scored a coup with getting Joe Kelly back on board. Perhaps if Kelly needs a break or loses interest after a few months, someone in the Spider-office will stumble upon Avenging #12-13 and give Shinick a call to take over.

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