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Spider-Man #5 – REVIEW

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I’ve loved and championed this series since the beginning, but it’s also frustrated me from time to time. Spider-Man #5 managed to deliver on both fronts.

On the plus side, I thought that this issue maintained the run’s track record of balancing the supporting cast and keeping their various dramas engaging. On the not so great side, I felt like parts of this chapter were a bit too “let’s wrap this up” and functional in execution. I know that we’re getting ready to switch gears for Civil War II, so I was admittedly reading with that in mind (saying this as someone that’s been disappointed the last three times Miles’ story was interrupted to accommodate an event).

So let’s get that out of the way.

SM2016005-int2-1-e6e9aI’ve mentioned my issues with Miles’ venom sting, both here and on our Ultimate Spin podcast (TL;DR: Cool concept but could be balanced with a limitation or risk factor). So you can imagine my reaction to the return of the ULTRA MEGA EXTREME version, especially in a situation that didn’t seem to warrant it – i.e., Blackheart was a piece of cake but being chained to a chair requires the nuclear option? It’s Spider-Man’s “end problem now” button, and having seen the beat repeated multiple times, it’s become a zero tension shoulder-shrugging moment for me as opposed to a triumphant punch the air one. I’m sure there’s a plan here, but it would need to happen soon to keep my good will.

I’m also not clear on why Felicia had a problem with Miles, and even she seemed to admit that the whole thing was fairly petty at best. Sure, we get the exposition that Miles is connected to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the new status quo, but otherwise the Black Cat plotline never really clicked for me. Her parting offer had potential to parallel the Peter/Fisk relationship from the original Ultimate run, but again, the plot circumstances connecting them seems more functional than organic.

Then there’s my man Ganke. Given how integral he’s been to Miles’ story since the beginning, it seemed like last month’s well-intentioned blunder should have been a major rift in their friendship. Even a temporary falling-out could have offered a chance to learn more about Ganke as an individual, especially with Fabio in the picture. Yet everything was solved with ten words. That’s not impossible – I’ve had rough moments with close friends where everyone realized that it was easier to drop it and move on, but that unspoken understanding doesn’t necessarily translate to this type of fiction.

But Ganke’s also the standout in a fairly solid cast of characters, and they’ve been the main draw of this series for me this time around. His unwavering loyalty to Miles is endearing, and his phone conversation with Rio was a genuine (almost meta) laugh out loud scene.

SM2016005-int2-2-64a79The issue also sets up some very promising ideas for the next arc. I was glad to see that Jefferson’s history with S.H.I.E.L.D. is retained, especially as that’s one of my favorite chapters of Miles’ story. I loved the introduction of a character from a different corner of the Bendis/Marvel universe, although having it revealed on Gloria’s phone earlier in the issue ruined the impact of a great cliffhanger page. I also enjoyed seeing the return of Quaid and hope that Spider-Man has some kind of relationship with the police, as it would give him a more grounded, street-level perspective compared to the current approach in Amazing Spider-Man. If anything, we could get more of the “random street lunatics” comic commentary gags…

The notion of Miles and race is still here, although Danika delivers it with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, and it ultimately goes nowhere. I believe that there are interesting ideas to explore (and I look forward to it), but raising the subject in this way read like a box-ticking disservice. There was no need to shoehorn it in, as it starts feeling as empty as Danika’s fangirling.

This is Sara Pichelli’s last issue for a while (she’d mentioned that she’ll be back with #11)  and between her characters’ dynamic range of expressions to her knack for choreography, she’s set a very high bar for incoming artist Nico Leon. Justin Ponsor’s colors, and his lighting and shadows in particular, are the quiet star here, conveying the transition from morning to night in a very long day for the cast.

I’m admittedly not enthused to break yet again for another event, but I’m still rooting for this book and its potential.

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