Spider-Island reaches an exciting climax, finally delivering on some of the insane action that the series suggested at the beginning. Unfortunately, it’s plagued with the baggage of decompression, and little of the dialogue and plot is necessary or even interesting as concepts are retreaded ad nauseum.
Marvel’s always told alternate stories under various names, but “What If?” is by far the most frequent. The idea of Battleworld is a “What If?” itself, split into several comic-sized examples. Each domain is a “What If?” of sorts—in the case of this comic, it’s “What If Spider-Island Didn’t End?” That’s not a bad idea, in itself. Spider-Island was a good event, despite some of its extraneous crossovers, and many fans like myself were excited to see this comic as a continuation of its events. I think that writer Christos Gage took this concept in an interesting direction, incorporating many memorable transformations into the story. However, as we approach the fifth issue of the series, there just isn’t too much for its characters to do—at least, nothing that’s not been covered in earlier issues.
Spider-Queen’s infected superhero army attacked the resistance’s base at the end of Issue #3. They killed Iron Goblin (one of the better characters in the series) and forced Venom and company to retreat to a secondary safehouse, now revealed to be perhaps the most obvious location they could have chosen: Avengers Mansion. The heroes debate their course of action while admiring Venom’s leadership skills. Spider-Man, Captain America, and Sharon Carter all applaud his abilities (again) and move forward with their final attack on the Spider-Queen.
As I said in my last review: I love Agent Venom. I don’t think he gets enough play or respect in the main marvel universe comics, but this is overkill. I’m not sure what the intended result is here, but I can posit a guess. Gage clearly likes the character and seems to be attempting a last hurrah before he is committed to space adventures in the fall. Agent Venom was in the Guardians of the Galaxy for a short time, though primarily as wallpaper (from my intermittent reading of the title). He was even shockingly absent from the story centered on symbiotes! In any case, Agent Venom won’t be in New York in the near future, and Gage (or other writers) won’t be able to use him as he was in his own comic, Secret Avengers, or Thunderbolts.
Flash Thompson’s history with football would likely have him appreciating this Hail Mary pass of characterization but due to the intense decompression of this storyline, Gage seems to have long since run out of new material for the character. Frankly, I’m not sure what would have helped this situation other than a reduction in issue count; three issues of Spider-Island and two issues of Spider-Woman(Girl) sounds like a much more pleasant reading experience to me.
Despite my distaste for the meandering plot, I did find several scenes in this comic exciting, funny, and just plain pleasing. The enthralled J. Jonah Jameson had some great lines, and Stegron’s Retro-Generation ray provides an excellent start to Venom and Company’s final battle, especially as a callback to Amazing Spider-Man #165. Penciller Paco Diaz and colorist Frank D’Armata continue to deliver on action scenes, though they have occasional blips in facial expressions that don’t match the tone I think they’re going for. In any case they finally got to stretch their fingers and draw some great altercations between the spider-infected and monsters, dinosaurs, lizards, et cetera.
Meanwhile, in the backup, Spider-Woman is subject to Hope Van Dyne’s endless monologuing. A lot of elements in this backup are reminiscent of classic Avengers and Spider-Man comics, even more so than the team’s original Spider-Girl comics. The backup features classic style art by Ron Frenz and Sal Buscema. It’s really great stuff, and it fits this story particularly well. Unfortunately this five-page backup barely moves the story forward, as the villainous Hope condemns the Avengers while her associate Enthralla awaits instruction in the background. With only one issue left, I can only imagine that the conflict is a two-page battle followed by some revelations. This story isn’t bad per se, it’s just nothing I haven’t seen before.
Spider-Island #4 finally delivers an explosive climax that, although cut short, shows a lot of elements readers have been waiting for since the first issue. I wish that there were either more meat to the story, or a reduced issue count, as its decompression really hurt what could have been a fun romp through Marvel’s many character transformations and a showcase for Agent Venom.