Monday, January 14, 2008

Amazing Spider-Girl #16

Spider-Girl has been delving a bit into the mob scene lately, although that isn’t necessarily by her own choice. While the Black Tarantula and the Hobgoblin have been making bold moves to take and maintain control of the underworld, a mysterious disc containing the secrets of the legendary Wilson Fisk has been floating around, eventually winding up in the arms of the Spider-Girl herself. With recent adventures introducing a version of the Carnage symbiote and the Mindworm somehow mixed up in the struggle for criminal control of the city, there’s no shortage of superpowered beings in May’s life at the moment.

The storytelling is quite a bit dated, but it’s not really all that bad. Tom DeFalco has been around for years, and while that’s tripped him up in some of his more recent books (like Fantastic Five, which I reviewed a few months ago) it’s a good enough fit here. Spider-Girl has been his highest-profile book, attracting a loyal following that’s brought the title back from cancellation (or the brink thereof) on more than one occasion, so it’s no surprise that it’s where his style of writing fits best. This isn’t something that’s going to go blow-for-blow with the best, but as a small scale, not-so-serious ongoing series it meets the criteria. Sure, at the moment Spider-Girl is being tailed by an invisible killer, but that doesn’t mean everything has to be grim and dreary.

DeFalco knows these characters well, as he should since he’s been writing them for close to a decade. That familiarity opens a lot of doors, and though his approach is often heavy-handed, (May’s constant internal monologues, for example) he has a large, well-developed cast of characters to bounce his ideas around. The story is slow-moving, but not dull.

Ron Frenz has also been with the series since its inception, and brings a casual, clean, distinctly Marvel flavor to Spider-Girl, which won’t exactly knock your socks off but won’t drive you mad, either. His work reminds me of Ron Garney’s in that it’s easy to read, but not exceptionally dynamic. His characters are easy to identify and despite a few scattered errors, his style is solid enough. He doesn’t crowd a scene with excessive details, and the characters themselves never seem out of place or awkward in their environment. He’s just missing that “it” factor, that knack for the dynamic that sets the superstars apart from the fill-in artists, which is where the similarity with Garney ends. When he’s given a chance to open the book with an impressive splash page, Frenz stumbles and never quite regains the reader’s trust.

If you miss the innocence and simplicity of comics from the Silver Age, Amazing Spider-Girl is right up your alley. Tom DeFalco’s storytelling is a strange blend, in that he’s telling a retro story that’s set several years in the future. It definitely isn’t for everybody, and I’m not entirely sure it was for me, but for what it sets out to be, Spider-Girl is largely successful. Flip through this in the store, chances are that’s all you’ll need to determine if this is worth your time.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 4

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