Monday, August 11, 2008

Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #42

The Marvel Adventures line has the ability to produce some of the publisher's most rewarding stories or its most forgettable. The format of one issue / one story cuts away the excess and allows a writer to sink or swim based entirely on the merits of their central plotline. Some find it difficult to adjust to the smaller timeframe, where there's little room for the crutches, padding and gimmicks that are beginning to characterize more and more mainstream books. I can remember when a multi-issue story arc was something special, but now it's become so frequent that they've become the norm, while the standalone tales provide an infrequent change of pace.

This issue's author, Marc Sumerak, gets that concept half right. He doesn't waste our time with an excessive background, cuts right to the chase in setting up and delivering some web slinging action, and keeps his cast small and uncomplicated. What he doesn't achieve is a reason for this issue to stand apart from every other that had come before. This is very much a stale, redundant, run-of-the-mill Spider-Man story. He plays it so safe with these characters that I think they're sometimes afraid to interact with one another, fearful that they'll somehow upset the status quo and won't have enough time to reset it before the issue draws to a close.

Worse, the entire issue is so clearly telegraphed that I caught myself predicting the benign twists its plot would take, several pages before they actually went down. Sumerak's dialog is equally dull and predictable. Nobody speaks like an actual human being any more than they act like one, casually strolling around the rooftops in spandex until suddenly the light turns green and it's time to fight. The issue's central conflict doesn't come off as a chance encounter between Spidey, the Black Cat and the Puma so much as it does a mock stage recital. These guys aren't talking to each other, they're delivering their lines.

Sumerak's artistic partner, Vincenc Villagrasa, doesn't do much to improve the situation. He takes the author's drearily written material and simply converts it to linework without enhancing or refining it. Villagrasa's work is stiff and awkward, his lines thick and blunt with no finesse or personality. This looks like an issue that was rushed out in little more than a weekend. It's short on composition, detail, pride and purpose.

That means this issue is both a chore to read and a drag to look at. It's not an example of what can go wrong within the confines of a Marvel Adventures story, it's evidence that sometimes a bad story is just a bad story. This wouldn't have been any more successful in a multi-issue story arc than it was in a single, self-contained adventure. I can't find anything truly redeeming here. Skip it, even if you're really hard up for a Spider-Man story.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 1.5

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