Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

06 May 2016

Spider-Man: Worldwide, v. 1

Collects: Amazing Spider-Man v. 4 #1-5 (2015-6)

Released: April 2016 (Marvel)

Format: 144 pages / color / $18.99 / ISBN: 9780785199427

What is this?: Parker Industries has offices around the world, and it looks like Peter’s finally a success. However, when PI is targeted by the Zodiac, the criminals seem to be one step ahead of Spider-Man …

The culprits: Writer Dan Slott and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli

I love the idea of Peter Parker finally succeeding. If he’s so smart — and he is, let’s face it: he invented web fluid and web shooters and electronic ankle bracelet monitors — eventually he has to achieve success in some way or die along the way. Unless you contrive an explanation for his lack of success, like a force of the universe being directed against him or him being a jerk, it makes no sense for a smart, moral person like Peter to be continuously a failure. For periods of time, yes, but not forever.

In Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide, v. 1, Peter is the CEO of Parker Industries, which has become one of the premier technology companies in the world, with offices on three different continents. He’s working with SHIELD to keep the world safe, and he seems to have managed to keep his soul. This should be exactly what I want.

Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide, v. 1 coverThe problem is that I don’t know that Peter is such a success.

Parker Industries and SHIELD are under assault from Zodiac. Not only is Zodiac physically raiding Parker Industries and SHIELD facilities but they are also involved in a battle of wits with the heroes. Unfortunately, writer Dan Slott doesn’t give Spider-Man very many victories, as it seems the villains win every time. Spider-Man and SHIELD get only minor victories: foiling the robbery that starts the book, defeating an attack by Goblin Nation thugs in Africa, keeping some henchmen from completing employer-insisted suicide. Zodiac defeats Parker and SHIELD almost every time, making the heroes look, well, not very competent. Maybe Peter isn’t such a success after all …

It doesn’t help that Peter built his company during an eight-month gap after the end of the latest Secret Wars series. We don’t know how Peter built his company, what decisions he chose, what compromises he had to make, or why he’s working so closely with SHIELD. His success, then, feels unearned. And that, combined with his lack of success in Worldwide, v. 1, makes me think this version of Peter Parker will be going away sooner rather than later, which is a shame.

I do like some aspects of Worldwide. Bringing back Hobie Brown, the Prowler, to be Parker Industries’ head of security and a backup Spider-Man is a nice choice; Brown was an inventor as well as someone with a costumed identity. I’m not sure Brown is qualified for either job, but I believe it’s totally a choice Peter would make. (I can also see him hiring Rocket Racer as well. Fingers crossed!) Harry Osborn makes his return under an assumed name, but since he hasn’t changed his appearance — not even his hairstyle — I can’t see that working for long. A fellow student from Peter’s college days, Philip Chang, shows up in Parker Industries’ Shanghai office, and Clayton Cole, a low-level thug Spider-Man sent to Parker Industries in the previous volume of Amazing Spider-Man, is working in PI’s New York offices.

The subplots are intriguing as well. How did Dr. Octopus end up inside the Living Brain, and what’s his long-term plan? What will Norman Osborn — or someone posing as him — do after selling weapons in Africa? Who’s wandering around in a red suit, offering to return the loved ones of Spider-Man villains? I’m looking forward to seeing these subplots play out, and I’m betting it’s going to be a combination of Dr. Octopus and Norman who bring down Parker Industries after Zodiac weakens it. (I’d almost bet PI will be Marconi Industries by the end, headed by Doc Ock’s love interest, Anna Maria Marconi.)

I don’t like the introduction of Regent to the main Marvel Universe, though. Regent was the villain in the main Spider-Man mini in Secret Wars. He made an OK villain for a series in a universe that was going to be thrown away once the miniseries was over. In the main Marvel Universe, a villain that exists to drain minor villains and eventually become a powerful threat is a waste; why kill villains to power a supervillain who will be gone once the writers hit his climactic fight, then never return? (Of course, I thought writers would have the sense to never return to Morlun, but boy, was I wrong.)

But the subplots are mostly respites from the main plot. I don’t think Zodiac works well as a Spider-Man villain; the astrology-themed criminal organization generally take on teams, and Spider-Man is a poor team player. This brings up the question of why he’s working with SHIELD — it seems a poor fit, even if he has SHIELD’s worst impulses under control. The new Scorpio’s identity is supposed to be a big deal, but even though Scorpio has an important role outside his supervillain ID in the storyline, the actual reveal falls as flat as the naming of the female villain in Spider-Island. The Human Torch flips out too easily in #3; all it takes is the news that Parker Industries has moved into the Baxter Building to set him on a fiery rampage.

I’m indifferent to Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art. Something seems off about his faces; I think he has trouble with noses, or maybe it’s the space between the eyes. Mockingbird’s mask is awful; the Human Torch’s costume has been given a bustier outline for reasons I can’t possibly imagine. His Melinda May is hardly recognizable as Ming-Na Wen, and I’m only 30 percent sure that the guy I think is Agent Coulson actually is Coulson. Still, his action is fine, and even if his Spider-Man isn’t lithe or a contorted mess — both Hobie and Peter seem stockier than the usual Spidey — he’s still recognizable. (I really enjoy the old, stubby legged spider logo on Spider-Man’s back.)

I should like Worldwide. The premise is something I’ve wanted for years, and the story itself has many trappings I enjoy. But everything about the story seems slightly off. Do I really not want Peter to be a successful CEO? Or is it the execution itself that bothers me? I’ve made it clear I think it’s the execution, but I can’t shake the feeling I might be at fault.

I’m not going to let that doubt inflate the rating, though.

Rating: Spider-Man symbol Half Spider-Man symbol (1.5 of 5)

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