As “Spider-Island” progresses into its third chapter, Peter (and his readers) finally discover precisely why the Jackal has given everyone spider-powers. What seemed like a blessing was, unsurprisingly, a curse – and one now being borne by everyone from The Shocker to Carlie Cooper, though not Mary Jane, much to her consternation.
Spider-Island is a rare beast, a crossover that seems capable of sustaining itself as a Spider-Man story and as a wider event. Slott’s story beats are character-centric, rather than plot driven, meaning that while this is a smaller, street-level crossover, it still gives the impression of being a story about Peter Parker, something that the recent Daredevil crossover, “Shadowland” failed to do with Matt Murdock.
Part of this is the focus on Peter and Carlie’s relationship, and the impact that has on Mary Jane. It’s fun to see Peter in action with a superpowered girlfriend, but it’s equally brilliant that we get to see how his ex reacts to this. Mary Jane’s slight jealousy is understandable, and the audience feels for her. Which, of course, is going to make for an even sweeter pay-off when she inevitably does power-up.
Slott’s creative partner, Humberto Ramos, is a good fit for this story and the character in general. His work is kinetic and bouncy, and the exaggerated emotions played out by each character make the jokes funnier and the angst more angsty. Just like in real life, even his background figures always seem to be doing something other than just standing stiffly around. Spider-Island, so far, has been equal parts upbeat comedy and horror movie, and Ramos has the range to carry that off like few others.
The only real disappointment, technically, emotionally and intellectually, comes on the final page when the latest twist in Spider-Island is made clear. The reveal of the villainess masterminding the Jackal’s actions is given after several weeks of teasing, and it’s a tough one. On one hand, there was some obvious-with-hindsight telegraphing of it, in the chosen name of “The Spider-King” – but on the other, by choosing an obscure villain from some years ago without giving readers the information to know who she is, Slott runs the risk of allowing the twist to fail. Indeed, that’s what happened when I read it. The pay-off for this kind of plot point shouldn’t be such that readers have to immediately go online to find out what they just read. The necessary information should be in the text itself.
Despite that minor blip, Spider-Island’s quality has been consistent and high. It’s too early to say for sure, but we might be witnessing the birth of a Spider-Man story that’s going to provide the benchmark for any future crossovers. For a story born from the ashes of the clone saga, that’s not just remarkable, it’s actively impressive.