Immediately following the conclusion to the "Ends of the Earth" storyline, "Avenging Spider-Man" #8 by Ty Templeton (with Dan Slott) and Matt Clark combines a coda with an untold tale teaming up Silver Sable, Spider-Man and Dr. Strange.
It's something of a departure for the title, not just because it has very hard ties to continuity where previous stories have all been fairly stand-alone. This is the first issue that doesn't rely on name power to sell it. As someone who quite enjoys the self-contained team-up ethos of "Avenging Spider-Man," I can only hope this isn't the first sign of a gradual discarding of the core conceit.
Still, in terms of execution, it's not exactly a disappointment -- just below the usual standard. The series thus far has been full of top talent and tight stories and while this issue isn't of the same caliber, it's serviceable. There even seems to be a subtext of "here's a story that we couldn't tell with a married Spider-Man" because, as it turns out, the thrust of the story is that Spider-Man needs to marry someone.
As a plot device it feels a little forced, and it's perhaps not played for the sort of laughs it could be -- particularly in the context of a story happening after "One More Day." The bulk of the flashback is a high-speed bounce around Marvel New York with a group of characters that seems to have been thrown together more or less at random. Unfortunately, it's a little late to try and make Silver Sable and Spider-Man into BFFs, so the point of the issue -- to make the loss of Silver Sable hit home for both the character and readers -- doesn't really work.
Clark's artwork is solid, however, and helps carry the story. There's the occasional hint of Leinil Yu in his linework, but it's less scratchy and a bit clearer. There aren't any huge weaknesses, but compared to the likes of Stuart Immonen, Joe Madureira and indeed, Leinil Yu himself, it's hard not to reach the conclusion that this isn't the artist-driven story the book normally delivers.
Clark has a slightly more '90s feel, compared to Marvel's current house style in that it's more concerned with action than realism and that makes it a good fit for Spider-Man. Indeed, it'd be quite nice to see art like this on "Amazing Spider-Man," instead of the exaggerated-tending-towards-expressionistic that we've seen so much of.
Sadly, for a series with a generally good pedigree, there's no doubt that this issue is veering into completest territory. It's not a great story, but it's a decent complement to "Ends of the Earth" and it'll function well in that role when it's presumably included in the trade collection. But otherwise, it's average on every level.