"Avenging Spider-Man Annual " #1 from Rob Williams and Brad Walker strikes readers instantly with its humor. The script for this story is dense on dialogue and each page offers an opportunity to smirk or outright audibly guffaw. The tale itself is simple: two goons dig up an alien artifact in Central Park and it causes violent mayhem to spread across the city, which causes a pre-team-up set of fisticuffs with the Thing and a relatively forgettable villain for the ending. Through it all is great tongue-in-cheek look at the superhero side of a situation when it actually isn't too serious.
This is the sort of story that is completely dispensable. It doesn't serve continuity, it doesn't build from or toward any bigger aspects of story or character, and it's not entirely large enough to be remembered in its entirety. It's a generic story that requires Spider-Man to some degree. While it's not built on a high concept, this story is dependant on its execution and Williams and Walker bring a very memorable game. Williams gives Spidey a plethora of great lines and manages to weave them through the dialogue in a very snarky yet accessible manner. Kids and adults alike will marvel at Spidey's witty lines and quick thinking. Williams impressively keeps the story trucking through each set up and tear down of good back-and-forth banter.
The crossover with the Thing isn't weighted in grave importance. Grimm is caught up in the angry feelings of the narrative, which allows him to vent about money Spidey owes him. The fighting is more in fun than anything else and the Thing's presence allows Williams the chance to write some great dialogue from Franklin and Valeria Richards. Reading these two as marble-mouthed as Williams writes wouldn't work for me every month, but in a one-shot this hyperstylized version of their intellect adds to the humor of the issue. There is one scene with the Thing that seems like it could outrage or offend fans that might want to blow it out of proportion -- when the alien artifact is broken, everyone suddenly becomes more lovestruck and Spidey and the Thing amorously grapple -- but hopefully most will take it in the fun context it is presented.
Brad Walker's artwork, with John Livesay on inks, is incredibly detailed which brings an air of authenticity to this otherwise whimsical tale. The world is accurate and fully realized, making the large ramifications of the plot felt with images as well as words. Their rendition of the Thing is especially intriguing -- the character comes across as an alarming figure of might and strength with just a possible touch of menace. There is liveliness in these pages that demonstrate Walker and Livesay are ready to take on a more high-profile book. It also helps when Chris Sotomayor brings expressive and moody colors over the top.
"Avenging Spider-Man Annual" #1 isn't the most important comic to hit the stands, but it is guaranteed to please. This is the sort of Spider-Man comic that transcends time. Anyone in any place at any time can enjoy it for what it is: hilarious. Don't expect revelations to drop from the sky or Spidey's world to be irrevocably changed. Come in, laugh and keep it up until the last page. This issue knows exactly how to bring the fun you want from a Spidey comic.