As Marvel NOW! sweeps across the publisher's titles, Joe Keatinge brings artists Valentine De Landro and Marco Checchetto along for a quick swing through "Amazing Spider-Man" #699.1 to set the stage for his January-launching "Morbius the Living Vampire" series. Although Spider-Man is prominently featured on the cover and his name is emblazoned in the title, this really isn't a Spider-Man comic. Sure, it spins out of recent developments in "Amazing Spider-Man," but it's more of an off-panel adventure than a must-read starting point for this series. In fact, Spider-Man only appears for one panel (and almost a handful if you consider Peter Parker's current status to be an appearance of Spider-Man) and that's in flashback.
That said, Keatinge plays to artist Marco Checchetto's realistically grounded style by depicting the Raft breakout in the opening pair of pages. That opening segment is a modified interpretation of events that occurred in "Amazing Spider-Man" #699. Keatinge captures the scene nicely, tilting it in such a manner that Michael Morbius becomes the feature character of the story. From there, Keatinge takes the reader's hand and leaps into the mind of Morbius, giving readers insight aplenty into the origins of the vampiric pseudo-villain. Michael Morbius is another character that I've never quite found a reason to appreciate or follow and quite honestly, his appearances in Spider-Man comics would frequently signal to me a chance to take a break from the webhead. Keatinge manages to convince me that I could be interested in Morbius and by the end of the issue, although my investment in the character is minimal, I found myself ready for another sample.
The flashback of the story, Morbius' origin, stretches back to childhood and thoroughly details the developments in between then and now. We meet his childhood best friend and his love interest. Keatinge shows the successes and the failures, all beautifully illustrated by Valentine De Landro and delicately colored by Antonio Fabela. De Landro's art is impressionistic and deeply shadowed, not unlike the work of Chris Samnee. Unsurprisingly, that style fits the adventures of Michael Morbius quite well. The end result is a comic book that looks and sounds like a Morbius comic, not a Spider-Man comic.
This Morbius story makes for a great tragic romance comic, a very good horror comic or even a decent science fiction comic, but as a Spider-Man comic, it simply falls flat. I completely understand Marvel's marketing ploy to hitch Morbius' star to the Spider-Man wagon, but truth in advertising would have labeled this comic book "Morbius the Living Vampire" #0.1. Would it have been more enjoyable with that label? Not necessarily, as "Amazing Spider-Man" #699.1 is a pretty darn good Morbius comic, good enough to change my mind about the character. For now.