Hey, we’re back!
Yes, it’s been a few weeks, what with HeroesCon and the fact that I’ve been waking up and writing for fourteen hours a day (which severely cuts into my Red Dead Redemption, er, sleep time), but tonight, the Internet’s Most Wheatcake-Loving Comics Reviews return with a vengeance!
Although now that I think of it, no actual vengeance will be involved. Just some comics I like.
Amazing Spider-Man #633: I haven’t been following the current arc in Amazing Spider-Man, but yesterday, my ComicsAlliance coworkers David Uzumeri and David Brothers insisted that Zeb Wells, Chris Bachalo and Emma Rios were doing the best Spider-Man story of the past ten years. That’s a pretty strong statement; even just saying it was the best of the post-Brand New Day stuff would be putting it up against the great stories by Dan Slott, Mark Waid and Marcos Martin, and it’s pretty strong to claim that anyone’s doing better work than Paul Tobin on the Marvel Adventures book. But those guys tend to know what they’re talking about, so I picked up all four parts this week and read through the whole story in one shot. And I’ve gotta say…
They’re not wrong.
I’m not quite sure if it hits the best of the decade mark, but it’s easily in the top five, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s the best Lizard story ever written. That might not sound like a big deal — the Lizard’s always been my least favorite of the enduring Spider-Man bad guys — but Wells, Bachalo and Rios take someone I’d long ago written off as a one-note character and do a story that’s thrilling, complex and emotional, creating a note-perfect Spider-Man adventure. And what’s more, they manage to do it with a story designed to amp up an existing villain, which are notoriously hard to pull off in a way that doesn’t come off as trying way too hard and ending up with a story where Signalman stabs hookers in the eyes with semaphore flags made of the bones of dead orphans.
What really impressed me, though, is how it’s all handled. Make no mistake, this is a violent comic, and while there’s bloodshed, it’s never grotesque or gory, rising above lesser comics that revel in vulgarity disguised as mature storytelling by taking the focus away from the violence itself and putting it on the emotions that violence provokes. In that respect, it pulls off with apparent effortlessness what other books try so hard and fail to do. It’s a textbook example of exactly how this sort of thing needs to work. And a lot of that has to do with Bachalo.
I don’t always care for his work, but when he’s on, he is on, and this is one of the best things he’s done, pulling out a distinctive style that lends itself to both the frenetic external action and the internal struggle between Curt Connors and the Lizard that drives the story. His action scenes are top notch, and he’s one of the few artists able to draw Spider-Man himself as kind of small and soft (contrasting him with his huge, scaly rendering of the Lizard) while still making him look heroic.
He’s not the only one responsible for how good this book looks, though: Emma Rios, whose work I absolutely loved on Strange, handles the scenes that don’t relate to the Lizard, and she pulls off one of my favorite parts of the entire arc with the final resolution of the Negative Aunt May story. The inking, the coloring, it all works great here. But what really caught my eye was Joe Caramagna’s lettering.
He pulls off a trick in this issue that’s one of the best integrations of lettering into the story that I’ve seen outside of Simonson’s Thor. It’s not just a matter of putting dueling internal monologue in different fonts and colors for Connors’ struggle with the Lizard…
…but when Connors is destroyed, the lettering itself is shattered:
It’s an incredible use of technique, especially since Caramagna has actually created a way for a fully internalized struggle to be represented visually, following the reader’s natural eye line for amazing impact. It’s the best use of the language of comics I’ve seen in a long, long time, and it’s a striking example of the level of craft that went into every aspect of this book.
It all adds up to something that’s not only the high point of Wells’ career as a writer and something everyone involved can be proud of, but a story that’s going to be able to stand up alongside stuff like Kraven’s Last Hunt. It’s that good.
So good, in fact, that we might as well call it a week with that. As always, if anything caught your eye this week (or if someone can let me know if there’s a story that explains how Lady Blackhawk managed to make an entire skirt out of Cavorite), feel free to leave a comment below.
EDIT: I always forget to include these, but for more of my opinions on comics I liked this week, check out the ComicsAlliance roundtable review of Amazing Spider-Man Presents Black Cat #1!