Spider-Man is the character that brought me into comics. The first comics I ever read (maybe the first anything I ever read for fun) were Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s original run on Amazing Spider-Man in the collected “Essential Spider-Man” trades. Ever since then, I’ve read as much of Spider-Man as I could get my hands on. I followed Amazing Spider-Man religously, but a couple of years ago One More Day and Spider-Man’s uncharacteristically irresponsible deal with the devil turned me off of the series that I used to love so much.
All of the continuity that I had grown up with was wiped away, and while I hate to be “that guy” who clings to continuity like a security blanket, Spider-Man’s deal with the devil felt like a betrayal. Even though I’ve been away from Amazing Spider-Man for a while, Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos have brought me back to the character that sparked my love for comic books with Spider-Island.
Spider-Island has everything that I could want from a Spider-Man story. It has a serious threat in the form of millions of New Yorkers who have spontaneously developed spider-powers, and more importantly, this serious problem is one that Spider-Man feels is his responsibility. Responsibility may be the most important theme in Spider-Man comics, and the idea that the enemy of this story is one which is Spider-Man’s fault is a concept I like. If there was no Spider-Man, there would be no Spider-Flu, and at the beginning of this event, Spider-Man actually wonders if he has been accidentally spreading his spider-powers just by being present in New York City.
As depressing as this sounds, Spider-Man is at his best when he is obsessively guilt tripping and taking responsibility for life threatening issues that aren’t necessarily his fault, yet he can’t help but feel responsible anyway because that’s just the sort of guy that he is.
Spider-Island also references continuity in just the right way (I guess I’m being “that guy” who loves continuity again, but whatever). Slott brings back the villain “The Jackal“, a green skinned lunatic who was the progenitor of the much mocked and derided Clone Saga. For me, The Jackal has always been a little too one dimensional, but Slott turns him into a hilarious and much cooler villain. There’s also the continuity reference of “The Man-Spider”, or that one time when Peter Parker tried to cure himself of his spider-powers only to accelerate his spider-qualities and mutate into a six armed freak. This event takes the idea of The Man-Spider and asks what would happen if an entire city of millions of people was afflicted with that same itsy bitsy spideritis syndrome.
The Clone Saga has become the stereotypical and cliche reference when talking about how terrible Spider-Man stories can be. However, I have mixed feelings about the Clone Saga. I have a soft spot in my heart for some of the concepts and characters from that storyline, such as Ben Reilly and the Scarlet Spider. I don’t think I can deny that the Clone Saga went on longer than it should have and I’m glad that a clone isn’t still Spider-Man to this day (or IS HE?!!), but I’m also glad to see Slott bring back some elements of the Clone Saga. Kaine plays a big part in this event, and it even looks like he will become the next iteration of the Scarlet Spider. Something about the idea of an alternate Spider-Man who is a little darker and a little more unhinged is appealing to me, and I’m interested in seeing Kaine take on the role of Scarlet Spider, if that is indeed what the House of Ideas has planned.
Humberto Ramos is also in fine form on this series. I have to admit, I haven’t always been the biggest fan of his somewhat cartoonish art style, but this series really sold me on his work. While he doesn’t go for a realistic look which I usually prefer, Ramos’s Spider-Man has a certain elastic quality which I feel captures the movement and body language of the character perfectly. The way that Ramos depicts the spider-powered people in motion just feels right to me, and Slott is asking him to put a ridiculous amount of characters into this story. Ramos pulls it off extremely well, and that’s no easy feat. He had to draw millions of Man-Spiders swarming over the city, pretty much all of the characters in The Avengers, and generally one of the most action packed Spider-Man stories I’ve ever read. The sheer concentration of action scenes in this event is pretty staggering, and at no point did it look like Ramos was sagging under the pressure of so much superpowered battling in every issue.
There’s something else about Spider-Island that really makes it an extremely entertaining Spider-Man story: it’s fun. It’s not brooding, it’s not boring, and it certainly doesn’t apologize for the outlandish and somewhat silly things that take place in the event. This is a comic book crossover which embraces the silliness of millions of New Yorkers suddenly manifesting all of the abilities of Spider-Man, and Slott packs as many characters and as much action into every issue of the story arc as he possibly can. When I was reading this series, I was reminded of what I love about Spider-Man so much. As corny as this might sound to you, and it certainly sounds corny to me, Slott and Ramos made me realize that I miss Spider-Man. A Spider-Man story doesn’t have to be serious business, it doesn’t have to be a sad affair where Spider-Man cradles the corpse of a dear friend or relative and cries to the heavens. Spider-Man can be a fun, action packed romp, and Slott and Ramos reminded me of that fact and brought me back to the character that used to be my favorite.
If you’re not reading Spider-Island in Amazing Spider-Man, than you’re missing out on one of the all time great Spider-Man stories. It’s as simple as that. Go read it, true believers, and if you don’t like it…well, at least it’s not the Clone Saga Part Two: Electro Boogaloo, right?