Amazing Spider-Man #666 - 'Spider-Island Prologue: The One And Only' - Slott, Caselli and Gracia
Story - Nowadays, there's a whole lot of Spider-Man out there. His solo title is out twice a month, he's on two Avengers teams and on the FF. He makes about 5 guest-appearances in other titles a month, and there's always the occasional mini-series. That's a lot of Spidey, some might say too much. There's a lot of disparate threads (or webs, if you will) which Peter Parker is involved with, and sometimes even the most dedicated fan can get lost, and confused as to just how exactly he finds the time for so many adventures. This issue of Amazing Spider-Man does a wonderful job of twisting all of these webs into one compelling story, and sets the stage for what looks to be an exciting event.
Dan Slott was pretty much born to write Spider-Man, and this may be his best issue yet. In this issue we see every side of Spidey, and Slott gets each one. We see him as the solo hero, stopping a bank robber, we see him teaming up with other heroes, as he and the Young Allies take on Hydro-Man (this scene also did a good job of showing how he's evolved as a character, he has matured, looked up to by other heroes, and is able to use his scientific mind to fight crime like he never did before). We see Peter at work at Horizon Labs, we see his personal life, chatting with his girlfriend Carlie Cooper, then Norah Winters and Phil Urich (secretly the Hobgoblin! And still really fun as a dark reflection of Peter) and then his ex, MJ Watson. We see Peter's family in Aunt May and Jonah Jameson Snr.
We see how Spidey functions as both a member of the Future Foundation and then as part of the Avengers, and how each team is different (I loved how Sue Storm expressed the same disdain some online fans do at the New Avengers, that they just sit around hanging out). And finally we see him train with Shang-Chi, Master Of Kung-Fu (you always have to use his full title) and Madame Web, which is not only a timely reminder that he's lost his Spider-Sense, but that there is a mystical side to Spidey too. Add to this cameos from J.Jonah Jameson as NYC Mayor, Flash Thompson as Venom and his girlfriend Betty Brant, and the past year or so of Spider-Man stories all across the Marvel Universe are brought together almost effortlessly, and it's a lot of fun.
But that wouldn't be enough on it's own, a story like this might satisfy continuity heads and people who spend most of their time ranting on the internet about how "SPIDER-MAN AND WOLVERINE ARE ON TOO MANY TEAMS AAAAAAARGHHHH!!!", but it would be pretty boring without a looming threat, and I think Spider-Island provides a good one. There are multiple enemies being set up here, the first is that a load of random New Yorkers are getting powers very similar to Spider-Man, which can pretty much only be a bad thing. Thousands of people with all the power of Peter Parker, but none of the sense of responsibility. For the last few issues there have been back-ups featuring these new Spider-people, but this issue is a veritable explosion of them. It's going to be really fun to see how people handle becoming Spider-Men, and the fact that characters we know like Carlie Cooper are getting these powers will be fun to see. Compare the first page of this issue to the last, the same skyline, but one with only Spider-Man, the other with loads of them.
The villain behind all of this is the Jackal, a character most famous for being behind the Clone Saga, and I think Slott has a lot of fun with him, he's crazy, but smart, and you know that when he shows up, there's a big plot. The fact that he has Kaine, the failed Spider-Clone with him is equally exciting. And then there's the tease that Ben Reilly, the actual Spider-Clone is back, which is just... wow, awesome.
But then, is the Jackal actually behind this? It appears he's acting under orders from someone else, a mysterious woman. I have literally no idea who this is, and that's just how I like my mysteries, too often these days, ostensible mysteries are way too easy to guess, but this? I'm stumped. My only wild guess is the clone of Gwen Stacy, but that's just insane.
This was just a great issue of Spider-Man, it featured every aspect of the character, and made them all fit together, and also set up an exciting new threat, that's a lot more than I expected. If you're not reading Amazing, then Spider-Island is a great jumping-on point, and you can even tweet about it! Event comics get a lot of stick, but when they are done right, there's little better in Mainstream comics, and this looks set to be a good one.
Art - Stefano Caselli has been one of the most underrated artists in the industry for a long time now. From Avengers: The Initiative, to Secret Warriors, and then to Amazing Spider-Man, he's kind of gone under the radar, by being on smaller books, or being overshadowed by Marcos Martin. But I think this issue may propel him to another level, as it's his biggest exposure yet. It helps that this is the best his art has looked, he was always good, but this stuff is just perfect.
Best Line - 'You're from Yancy Street. Girls next door are missing prominent teeth'