What is it about Spider Island that succeeds as an event where Fear Itself is failing? A number of things, but given the choice of reading a chaotic story where Thor gets his ass kicked repeatedly and a chaotic story where J. Jonah Jameson gets spider-powers, I'll take the latter every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
It's in the brisk pacing, it's in the sharp scripting, the energetic art, the tight coordination with its tie-ins and just about everything else, but you can boil it down to one word – fun. Fear Itself isn't, but Spider Island certainly is.
The madness continues in Amazing Spider-Man #670, Part Four of the Jackal's crazy epidemic of spider-mutancy gripping the island of Manhattan and anyone with non-super-powered genetics. At first, everybody got Spider-Man's power set, which jazzed a lot of New Yorkers, but they didn't expect the next phase of The Queen's plan – turning them all into actual giant spiders she can control with her mind as an army. So while Mayor Jameson is flipping his lid about being in a spider-infested city, Spidey is flipping out about watching his girlfriend turn into a spider, Mary Jane Watson is lamenting that she's the only one without spider powers, Flash Thompson is in the Venom suit infiltrating the bad guys and trying to wrangle a cure from Eddie Brock's Anti-Venom abilities (check out Venom #7, which is a book you should be reading anyway), and Reed Richards is trying to figure out a cure. There's a lot going on, and everybody's on point, whereas in Fear Itself, it seemed like everybody was just kind of watching the destruction for the first few issues before going 'huh, maybe we should do something.'
Dan Slott is a very entertaining writer, and he's doing a hell of a job juggling all of these characters, plus the Avengers, giving them all stuff to do and dialog that actually fits with the characters he's writing, which shouldn't seem like that big an accomplishment, but given Marvel's event book track record, it really is. The cartoonish edge of Humberto Ramos may be an acquired taste as far as art goes, but it's certainly worth the time taken to acquire it, because the kinetic energy it exudes and the expressiveness it allows are really keeping Slott's dense dialog moving, making sure things never get bogged down and turgid, like Fear Itself.
This was the issue I was waiting for, though, because J. Jonah Jameson gets spider powers. JJJ may be the best supporting character in anyone's history, and certainly in Spider-Man's pantheon, and he always shines whenever he gets to take center stage. He needs to argue with Mr. Fantastic more often – hell, just superheroes in general more often. Here, however, he gets to have a Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man whether he likes it or not. And you can damn well bet he doesn't like it. Unfortunately, it doesn't last as long as we would have liked, but that's forgivable only because Slott has a much meatier dramatic arc for Jameson to delve into – going face-to-face with Alistaire Smythe, the Spider-Slayer who killed his wife. It's an awful bad time for JJJ to also be possessed by the Spider-Queen.
Read Amazing Spider-Man. Read Venom as well to get a darker underbelly take on this story. If you like your event books to actually be eventful while also being enjoyable, read Spider Island.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 9.5/10