This week, we take a quick break from the Clone Conspiracy for an Amazing Spider-Man annual featuring three tales of web-slinging action.
For those of you who read my reviews regularly (HI MOM!), I’ll be shaking up the format a bit. Instead of snarky one-liners tracking through the issue followed by an overall impression, I’ll be giving a brief review of each story followed by an overall determination if Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 is worth your holiday dollars.
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (Marvel Comics)
Mask of Death
I was initially thrilled at seeing the names Humberto Ramos (one of my favorite artists) and Christos Gage (one of my favorite writers) on this story. Then I noticed that they were both the writers…and Francisco Herrera was the artist.
In the past, I have referred to Herrera’s art as “What it would look like if you hit Humberto Ramos over the head with a cinder block and forced him to draw with his non-dominant hand.”
To my surprise, however, Herrera’s art in this is really, REALLY good. Perhaps my tastes have changed—or maybe Herrera has improved and/or evolved his style in a way that I prefer. It’s also possible I’m just a lot less of a spiteful turd than I was ten years ago. Whatever the case, this is BY FAR the best work I’ve ever seen from him. I’m still not enamored with the way he draws human faces, but his scenes with Spider-Man and the story’s mystical-based villain are works of kinetic beauty. Herrera also gets a big assist from Fernanda Rizo’s stunning color work, particularly on the underground action scenes.
Story-wise, “Mask of Death” is pretty standard annual-issue fare. It’s nothing earth shattering, but still a fun bit of condensed storytelling with possible implications for the future.
A whole lot of artists combined on this one, but it still looks nice and surprisingly consistent. The story isn’t all that great, save for the dialogue between Cloak and Dagger, which is outstanding. If James Asmus ever writes a series with these two, I’ll definitely be picking it up.
It’s also nice to see that Mister Negative, one of the cooler new villains we’ve had in the Spider mythos, is still kicking around and causing trouble.
Whose Crime is It Anyway?
After Spider-Man gets made fun of for his bad quips, he decides to take an improv class. It’s as painful to read as it sounds.
Look, I love Wayne Brady (obviously), but this was bad. Let’s hope his next attempt at writing comics is better. At least the art by Bruno Oliveira is good, though.
Is It Good?
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 is exactly what an annual should be—a collection of stories and creative teams that we don’t normally see in the main books. That type of scenario can produce all types of results: Good (Mask of Death), mixed (Neon Dragon), and Bad (Whose Crime Is It Anyway?). It’s also worth noting the variety of tone/styles on display make reviewing the stories even more subjective than usual.
My expert opinion/advice (which is always right 50% of the time): Amazing Spider-man Annual #1 isn’t perfect, but plenty good enough that everyone will find something they like. If you’ve got Amazing Spider-Man on your pull list already, then make sure your shop includes the annuals—at least for this one.