For the past few months, I haven’t been shy about the fact that I’m not a big fan of Spider-Man moonlighting with so many other superhero teams, such as the Future Foundation and The Avengers. While I’ve made the argument that it goes against the core tenants of the character for him to be a permanent member of so many other factions (Spidey is a self-described “loner” at least in the early run of Amazing Spider-Man), ultimately the root of my dissatisfaction comes from the fact that when I pick up these other series, they just don’t read like Spider-Man comic books. Marvel has such a great character in Spider-Man, why dilute him by shoehorning him in to Jonathan Hickman’s tale of multiverses in FF or whatever Brian Michael Bendis is writing about in The Avengers these days (I honestly haven’t read an Avengers book in years) and not featuring him in any kind of meaningful way? The whole thing just smacks of a sales ploy by Marvel.
So it’s with that healthy dose of cynicism in mind that I applaud the emergence of the Avenging Spider-Man series in the marketplace. After picking up the first issue of this series last month, it is indisputably a Spider-Man comic book – with Spidey as the focal point, along with his supporting cast of characters. Zeb Wells also does a great job just having the series sound/read like a Spider-Man comic book. I can’t exactly put my finger on the criteria for such an assessment, but I’m sure other long-time readers of Spidey know what I’m talking about – there’s just a bright “zippiness” in Avenging that’s lacking whenever Hickman or Bendis work a Spider-Man scene in their respective series. And obviously credit has to be given to Joe Madureira’s artwork, who gives Spidey and his universe an epic, super-expressive feel.
Obviously, this new series is a throwback to the days of Marvel Team-Up, which was successful in its own right, and from my perspective, demonstrated the best way to work other Marvel characters into the Spider-Man universe. It’s these separate off-shoot series where it feels most appropriate to team Spider-Man up with Red Hulk or Wolverine, or whoever else is on the docket that month (keep in mind Marvel Team-Up saw the creation of the greatness that is Frog Man). When I’m reading Amazing Spider-Man, there’s a certain core of heroes, villains and supporting characters I want to focus on. When too many outside characters are brought into the mix, ASM usually feels too watered down (see Maximum Carnage, and Dan Slott’s recent FF arc earlier this year). But when these’s over-the-top partnerships are confined to their own series, the end-result is something I’m more eager to wrap my head around – perhaps because I’m hopeful that this new series will necessitate fewer crossovers in the flagship series.
Granted, Wells’ first-storyline lacks the depth and brain power of what Slott just accomplished in Spider Island, but as a fun little diversion – a popcorn flick of a comic if I ever saw one – I’ll gladly accept Avenging into the Marvel lexicon and more importantly into my collection.