I’m at the point where I’m running out of interesting things to say about Matt Kindt and Marco Rudy’s Marvel Knights Spider-Man mini-series. Three issues in and the title remains the most visually unique and interesting thing we’ve seen from a Spider-Man comic … maybe EVER, while Kindt’s script continues to deliver fascinating little nuggets, even if I’m still left questioning if this is definitively a “Spider-Man comic,” or rather a comic book series that happens to feature someone in a Spider-Man suit.
Whereas David Morrell and Klaus Janson delivered an unquestionable Peter Parker as Spider-Man “story” in Amazing Spider-Man #700.1 last week that honors and respects the character’s history despite the fact that not a lot of continuity gets referenced, Kindt and Rudy seem to approach Marvel Knights Spider-Man more as a blank slate to play mad scientists and experiment with both Spider-Man’s universe, and the comic book medium as a whole. I think those who dismiss the series for its overall lack of plot development are being way too glib about what Kindt and Rudy are trying to accomplish as creators.
I do have an infinite amount of respect for just how deep on the bench Kindt is reaching to come up with 99 villains for Spider-Man to fight. Never would I have suspected in a comic book that features Venom and Carnage prominently that we would also get appearances from the Spider Queen, Scarecrow, Tombstone and Nitro.
As has been the case in Marvel Knight Spider-Man’s previous two issues, Rudy seems to approach his visual depiction of these villains as if they’re elements, zeroing in on certain physical properties and characteristics. When Kindt hinted that at least one issue of this mini would focus on the symbiotes during my interview with him at New York Comic Con, I was definitely intrigued to see how Rudy would approach the visually dynamic nature of Venom and Carnage. Rudy doesn’t disappoint as he once again conjures up a wholly unique way to break up the page, in this case, using the outlines of Carnage and Venom’s face to create separate panels for the comic’s action.
Rudy’s interpretation of Nitro is absolutely stunning here, creating an almost photo-negative effect for this character. Obviously, Val Staples’ color landscape, has a lot to do with how amazing this image is.
The amount of artistic detail this series contains is just mind-boggling. I can’t imagine how long it took Rudy to piece it together (and for Val Staples to color it). If nothing else comes out of this Marvel Knights Spider-Man mini, I’m at least hopeful that it put Kindt, Rudy and Staples on Marvel’s radar as creators that need to hire for other series.
Similar to Kindt’s treatment of Sandman and Hydro-Man in the mini’s last issue, the writing here really goes to some interesting and unexpected places in terms of its characterization, especially as it relates to Tombstone and Nitro. Whereas Tombstone’s capture is relegated to one measly panel in Superior Spider-Man #10, Kindt uses the character’s appearance here as an opportunity to explore the psychological effects of the gang world’s power structure. Tombstone talks about his self-centered existence and how he’s always been “the boss,” until he meets the one person who outranks him. That’s when he realizes he’s just a character in this other guy’s story.
It’s a fascinating way for Kindt to express a character’s shame, while also functioning as a way to build the mystery of this mini’s larger story – in this case, who is the mastermind, and why are some of Spider-Man’s mightiest villains seemingly being deployed against their will in some kind of battle against him? The clues Kindt drops seem to be leaving a breadcrumb trail to the feet of the Kingpin, but there’s still enough unanswered questions and mystery conjured up by this book’s trippy nature, that it’s hard to feel even remotely certain about its direction.
During Nitro’s confrontation with Spider-Man, the villain talks about the indignity of having powers that basically kill him before he’s able to reform and do it all over again. For the uninitiated (and I have to imagine there’s a number of you out there since this is a character that’s very rarely been used with Spider-Man, though he did play an instrumental role in the destruction of Stamford, CT, during the “Civil War” event), via a genetic accident, Nitro is able to explode before reforming his body. Nitro casually soliloquies that all he wants to do is take out a couple of heroes like Iron Man every time he does his exploding trick. He relishes in that moment where it’s finally over and that he’s dead, only to be tortured with having to regenerate and start all over again.
The way Kindt scripts this dialogue, I’m almost tempted to feel sympathy for Nitro until I realize, “holy crap, Spider-Man is nose to nose with a guy who likes to explode himself!”
For a series where not a lot of things actually happen, Marvel Knights Spider-Man is packed with surprises in both the script and the artwork. It’s definitely one of those comics that benefits from additional reads before I’m able to put my thoughts together, and even while writing this post, I found myself conferring with my copy multiple times and then thinking of something new that I wasn’t planning on writing about.
My biggest complaint, if you even want to call it that, is that the surreal nature of this story is starting to beg the question about how unreliable the narrator is in this series. In more “traditional” Spider-Man comics, Peter Parker’s perspective is almost never called into question, but between the fact that he’s been drugged by Arcade and that all of his villains appear to be acting WAY out of character, there’s a part of me that wonders how much of this story is actually real. If Marvel Knights Spider-Man ends up being just one big hallucination and Spidey is left there at the end with only Arcade in the room (or someone else), I don’t think that’s going to change my overall opinion on the series’ writing and artwork, but it does lead me to not read too much into the action that appears on the pages of this story.
All images from Marvel Knights Spider-Man #3: Matt Kindt, Marco Rudy & Val Staples