The Amazing Spider-Man #700 “point one” bonanza continued last week with ASM #700.3, a story that was completely different in tone and mood from the two-part “Frost” arc by David Morrell and Klaus Janson. This time around, Joe Casey and Tim Green give us the first half of a lighter tale about the mysterious “Black Lodge,” a recovery and treatment facility for Marvel’s supervillain population. There is also a short “B” story from Jen Van Meter and Emma Rios about everyone’s favorite feline, Black Cat.
It is patently obvious that these point one issues are a run of inventory stories that Marvel has wanted to unload and the “anniversary” of Peter Parker’s “death” was as good a time as any to publish them (though, I have to imagine the “point one” numbering scheme is just a silly way to preserve ASM #701 for Peter Parker’s inevitable return for “real”). With that said, I thought the Casey and Green “Black Lodge” story was a fun read, that ended on enough of a well-constructed cliffhanger to keep me engaged for its resolution in ASM #700.4.
Similar to how I first approached “Frost,” I am not going to sit here and play guessing games about where “Black Lodge” figures into continuity, but there is definitely a post-Brand New Day vibe to the story (and there is a reference to Shocker fighting in a subway tunnel, which would confirm my suspicions).
What grabbed me about this story is the idea that the comic book world’s supervillains have their very own special treatment and recovery center that is pretty much off to radar to everyone on the side of heroism except for S.H.I.E.L.D. (of course they would be in the know for something like this).
If a creative team isn’t going to give me some kind of broadly plotted epic that promises to “change everything” once it concludes, then I hope the alternative is something along the lines of what Casey and Green deliver here. “Black Lodge” is shockingly simple in its approach – Spider-Man is fighting Firebrand, is a little off his game (damn you Aunt May for giving Peter seconds) and finds himself burnt beyond recognition as a result, leading to a cryptic medic team picking up his body and bringing him to a medical center that he’s never seen before.
Because Spidey is so badly burned, the facility’s staff does not recognize him as our “friendly neighborhood” good guy, and instead treats him like they would treat any other villain that is gurnied through the doors. As an additional twist, because of the line of business these nurses and doctors work in, they are told not to ask too many questions about the patients they treat, which keeps Spidey’s ID a mystery (until the issue’s end, thus setting up the cliffhanger).
The drama for Spider-Man is twofold: First, after passing out from his burns, he has no idea where he is, and second, once he figures out where he is (which heís able to do thanks to the various villains walking around and referring to each other as their non-costumed identities like Edward Lavell and Phineas Mason) Spidey is trapped a nightmare scenario where he needs to keep his identity a secret long enough for him to be physically capable of striking back if he’s attacked.
Naturally, this being a Peter Parker story, and not a tale about some other Spider-Man who always seems to be prepared for everything 10 steps ahead of the opposition, the hospital staff is alerted to Spideyís presence in the building, which means the second part is going to feature our hero somehow overcoming the odds that are stacked against him to escape the “Black Lodge” (I think I can assume this because the final “point one” issue is not entitled Superior Spider-Man #700.5 or whatever).
“Black Lodge” is perfectly acceptable comic book storytelling. It doesn’t have the makings of a potential “classic” the way “Frost” did after its first issue (and editing mistakes in part two aside, I still think it was a very well written story), but I would have had no problems if Marvel had given me this story some time in 2008 or 2009 during the “Brand New Day” era of stories. As is the case with the Superior Foes of Spider-Man series, I think it is always fun to peek in on how the “evil” half of the Marvel universe lives, and the “Black Lodge” is such an obvious concept for a writer to explore, I’m shocked we haven’t had a story about it in any other comic book title prior to ASM #700.3.
As for the Black Cat “B” story, while I love me some Emma Rios artwork (I still can’t believe Marvel didn’t green light a Nick Spencer/Rios Cloak and Dagger ongoing after the Spider Island mini two years ago), there certainly wasn’t anything revelatory about it. To the shock of no one, Rios’ illustrations are phenomenal, but color me disappointed that the guy in the Spider-Man suit wasn’t even Peter Parker, which makes this story even more of a throwaway.
For me, Black Cat works best as a supporting character working alongside or in opposition to Spider-Man. When you put her front and center, her unlikeable characteristics become exposed, even if a story is as short as this one.
All images from Amazing Spider-Man #700.3: Joe Casey, Tim Green, Walden Wong, Brad Simpson, Jen Van Meter, Emma Rios & Jordie Bellaire.