December 12, 2011 at 11:02 am By:

Comics have changed drastically with the new millennium. The industry’s embrace of digitization has elevated the contributions of letterers and colorists to heights heretofore unseen. And while it has made these historically downplayed positions finally recognized as the arts they truly are, programs like Photoshop have also borne amateurish, ugly trends. Motion blurs. Digital inking. Stock fonts, typos, awkward balloon placement; foibles that are all the more obvious in context of the progress that enabled them.

I’ve always been wary of “colored pencils”, where pencil art skips the ink stage altogether – digital or analogue – in favor of colors filling the space, achieving the depth and mood of the story’s setting. This approach has yielded practically nil in enjoyable comics. Without the bold, dynamic lines of proper inking, the energy inherent in comic art is lost, leaving soft figures, muddied page layouts and set pieces. So then, I was also wary of Avenging Spider-Man #1. Joe Madureira + Spidey = no-brainer, but when I heard that the book was skimping on the inker, I was understandably skeptical. Mad’s work had always popped kinetic, but then his turn in Ultimates 3 was a far cry from the lushness of Battle Chasers. Color me unimpressed.

That is until I read Avenging Spider-Man #1.

Okay, even the title wasn’t so encouraging, but with an open mind and an appetite for something fun and easy, I read AvSM #1, and I felt like a kid again. The book’s team-up tack is a potent catalyst, conjuring a vibe akin to the old Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends TV show. Clearly, Joe Mad is (excuse the pun) the big draw here, but Zeb Wells is a workhorse writer, too, crafting simple, sensible plots and writing punchy, unobtrusive dialogue. His idea-man approach is perfectly suited to Madureira’s wild imagination.

It would seem Madureira is putting a little more elbow grease into his pencils this time out, too. The only spots that don’t play well are the lightly filled blacks, which could stand a little darkening somewhere along the line. Otherwise, colorist Ferran Daniel does an excellent job in maintaining the integrity of Madureira’s lines, adding shades and hues that enliven each and every page. His strong sense of texture roots his flashy palette in four-color reality, too, the solidity that was lacking crucially in Ultimates 3.

With issue 2, the story has clearly revealed itself as padded, but not in a negative way. Guest star Red Hulk is given plenty of scenery to chew alongside Spidey, and their character interplay is infectious, just like watching a couple of old pals argue. The involvement of J. Jonah Jameson is similar, and while it may seem repetitious or old hat, the plot’s simplicity is its charm. Nothing story-wise is overdone or overwrought; this book’s not here to make you think. Actually, quite the opposite: it’s pure entertainment, the kind of comic you read once, then again, then flip through languidly for another half-hour, basking in the afterglow.

Issue #2 ups the stakes by really playing to Madureira’s strengths as an artist. He and Wells’ variation on Mole Man and his Moloids – the Immovable Ra’ktar and the Molans – and the environs of Subterranea make Avenging Spider-Man look a bit like a Marvel crossover with Battle Chasers. These new villains are bulky and earthy, complete with chunky armor adorned in spikes and skulls (they speak in runes). Madureira was always billed as manga and anime influenced, as far back as his star-making days on Uncanny X-Men, but that’s always been somewhat overstated. It’s there in his proportions, his sense of motion and perspective, but the fundamentals of Mad’s work are as indebted to the likes of Jack Kirby and Art Adams as they are to anything from the Land of the Rising Sun (unless you wanna count video games).

Avenging Spider-Man is a perfect gift for any superhero fan, and a great book for new or young readers. With the holidays rapidly approaching, issues one and two of this exciting new series would make an ideal last minute gift idea, or just an extra stocking stuffer (but PLEASE don’t ROLL ‘em!) Each issue also includes a free download code, officially making it the gift that keeps on giving. If you’re in the market for good old-fashioned superhero fun, unencumbered by dense continuity and needless exposition, Avenging Spider-Man is the book for you. And the first two issues are available in ample supply at your friendly neighborhood Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find…whenever you’re ready…


Filed Under: DISCUSS, Reviews

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