The first thing that this comic does right is the two pages of recap at the beginning of the issue. These recap pages aren’t filled with blocks of text that the reader probably wouldn’t be able to resist skipping. Instead, they’re a series of panels that quickly catch the reader up on all of the relevant plot points with impressive efficiency. It’s not so easy to summarize everything in a crossover event so succinctly, and it’s especially difficult when you have as much stuff going on as Slott does. I’ve seen recap pages at the beginning of comics before, but never used to such great effect. I think even if you are jumping into Spider-Island with this issue, these recap pages will get you up to speed without boring you or losing you in a wall of text (like I probably am right now).
The story begins with Mary Jane Watson fighting off a bunch of Man-Spiders with her newly developed spider-powers. Mary Jane, who almost always falls into the damsel in distress role, rescues herself instead of depending on Spider-Man to save her. The idea of having Mary Jane playing the part of the heroine instead of the helpless girlfriend is a refreshing reversal.
Slott cuts to Spider-Man at the New York City Emergency Command Center and he’s trying to restrain J. Jonah Jameson who has transformed into a Man-Spider. I love the concept that JJJ, who hates Spider-Man with the passion of a thousand burning suns, has mutated in a Man-Spider. We see that the Spider-Queen, the mastermind behind all of the chaos of Spider-Island, is controlling JJJ and is capable of influencing anyone infected with the Spider-Flu.
There’s so much going on in this comic that to hit every plot point would completely defeat the purpose of this review. Rather than going through each of the many great moments in this issue, I’ll just quickly tease some of the awesomeness you can read yourself when this review inevitably compels you to purchase this comic. We see The Thing fighting an army of Man-Spiders alongside the military. Spider-Man offers help to Gravity and Firestar who are keeping the hordes of Man-Spiders from destroying the spider-sense jammers that are stopping the spider-flu from spreading to all of the world, but they humorously decline his offer. Eddie Brock sacrifices his superpowers and Anti-Venom symbiote to help Horizon Labs create an antidote for the spider-flu, and he’s just as crazy as ever with a hardcore messiah complex. Reed Richards works with Horizon Labs to use the spider sense jammers to restore Spider-Man’s spider sense to full power. This comic is brimming with awesome stuff going on, and the density of the plot really makes the 3.99 price tag worth it.
We learn in this issue that the Jackal’s Man-Spider lackey “Tarantula” is actually Kaine, the deformed clone of Spider-Man. Since Kaine has the same DNA as Peter Parker, the DNA lock on Horizon Labs allows him to enter before Spider-Man arrives on the scene. The ensuing fight between Kaine and Spider-Man is extremely well illustrated by Ramos. In one panel, Ramos has several strobing images of Spider-Man dancing around Kaine as he uses the kung-fu Shang Chi taught him. This panel of strobing images of kung-fu Spider-Man was drawn masterfully by Ramos, and he captures the dynamic and fluid body language of Spider-Man in motion perfectly. Without spoiling the exact specifics of the plot, it seems like Kaine might be the new Scarlet Spider. As a comic book fan who grew up during the height of the infamous Clone Saga, I’m excited at the prospect of the Scarlet Spider’s return.
This comic has so much going on in it that it would be a disservice to Dan Slott’s writing to even pretend like my summary of the plot is complete. This is one of the densest and most action packed Spider-Man comics that I’ve ever read. I’m one of those people who stopped reading Amazing Spider-Man because of that whole deal with the devil debacle, but Slott and Ramos have successfully brought me back to what used to be a series that I followed religiously. They’ve managed to distill everything that I’d like to see from a Spider-Man storyline into Spider-Island; this comic has loads of action, self-deprecating Spider-man humor, and references to classic Spider-Man continuity like the Clone Saga and the Man-Spider. I really can’t praise this comic enough, and I urge you to go out and buy it immediately. Well? What are you waiting for, True Believers?
You’re still here? Seriously, the review is over. Go buy this comic and absorb the awesomeness yourself.