Open Mike Night: Spider-Verse’s Spider-Woman #1 (2014) / Uncanny X-Men #150 (1963)

Spider-Woman (2014) #1

Written by: Dennis Hopeless
Penciled by: Greg Land
Inked by: Jay Leisten
Colored by: Frank D’ Armata
Lettered by: Travis Lanhom
Cover by: Greg Land + Morry Hollowell
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: $3.99

Maillaro: So…uhm…I guess I need to apologize to Weaver once again.  You see, my hetero-lifemate here is an old school comic reader and doesn’t keep up too much with current comics.  So, when I propose doing reviews, I always try to pick first issues or something with a new creative team so we’re on even footing.  But, now two weeks in a row, I’ve hit him with first issues that were parts of massive crossovers (last week it was Captain America and the Mighty Avengers, part of Axis).

This week, I hit him with Spider-Woman, which is a Spider-Verse tie-in.  And once again, Marvel doesn’t seem to think they need to tell the reader what’s going on, or even who the players are.  Spider-Woman gets a real brief sentence or two on the title page.  And other characters show up throughout the issue without any explanation at all beyond “some of these characters are alternate reality Spider-Man (and Women)…and some aren’t,”

Weaver: You know, you’d think it would have been hard to hit the ground running here, but it wasn’t that bad for me.  They explained everything well enough in asides and through dialogue cues that I didn’t feel too lost, except when Pete shows up with reinforcements at the end and starts talking more about the Spider-multiverse and whatnot.  But even that, I could handle.

It made me curious about the Prohibition Spider-Man, and Black Cat as a speakeasy host, but ultimately, I’m not curious enough to track anything down.  The worst part of this is that it definitely started in the middle of the story.  Cap and the Mighty Avengers at least seemed like the beginning of a story…not the beginning of the first story of a team, but the beginning of a story.  Spider-Woman felt like I walked in on the third reel.  It was easier to get up to speed on, though.  Spider-Man and Spider-Woman are pretty classic archetypes, and just throwing a little modifier on to it…like “This is the 20’s Spider-Man”…was enough.

Maillaro: Prohibition Spider-Man is actually Spider-Man Noir.  I’ve never read it, but I did play Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions where he was one of the playable Spider-Men.

The problem for me was that when 616 Spidey showed up at the end…they don’t explain Silk’s reaction (there is a creepy pheromonal attraction) or who the other characters were.  I keep forgetting Julia Carpenter gave her costume to Arana…and Spider-Gwen.   Actually the whole “swap teams” thing was real odd.  Why did they bother starting with Silk, Noir, and Spider-Woman just to change them all up at the end.  It just seemed like a real strange and seemingly random move to me.  Not particularly bad, just strange.

I also thought some of the dialogue, especially on the first page was clunky.  Instead of showing the world, we get “We’re riding giant lizard donkeys through purple sand heading for a Manhattan carved out of gold.”  Uhm…yes…we can see that.  Thanks for the closed captioning….

Weaver: Well, at the end, clearly, we’re going to move over to a Silk focus, and I assume Jess is going to end up having to rescue her.  But yeah…Spider-Gwen and Arana are basically just, “Hi, we’re here, we exist, bye.”  Which for minor characters in a crossover, I need a little more than that.

Also on the Manhattan made of gold…I feel the closed captioning was necessary because honestly, the art focused so much on the lizard donkeys that I never really got that the city was that grand.  Also, in a city of gold, it’s hard for me to believe there would be an “Aladdin” moment, but…okay, the setting for the first part was pretty underexplored compared to the promise of it.  If you’re giving me a purple sand lizard donkey city of gold, please remember to make it majestic.

Maillaro: Jess is off Silk duty (that is why Spider-Gwen and Arana showed up)…I think Silk is being dealt with on one of the many tie-in series. Peter says they have another mission for Jessica.  Which made this comic even odder, since it spent so much time focusing on Silk.

BTW, both Silk and Spider-Gwen will be getting their own titles soon.  I don’t think we’ve ever had so many “Spider-chick” books at the same time.  We could argue if they are needed, of course, but I am always happy to see female characters get a bigger focus.

Weaver: Okay, I’m sure that they needed to show up because of their titles coming up soon.  That makes sense to me.  But in that case…I agree with you, it’s a terrible bait and switch.  I just assumed Jess would have to audible back to Silk duty.

I think I agree, that sounds like dangerous levels of oversaturation, especially given that none of them have huge intrinsic fanbases.  However…I also am happy to see more female leads in comics.  I’ll leave the jury out for now.

 Maillaro: So, I know a lot of people hate on Greg Land, but I’ve been a fan since Sojourn.  I thought this book really looked good…though I agree the city of hold could have been a lot more majestic.  I especially loved how he drew Peter…there was no doubt in my mind when he showed up that was 616 Spider-Man.  And I loved the “why are we all crouching?” gag.

I would definitely give it a 5 for art.

Weaver: I liked the character art, but you need to wow me more with golden Manhattan.  The Spider-Man pose was great, and…I’ll give it a 4.5.  I can’t get over not being wowed by a golden city.  Sorry Greg Land.

I actually liked the story quite a bit.  I’m also going to hit it with a 4.5, so straight 4.5’s.  It wasn’t a great first issue, which is why it’s docked there, but it is a really good issue period, in my eyes.

Maillaro: I would probably go a little lower on the writing.  4.  It was a good read, but I definitely think Marvel needs to put a little more effort into actually MAKING FIRST ISSUES ACCESSIBLE TO NEW READERS!  It is like they have given up on even trying to sell a new series.

Uncanny X-Men (1963) #150

Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Dave Cockrun, Josef Rubinstyein, Bob Wiacek
Colored by: Glynis Wein
Lettered by: Tom Orzechowski and Jean Simek
Published by: Marvel
Cover Price: 75 cents ($1.99 on Comixology)

Maillaro: I typically let Weaver lead when we talk old school X-Men, but I just wanted to explain why we picked this issue.  A while back, we reviewed Uncanny 1…then Uncanny 50.  I sort of semi-joked that I wanted to do a review for every “50th” issue of X-Men.  Uncanny 150 went on sale last week on Comixology, so I figured it was time we continued the series.

Okay, now here’s Weaver with the actual review:

Weaver: Oh man.  You know, I hold 80’s X-Men on a special pedestal, and this issue is a really key issue with Magneto sinking the Russian submarine which we’re going to hear about every ten issues from now until the end of time, but I have to admit this was kind of a mess and doesn’t hold up well.  The good parts were good.  Storm’s crisis of whether to kill Magneto or not.  Magneto starting to reveal more about his history…I’m not sure he ever talked about the Holocaust before this.  The high fashion of Scott and Lee.  Random Cthulhu sculptures.

On the flip side…I’m pretty sure that Storm needs to go through the concussion protocol before returning to team duties.  She gets knocked out by Wolverine’s head, then passes out from whiplash, and then gets smacked in the head by a Magneto propelled Colossus.  I felt like she had grounds to sue for being put back in the game after that.

Cockrum’s roots are in science fiction stories, notably Legion of Super Heroes, and while that sort of thing can be cool and all, I really didn’t feel like it was the right look for this book, especially given that it comes pretty soon after the gritty realism of Claremont/Byrne X-Men.  Why did Magneto launch a Cthulhu island up to the surface?  We’re not really sure, but we do know that he somehow knew it was there and chose to send it up.

<Also, and I hate to narrate a lot here (although Claremont didn’t hate doing that…zing), but you’ll see a few things in this issue that are contradicted by later canon.  Nightcrawler talks about how he was a great acrobat even before his tail, which now he’s been born with.  Wolverine’s claws have nothing to do with his mutant power, and he doesn’t bleed popping them without a healing factor.  These things are just interesting to me, neither good or bad because they were true at the time.

Maillaro: I haven’t read this issue in a long time.  Like you said, that nuclear sub ends up being a major issue for years to come…but no one bothers to mention that bastard also ripped a damn volcano up in the middle of a Russian city…but slowly so people had time to evacuate.  I laughed at that point.  Thanks Magneto…you’re not the total asshole we all thought.  You just demolished the whole town…but everyone can leave if they choose.

I totally disagree with you about this issue not holding up.  I thought of the X-Men comics we’ve reviewed so far, this one has held up the best.  Yeah, it’s not perfect, but I thought it presented a clever scenario (the X-Men facing Magneto with no powers), some great action, and some serious moral dilemmas for both Storm and Magneto.  And it was all basically done in one issue (though double-sized).  I really can’t ask for a lot more than that in a comic.

Weaver: I can’t believe you’re throwing Steranko under the bus like that.  Blasphemer.

Maillaro: The art was great in 100…the writing…uhm…yeah…not so great 😉

Weaver: The “slow volcano” is pretty hilarious.  Especially when you consider that they specify everyone in the town was asleep at the time.  “Wake up, comrades, Magneto is being…well, Magneto!”

So, the Lost island here…I believe the X-Men are camping out here until Magik falls into a random Limbo portal…this is the worst idea for a hangout ever, even worse than Thunderbolts’ Mt Charteris.  And I think we NEVER find out what the hell was up with it.  Just some random something that Magneto magically found.  Then again, Claremont always left a few things unexplained intentionally.  This seems to be one that should have gotten at least something.  Maybe I’m wrong.  If so, I’m sure I’ll get a comment about how I need to research.

Maillaro: It isn’t that much odder than them hanging out in Australia to guard a magic portal.  Sort of got away from the protect a world that fears and hates us.  Which is odd for me to complain about, since I actually liked the Outback X-Men stuff..even if it was not quite X-Men.  It was basically “hey, I have a great idea for a superhero comics…let’s use these existing characters, even if it doesn’t quite make sense.”

Weaver: As for fighting powerlessly…and moral dilemmas…these were kind of frequent occurrences in this era.  I dunno.  Neither felt super fresh to me.  Also, clumsy Wolverine.  Poor clumsy Wolverine.  He almost falls to his death twice.  I think that’s my biggest gripe here…there seems to be certain things that just keep happening.  Storm’s knocked out.  Storm’s awake.  Storm’s out.  She’s awake.  Wolverine slipped.  Nightcrawler saved him.  Wolverine slipped.  Nightcrawler for the save.  And Colossus already knew…in an issue also featuring a volcano…that fighting Maggie as steel was a bad idea.  He spent 15 issues crying about how much it bothered him that he could just be ragdolled.  It bothers me that it takes him by surprise here.

Maillaro: To be fair, there wasn’t a lot of double sized comics in this period (well, not with one story covering the entire comic at least), so I would blame some of the odd repetition there.   I think you are just being extra harsh just because you love this era so much.  I definitely didn’t have many of those complaints.

One of my favorite moments in this book was when Storm was yelling about Magneto hurting “my kitten.”  Maybe I am just terrible immature, but that cracked me up.  And I loved Kitty’s Luke Skywalker impression at the end when she was pretending to use the force to lift the Blackbird out of the water (with an assist from Colossus).  I thought that was real clever.  Maybe I am just a real easy audience…

And as always, I am amused by the extensive expository dialogue.  Scott goes all Ocean’s Eleven here in pointing out the various skills of his teammates…

Weaver: X-Men had been double sized just about one year exactly previous…137…and that comic was one hell of a story without a lot of strange repetition.  I think beyond me loving this era, we also have me disliking space stuff, and Cockrum infuses quite a bit of space style scenery here.  I dunno.

>The best moment of this comic, and really, one of the best moments in Claremont/Cockrum Part II The Revenge, is Storm thinking about stabbing Magneto while he’s sleeping.  It feels very much like a variation on the classic “Would you kill Hitler if you met him as an art student” thought exercise.  I’m still not sure if she would’ve eventually talked herself into it if he hadn’t woken up, even though the panel where he woke up has her saying she can’t.  That’s just such a pregnant moment, I love it.  Even the peas and gravy plate, which was a great detail.

I know you read this digitally, but my print copy has coloring issues that creep up a lot, like Kitty’s green forehead.

Even if I don’t like the style for the story, I think Cockrum and company did a good job here, lots of details, Ronald and Margaret look recognizable (sometimes difficult in comics), and really, just…while the scene felt strange to me, it still was crisp and well-detailed.  I’m going to hit the art with a 4.

Maillaro: Yeah, I definitely didn’t have any coloring issues.  I actually didn’t realize Marvel went back and tweaked their comics that way when they did the digital versions (or maybe for later trade versions).  Huge props to them for that.  It’s probably an unnecessary cost, but it definitely helps the comics hold up better.

Other than those ridiculous outfits Scott and Forrester were wearing, I thought the art was real good throughout.

I can definitely go 4 out of 5.  And a 4 for the writing too.  I thought this was a real balanced comic.  Not quite perfect, but nothing that really pissed me off about it.

Weaver: I ragged on it, but I still like it.  I’ll give it 4’s, especially buoyed by the ending Star Wars gag.  It needed that light heartedness.  Four and four and four and four for 150.

Maillaro: I assume we are taking off next week for the holiday?

Weaver: I’m going to say yes, but I’ll be spending part of it finishing reading Squadron Supreme…I forgot how dense that was.

Maillaro: I am probably going to be reading The Haunt over Thanksgiving weekend.  The character has appeared a few times in Spawn, and I was real curious to see more of him.

To all our readers, Happy Thanksgiving!  And thanks for checking us out!

Final Scores

Maillaro – Story Weaver – Story Maillaro – Art Weaver – Art
Spider-Woman #1 4 4.5 5 4.5
Uncanny X-Men #150 4 4 4 4

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