Comics : Amazing Fantasy (Vol. 2) #2

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This story is part of an Arc: "Heart of the Spider"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

When Anya Corazon was five her mother left her. She told her always to be "brave". Now, ten years later, Anya is brave to the point of recklessness. She never backs down and on her first day of school gets into one fight and organises another for the evening. But on the way to this fight Anya stumbles across a mage named Miguel who is searching for a chosen one, and the Sisterhood of the Wasp who are trying to kill him. Could Anya be the Initiate Miguel is looking for? And if she is, what is he going to do about her fatal stabbing?

In Detail...

"The Promise"
Amazing Fantasy (Vol. 2) #2
Sep 2004 : Review (No SM)
Arc: Part 2 of "Heart of the Spider"
Editor:  Jennifer Lee
Writer:  Fiona Avery
Pencils:  Mark Brooks
Inker:  Jaime Mendoza, Victor Olazaba
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Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales Flip Magazine #2
Articles: Arana

As Anya lies dying in Miguel's arms he realises that she could well be the chosen one. He weaves a spell that will save her if she is the Initiate: "Dark Lord of the infinite earth, weaver of all life, lend me your strength." He asks Anya for a focus that means something to her, and the delirious girl offers him her mother's locket. All is now ready, but Miguel can only continue if Anya accepts her new life willingly.

He tells Anya that he is her guardian. He says he will protect her and save her life if she agrees to fight for him and those he represents. If she does not agree she will die from the knife wound. Anya doesn't understand what he is saying, but he urges her to agree. Anya accepts these terms, but she doesn't really know what she is agreeing to. She wants to live. She would have said anything. Miguel produces a feather and warns Anya of the pain to follow.

It is the next morning. Anya's father returns home after spending all night out on a case. He goes to Anya's room, but doesn't enter fearing his daughter will chastise him for being out all night. Anya is in her room dreaming. In her dream she is encased in some sort of cocoon and suspended from the ceiling by spider webs. A comforting voice is saying her name over and over. Anya thinks it is her mother.

When he discovers Anya hasn't been into the kitchen yet, her father worries she will be late for school and goes to rouse her. He knocks on her door. In her dream Anya bursts out of her cocoon, and in the real world she sits up in bed fully dressed. Her room really is covered in spider webs, and her sweatshirt is soaked in blood where she was stabbed. Anya tells father not to enter, and tries to clean things up.

As she stares into the mirror flashes of the previous evening return to her. She sees her stabbing, she sees Miguel and she sees the feather he was holding. Then she looks at her right arm. She now has a tattoo of a spider above the elbow. What does it all mean?

At school Lynn berates Anya for not calling her. She was worried Lynn had kept her appointment to fight Trent and was lying dead in a ditch. During their argument they notice that Anya's locket is missing. Anya is upset but she is immediately diverted by Trent, who is telling his friends what he saw in the park last night. Trent describes all the events we saw last issue. However, he believes the Sisterhood were terrorists and the magical explosion of the broken ward a bomb they had been planting. He says that Miguel was a CIA agent, and that he helped him. This is just grand-standing and Anya challenges him, but before things can escalate into another fight the teacher sends them all to class.

Such lies bug Anya and she tells Lynn it is time to re-form "the regulars" - a gang of friends and informants Anya and Lynn were close to in junior high. However, getting hold of them now might be tricky.

Anya corrects the teacher (Mrs Wegman) on how her name should be pronounced, but then her mind starts to wander. Mrs Wegman looks a little like her mother, and she can't believe she lost her locket. She hopes that Miguel might know something, but Anya can't remember very much at all about the previous night including who Miguel was or where she could possibly find him.

Cut to Miguel, standing in the rain and talking to someone on his mobile phone. He says he has dug up all the information he can on Anya. He has found out her father (Gil) works for the New York Herald and has had some major cases. However, it is the mention of Anya's mother that is of greater interest to the reader. "Mother deceased," says Miguel, "Oh man. She died when..." But Miguel does tell us why this is significant, we'll have to wait a while longer.

It's after-school gym practice for Anya and Lynn, but they are still talking about the old "regulars". Lynn points out Paul Townsend who has just come in from football practice (football as in "soccer" for all you Americans). Paul went to junior high with Anya and Lynn, even though he was never really part of their crowd. He might be part of the new regulars. It seems obvious that Anya has something of a crush on him.

Lynn pulls ranks as acting official manager of gym team and sends Anya off to practice. Miguel is hiding in the stands watching this. He is impressed by Anya's gymnastic skills, right up to the point she tries the uneven bars and falls repeatedly on her face. However, she refuses to give up and keeps trying even though she does not succeed. Miguel is now worried. Her powers (whatever they are!) should be "second nature" to her by now. Did Miguel make a mistake?

Then Miguel starts hearing voices. They warn him that they are always watching him and that he had better be careful.

After gym practice, Anya and Lynn go their separate ways. Both say they will make calls to the regulars and hopefully all meet up at Accela the following night. I'm assuming Accela is some sort of night-club. Whatever it is, "it is so dope" - which I'm also assuming is a good thing. Lynn goes home, but Anya heads to the park following the only lead she has available in the search for her locket (Papa would be so proud).

In the park Anya meets with Miguel. He doesn't return the locket. He says that it is no longer hers and reminds her of the promise she made last night. For the first time Anya really remembers her wound and what Miguel did for her. The mage thrusts something into her hand, saying that it isn't safe for them both to be in the park. Anya holds a business card for Webcorps. Miguel tells her to be at the address on the card the following afternoon, there she will find her future.

In General...

This issue was an improvement on the previous one. All the scenes worked on a narrative level, and there was nothing that jarred too much or simply failed to convey the desired effect. However, there was also nothing that stood out or made me impatient to read the next instalment.

This remains a wholly unremarkable affair. It is predictable, filled with stereotypes and utterly unambitious. Yes, it's a competent story and it is told well enough, but if Amazing Fantasy is going to succeed Marvel have to aim a lot higher than average.

On to more specific observations.

Whether or not the Miguel in this title is the same Miguel that debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #506 is still unclear. I suspect he is, but hopefully it won't be too long before this is confirmed.

The "regulars" look like a vehicle to bring in further members of a supporting cast. I'm happy to wait and see how this pans out, but I really think the writer should work on the characters she has before introducing any more. Lynn does display a hint of characterisation this issue when she corrects Anya during their argument - Lynn is pointing to Anya's clavicle and not her throat. It's a small thing, and I hope there's more to Lynn than being pedantic, but it is a start. The rest of the characters have no such attention. Anya has been simply reacting to outside events since the series started and Miguel is only going to get by on being dark and mysterious for so long before his schtick wears a bit thin.

In this issue it is specifically said that Anya's mother is dead. Up until this point I was under the impression that Anya's parents were simply separated. The flashback scene with the mother in the doorway, and the taunts of the jock in the previous issue seemed to indicate that. I hope there is something more going on here. What is implied by both these issues is that Anya's mother left home for some reason and then she died. This is obviously an important point and one I am sure we will keep coming back to.

The voices Miguel hears whiles in the school gym are a bit of a mystery. Where do they come from? Is the Sisterhood of the Wasp keeping an eye on him, or is this another force we are yet to meet? Their warning to be careful is very apt. A fully grown man in black leather watching a bunch of scantily-clad fifteen year old girls cavort around a gym had really better be careful!

Overall Rating...

Competently done, and better than the previous effort so three webs. But, unless Avery starts taking a few risks with the storyline, and showing us these characters in slightly more than one dimension three webs is all this comic can ever hope to achieve.