Comics : Amazing Fantasy (Vol. 2) #3

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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...

Anya Corazon was fatally stabbed, but then she got better... saved by the mage Miguel because he believes she is the Chosen One he is searching for. You see, Miguel works for this company called Webcorps - we don't know much about them except they 'protect the peace of the world'. There's always a Mage and there's always a Hunter. Miguel is the mage. That makes Anya.....

In Detail...

"Game Set"
Amazing Fantasy (Vol. 2) #3
Oct 2004 : Review (No SM)
Arc: Part 3 of "Heart of the Spider"
Editor:  Jennifer Lee
Writer:  Fiona Avery
Pencils:  Roger Cruz
Inker:  Victor Olazaba
Staff Only
Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales Flip Magazine #3
Articles: Arana

Miguel and his companion Nina arrive at the home of teenage Ted, interrupting his computer game. Ted is a self-confessed computer geek and general high-tech whiz, but while immersing himself in an experimental virtual reality thingamajig he lost track of time and would have missed an important meeting. Miguel needs information from a disc Ted has, hence the interruption. Nina obvious disapproves of Ted... but then it seems as though she disapproves of most things.

Cut to a weekly board meeting at Webcorps. Miguel is here, but Miguel is plucked out for a private interview with corporate bigwig Mr Sanderson. Sanderson is in charge and knows what Miguel has been up to, and he is not happy that Miguel chosen to initiate Anya without asking anyone. Sanderson says that things are going to be different now Ezekiel is gone, and he wants it all by the book. However, Miguel sticks to his guns. He says that whatever Sanderson may think, Anya is the chosen one.

Meanwhile Anya is downstairs, business card in hand and trying to get into see Miguel. She heads into the lift and coincidentally meets with Nina. Nina can't believe that Anya is in the right place, and when she mentions Miguel, Nina assumes that Anya is one of his groupies. However, Ted soon appears and recognises Anya from a photo he has seen. Nina is incredulous. How can someone so young be the chosen one? Ted explains that Nina was tested to see if she could be an initiate a year ago and failed the test. This has made her understandably bitter.

Ted tries to be charming and welcoming to Anya, but Nina cuts him cold. The pair wander off and coincidentally pass Sanderson's office just as a furious Miguel is leaving. Sanderson has been unwilling to see Miguel's point of view and considers Anya a mistake. Of course, Anya hears this. Miguel tries to take advantage of the situation and calls Sanderson out to meet Anya.

Sanderson is extremely patronising, assuming that as a fifteen year old girl Anya has few brains, no application and little integrity. Anya swiftly turns the tables on him, revealing that she has been doing so research into Webcorps on the Internet and has discovered that it is nothing more than a dummy company with a pretty dubious history. Sanderson becomes increasingly uncomfortable and orders Ted to show Anya out.

Ted is very impressed by Anya, and decides that she should be involved with whatever shenanigans Miguel is a part of. He gives her a smart-phone, although in doing so he oversteps his authority. Once Anya has departed (believing them all to be mad) Ted gets a worrying message: "Noob spotted in drone nest." He quickly tells Miguel who says he will go and check it out.

That evening, Anya and Lynn meet up in Accela that does indeed turn out to be a nightclub. None of the expected 'regulars' have turned up despite the fact that Anya and Lynn called them all. However, one person that is here is Paul Townsend, and Lynn urges Anya to go and talk to him. Paul seems pleased to see Anya, but then three suspicious hooded individuals wearing dark glasses enter and Paul says he has to go. He looks really upset at having to do this. There is a subplot simmering here. I reckon it's all about drugs, but I'm sure we'll see in subsequent issues.

Then the smart-phone rings: it is Ted. Miguel is in trouble and they need Anya to help him out. Anya heads into the car park and Ted picks her up by helicopter. Anya climbs up the rope ladder to be greeted by Ted and Nina. Nina is of the opinion that Anya should not be with them. She doesn't understand her powers even if she has any, and will be nothing but a liability in what is to come. Eventually the arguing abates and Anya can actually find out what happened to Miguel.

The place on Pier 19 was a nest of Wasps. It seems that the Sisterhood of the Wasp is trying to find its own chosen one, something the spiders cannot allow. Miguel went to reconnoitre the place, but was surprised by the number of wasps there. Now he needs to be rescued. Nina says that procedure dictates that they go back Webcorps and get help, but Ted doesn't think there is enough time - that's why he summoned Anya. Anya agrees with Ted that they have to act now.

Nina dismisses Anya's presence and her opinion; she wants to be the one to save Miguel. This gets Anya really mad. She says that by doubting her abilities, Nina is questioning Miguel's judgement in choosing her in the first place. She also guesses that as the chosen one and the Hunter, she is actually in charge. Eventually, she brow beats Nina into submission and they head off to rescue Miguel.

Nina telephones Miguel to appraise him of the situation and check that they should still be brining Anya with them (and that she is in charge). As Miguel is shot at from all sides he is of the opinion that whatever has the best chance of getting him out alive should be the way to go.

Miguel races through the warehouse until he reaches the roof. The helicopter hovers into view, the rope ladder down and Anya on the end of it to lend ballast. As a bunch of immaculately dressed men in suits and dark glasses erupt onto the roof guns blazing, Miguel jumps for the rope ladder. Anya grabs him and he is whisked upwards, summoning a spell to defend them against stray bullets. But they are not out of the woods yet. These well-tailored thugs can fly and they are closing in on the helicopter.

In General...

New characters, but only a glimmer of hope in the characterisation department. Ted couldn't be more stereotypical if he tried (he even produces a skateboard in subsequent issues). I think Nina has a little more to her, as there is the potential for some jealousy over the closeness of the working relationship between Miguel and Anya. Jealousy leads to conflict, conflict is always good drama and good drama is what this title is lacking. However, given what has gone before, I'm not overly optimistic that this potential will be capitalised on.

Anya's character is stretching its wings slightly. She is shown as quite a moral person, chastising Ted for having black market electrical equipment and for hacking into school records to check on the qualifications of his teachers. The text also states that Anya waited until she was old enough to go to Accela, rather than sneaking into the club like any normal teenager. On the one hand you can see this as the influence of a good father, and an attempt to underline some of Anya's characteristics. On the other, you can see a rather cynical attempt to give teenage readers a good role model. "Look kids! Anya obeys the law - you should to!" At the moment, this doesn't bug me too much and I'm willing to take it on face value, but I foresee more of this in the future. The subplot with Paul Townsend and those strangers is bound to be a drugs plot thus enabling Anya 'goody-two shoes' Corazon to become a spokesperson of a "Drugs aren't cool, kids!" message. Moralistic preaching is only going to make this comic worse, not better. I'm not saying the comic shouldn't have a message, but if it's as blatant as this then a rethink is needed. There is such a thing as subtlety.

It struck me as rather odd that Avery chose to spend several pages last issue explaining who the 'regulars' were and then dismissing the notion by having none of them turn up. Maybe something will come of this further along the line, if not, it does rather make you wonder what the point of it all was.

The story itself lurches in a more fantastic direction, and is better for it. The notion of Anya getting a phone-call and then being picked up by helicopter two minutes later is silly but it works in the context of what is an escapist adventure. It has been hammered home to us that Anya is extremely brave so climbing up into the helicopter without a moment's thought is perfectly believable, as is her desire to save Miguel because she made a promise to work with him - and because he saved her life and she owes him.

And, importantly, we discover that Webcorps is the company that Ezekiel used to run before his death in Amazing Spider-Man #508. Excellent, a reason for this story to actually be told in the first place. Sanderson seems to have taken over the company, and is desperately trying not to be quite as exuberant as his predecessor. However, this has left me with more questions than answers.

In writing these reviews I reread ASM #506-508, but not the preceding story-arcs, so what I'm about to say may not be wholly accurate (I'm sure someone will correct me if it's not). Wasn't the entire point of JMS's run that the "chosen one" was Spider-Man himself, and that Ezekiel only had his powers because he tricked certain dark forces into giving them to him? Ezekiel is now dead, but Spider-Man is still alive. It was stated in Amazing Spider-Man #507 that there can only be one chosen one at any one time. As Spider-Man is obviously still about, why was Miguel even looking for Anya in the first place? If I'm missing something here, then someone please point it out to me, but at the moment this looks like a tremendous flaw in the story.

Finally, a word on the art. It's fill-in artist time already as Roger Cruz takes over from Mark Brooks for this issue and next. Cruz has done a very good job of mimicking Brooks's style and it was only when I looked at the credits for this review I even noticed the change. It's good to be consistent, particularly with a view to how this reads in trade paperback form, however it is rather odd that recurring characters like Nina and Ted make their first appearance in the hands of a fill-in artist. You'd think Marvel would have been more organised.

Overall Rating...

I won't mark it down for any inconsistency with JMS's Amazing run as I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt on that score. However, it's still largely average stuff. It could be a lot worse than this. It has some amusing lines and you can follow the plot which is more than you can say for some of the books Marvel has put out recently (X-Force anyone? Venom?). But why should we accept average? Surely they can do better than this? Three webs.