Comics : Amazing Fantasy (Vol. 2) #4

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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...

Teenager Anya Corazon has been marked as the Chosen One by Miguel Legar - mage of the spider society (a shadowy organisation that hides itself as the Webcorps multinational). Miguel's boss doesn't think Anya is the right choice: she's too young, and she's a girl - what was Miguel thinking? But Miguel's acne-covered sidekick and computer hacker, Ted, believes in Anya even if the cold and acerbic Nina does not. However, all this is put to one side because Miguel is in trouble! He has been cornered by the Sisterhood of the Wasp. When last we left our heroes their helicopter was being pursued a swarm of well- tailored and heavily armed flying thugs. It's been a busy three days for Anya.

In Detail...

"The Sting of Defeat"
Amazing Fantasy (Vol. 2) #4
Nov 2004 : Review (No SM)
Arc: Part 4 of "Heart of the Spider"
Editor:  Jennifer Lee
Writer:  Fiona Avery
Pencils:  Roger Cruz
Inker:  Victor Olazaba
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 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales Flip Magazine #4
Articles: Arana

The helicopter is brought down by a stinger missile. Miguel protects Anya and Nina protects Ted. This is the first hint we have of Ted's juvenile lust for Nina. There is also a mildly amusing moment where Anya accidentally elbows Miguel in the eye (his only injury from the crash). In any event no-one is too badly hurt and they run off on foot, pursued by a swarm of flying adversaries.

Miguel has to go, he has something important and heroic to do. He commands Nina to protect Anya at all cost. They start to flee, but Ted trips over and the villains look set to overwhelm him. Nina is willing to leave Ted to his fate. He is expendable, while Anya is not. However, Anya is having none of this and runs back to rescue Ted. She is determined to use whatever powers she may have to save him.

However, when all she gets for her efforts is a terrible pain in her shoulder (just where that tattoo is as it happens), and she is at he mercy of the bad guys. Suddenly Miguel returns, scoops Anya into his arms and jumps away, creating a bullet-proof shield behind him as he goes. Miguel chastises Anya. Everyone knows their place in the organisation, even Ted. If the Wasps were ever to capture or kill Anya, then "we're all finished". Anya is in pain so Miguel puts her to sleep.

At school the following day, Anya cannot concentrate. She is unprepared for a pop quiz and her tattoo still hurts... in fact, she thinks it has moved. Miguel (still nursing a black eye) is experiencing disquiet. The way Anya was in pain last night, he believes that her powers have finally awoken. This could well be true as at school during hockey practice, Anya knocks an opponent twenty feet during a tackle.

The game is halted to calls of foul, and that Anya was wearing something made of metal on her arm. But all that Anya has on her arm is a bandage and under that is a tattoo. Her team captain appreciates the work on the tattoo, but Anya knows something is wrong. During the game there was a spider-web protruding form under the bandage and as the elder girl applauds her skill, a carapace forms over her forearm and shoulder. Anya throws a coat over it and no-one sees. The captain tells Anya that she is good enough to be in varsity and although Anya is flattered and quickly agrees to getting more practice in later in the week, her mind is obviously elsewhere.

In the locker room the carapace has spread over Anya's entire arm and now sports claws. By concentrating deeply, Anya manages to make it vanish, but she is completely freaked out by this turn of events (who wouldn't be?) At this point Miguel telephones to tell her to come to Webcorps after school. Anya says that she can't wait that long, she needs answers now. Miguel is about to see the board - there is an inquiry about the helicopter crash. Anya is on her way, and Miguel asks Ted to stall the board until he can get there.

Ted is thrilled to have a chance to help Anya and a painful half hour ensues while he delays the board with progressively more asinine activities. Eventually Anya arrives, she is angry and she wants some answers and so she demands them of Sanderson. This is a convenient way for the writer to definitively tell us the plot and it goes something like this:

Anya is a replacement for Miguel's old partner. She is the hunter and he is the mage, and there can be only one of each at any one time. Webcorps is the Spider Society and their sworn enemy is the Sisterhood of the Wasp. The Hunter hunts the wasps. They do this because the Wasps are the enemies of society. Anya is told that the wasps are handed over to the police once captured. Anya was born with the powers she now possesses, but they were dormant until Miguel discovered her.

Anya is asked to leave the room as the board continues to talk. Miguel argues that turning Anya loose is more dangerous that taking her in and training her. By turning her loose they condemn her to possible death or disfigurement and they run the risk of their enterprise being compromised. If they take her in they can keep an eye on her, even if the chance of her surviving what is to come is only 50%. The board eventually agree with Miguel.

Outside Anya is walking down a corridor examining pictures on the walls. Are these picture's of old Hunters? There are names and there are dates: Paulo Ramistas (1880-1897), Roberto Ramirez (1897-1901), Ralph Thompson (1967-1969), Smitty McJameson (1969-1970), Todd Matheson (1970-1975), Gabe Robertson (1975- 1980), Theodore Whitefoot (1980-1982). Three pictures are worth highlighting. One is evidently an antecedent of Anya: Benicio Del Corazon (1095-1125). The second is a picture of Jessica Drew - the first Spider-Woman - but with no dates given. The third is of Ezekiel (1982-2004).

Miguel finds Anya and tells her the news. However, he is disappointed at how she acted the previous evening in trying to save Ted. He says that she needs to be initiated properly and must go through the trials. He tells Anya to inform her father that she will be away for the entire weekend, training... and it won't be easy.

In General...

This is one of those mid-arc issues where nothing very much happens except to set things up for the remainder of the story. It's one of the problems with the six-part story format. Invariably these stories could be told in less issues, and that is the case with this tale.

I'm going to save most of my comments for the end of the arc. However, there are (again) some niggling plot holes that Avery should really have plugged before this script was submitted. What happened to the pilot of the helicopter? He survived the crash and then vanished. That was a bit sloppy, as was giving the reader no explanation for how our heroes escaped the docks. There was no obvious way out, and it seems that it wasn't obvious to Avery either, so she fudged it. Also - where was Miguel going in the middle of the fight and if it was so important why was it so easy for him to come back and save Anya? The only reason Avery had that scene was so she could show the group's ruthlessness in their willing to leave Ted behind. Fair enough, but the set up for it was unbelievable and on very shaky ground. Avery obviously hoped that the pace of the story would carry the reader past these inconsistencies - well it didn't do that, and we are left with a lazy piece of writing.

The dated portraits in the corridor at Webcorps were interesting, however. Was Ezekiel the Hunter? Was he Miguel's partner before he died? If this was the case why was Nina considered as the Hunter last year (while Ezekiel was still alive) or was Ted lying about that? What does Jessica Drew have to do with this? She's still alive and well in New Avengers at the moment, so why was she ever replaced? There are many unanswered questions here, but for the moment I have faith that Avery knows what the answers are.

It is quite obvious that Spider Society has no intention of handing captured Wasps over to the police and that when Sanderson says they had a 'no kill' policy he was lying. For this comic to work well I think the Spider Society's motives need to be dark, and Anya needs to walk a moral tightrope when dealing with them. I have high hopes that this will come up again later. Please let it come up again later.

Overall Rating...

The slapdash writing in the dock scene sorely tempted me to dock half a web, but the scenes with the Webcorps board and the portraits in the corridor convinced me that something interesting may yet come of this series. It's still unimaginative, it's still teen-adventure-by-numbers but there's a good comic trapped in here somewhere, and I'm willing to wait and see if it escapes. Three webs.