Comics : Arana #11

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

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

Felix Jade has used his mind-control powers to dispense with the protection of Vincent and the Sisterhood of the Wasp. He has done this to engineer a head to head encounter with Araña and Miguel. This may not have been such a smart ideas as Jade killed Anya's mother, and now she is out for blood. Meanwhile, Amun has been taking something of an interest in Anya's past...

In Detail...

Arana #11
Jan 2006 : SM Spin-Off
Arc: Part 5 of "Night of the Hunter"
Editor:  Mark Paniccia
Writer:  Fiona Avery
Pencils:  Jonboy Meyers
Inker:  Mark Irwin
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Articles: Arana

The issue opens at the headquarters of the Sisterhood of the Wasp. Amun is sitting at computer researching the fate of Anya's mother. From his internal monologue we discover that there is some link between the Wasps and the death of Sophia Corazon. We discover no more as Amun is interrupted by Sam, who tells him to get out in the field and help Vincent.

Amun goes as ordered, but he is not happy about. He is closer to finding out what happened to Anya's mother, but he isn't sure why cares about all this in the first place. He calls himself an idiot. But he is an idiot with a job to do, and he hurries to Vincent's side. It is odd that he hasn't heard from his partner all day.

At that moment, Vincent is driving his car directly away from the safe-house (just as he was ordered by Felix Jade). However, a near-miss with a truck snaps him back to his senses. Realising he has been mind-controlled, Vincent swings the car around and heads back the way he came. If his superiors discover he abandoned him post, his life will be forfeit. Like it or not, he still have to protect Felix Jade.

At the safe-house, Jade is having a problem remembering who Anya means when she says she was sent by "Sofia Corazon". In the end he does recall Gil, and assumes Araña has been sent by Gil to kill him. He calls Gil inconsequential and incompetent. Anya snaps and attacks him.

In a flashback we see Anya and Miguel speaking to one another. Miguel promises to let Anya take down Jade, as long as she doesn't get too murderous. And in the present he seems to be keeping his word. However, Jade seems to be too good for the Chosen One. His hand-to-hand skills are too good - Miguel wonders if Jade really is that proficient, or if something else is at work. Fortunately, Araña has other tricks up her sleeve. She dons the armoured carapace of the Hunter. Jade sees that even his most powerful blows would make no impression on the armour. He realises that he needs a new plan.

Downstairs, the smartly dressed flunkies of the Sisterhood of the Wasp are beginning to overwhelm Nina and Ted. They cannot stop a horde of them rampaging up the stairs towards Miguel and Araña.

In the fight, Jade admits he is impressed by Araña's skill. He says that Gil Corazon has sent many assassins after him over the years, but she is by far the most competent. Araña is not flattered and brutally kicks Jade in the face, sending him forcefully into the wall. He falls to the floor, and Araña verbally berates him for his arrogance, his ruthlessness and his evil. However, at that point the agents that Nina let run past her thunder into the room. Jade has a distraction and he makes the most of it.

As Miguel attacks the Wasps, Jade uses his powers and seizes control of Araña's mind! He orders her to take Miguel out, which she does with a quick flick of her bolas. He then orders her to take him to the cars. Araña leads Jade away from the scene just as Nina and Ted arrive in the room. They rush over to attend to Miguel. He eventually comes to and tells the others that Araña attacked him!

Outside, Araña takes down the Wasp guards and steals a car. She tells Jade that she doesn't know how to drive, but Jade is such a persuasive telepath that he convinces her that she has the skill. Araña drives Jade safely away from the scene. Although she has a nagging feeling that something is not quite right, she is completely under his control.

Nina, Ted and Miguel hear the car squeal away and assume that Anya is in it. They wonder if Araña deliberately attack Miguel or whether she was coerced. Was it Jade's powers at work? Was it because she gave into the Hunter? Nina defends Anya. When she was possessed by the Hunter last time, she didn't turn on Nina even though he had good reason. After a quick discussion they decide it is more likely Anya is under Jade's control.

However, their pursuit of Araña and Jade is cut brutally short by the return of Vincent who destroys their car with his magic. Miguel guesses what has happened, that Vincent was mind-controlled by Jade into leaving. Vincent obviously doesn't like Jade any more than the Spiders do, but Vincent will not abandon his post. He will fight Miguel to his own death if necessary. It doesn't matter about his own feelings, he has a job to do. And all the while Jade and his captive Araña get further and further away.

In General...

This is as good a moment as any to mention the fact that Araña has not appeared on the solicitations for January or February next year. It seems extremely likely that issue #12 will be the last issue of this series. This is not at all unsurprising given the steadily falling sales the title has seen. However, it would have been nice if Marvel had given us some notice of its demise.

Given the current status of the title it shouldn't come as a shock that the creative team is now in a state of flux. After doing a couple of pages in issue #9 and drawing all of issue #10, Francis Portella has now been replaced by Jonboy Meyers. Meyers's art is not entirely to my taste; his style is very angular and he succeeds in making all the male characters look extremely ugly. There is also very little consistency in the appearance of Felix Jade in this issue with what has gone before. This, as well as the general problems that arise from having three different artists on one story arc, will make the trade paperback look rather disjointed.

In regards to the story itself, not a great deal of note happens. It is interesting that Amun is looking into the history of Sophia Corazon. He evidently cares about Anya more than he is willing to admit, which I would normally say could lead to some interesting stories down the road, if the comic wasn't about to be cancelled. However, I won't judge the issue on something happening outside the fictional world of the story.

It is the small character moments that are worth mentioning in this issue. The fact that Miguel is willing to entertain the notion that Anya would attack him of her own volition, speaks volumes about his opinion of the girl. The fact that Nina defends Anya, even though she dislikes the girl, speaks well of her. Then there is the bombshell that Gil Corazon has been hiring assassins to try and do away with Jade for years. This is an amazing revelation that (in the heat of battle) has no affect on Araña.

Other than that we have a big fight, the bad guy gets the best of Anya and escapes with her as his captive/slave. Presumably Anya will be rescued by Amun in the final act, thus complicating their relationship still further. It's a competent enough effort, and has some genuinely interesting plot twists, but the pay-off for these twists is undoubtedly intended to be beyond issue #12. I am therefore finding it hard to care about them.

There is much more to say about the overall structure of this story-arc, and direction the title is heading in. But I think I will save that for next month, when I can better appreciate Araña as a whole.

Overall Rating...

Some good character moments this month, particularly with Amun. However, the ugly art drags the rating back down to average. Three webs.