Peter Parker has been out of commision as Spider-man ever since last year's ASM #700. But Marvel has planned a slew of Parker-related comics, starting with this non-continuity minseries released under the newly-revived Marvel Knights imprint. The last Marvel Knights: Spider-man series at least started out pretty great, so how will this one fare?
Peter Parker is musing about having to take a "degrading" freelance photography job: taking family portraits for a mysterious contact. Upon arriving at the destination, a creepy haunted house, Peter is treated to a scene of Madam Web (the non-Julia Carpenter one) addressing Peter as Spider-man, telling him "the wheel is set in motion" and poses a riddle to him of "the Ninety-Nine problems". Web is also surrounded by identical robotic girls, one of which is chattering "help me" and explodes.
The blast blows Parker back. His civilian clothes burn away to reveal the Spider-man costume. A trap door in the floor then opens beneath him, and he shoots a webline to avoid landing on spikes below. He runs into Jack O' Lantern below, and begins to hallucinate from Jack's poisonous gas. He's beset and bitten from behind by Man Wolf and Morbius. After dispatching them both, he makes his way poisoned and puzzled through the halls of the mansion. He next runs into Frankenstein's Monster and is forced to rip his arm off.
After some more disorienting panels, including some backwards text, Spider-man comes upon a scene of the Beetle, who is bound to a bunch more of the chattering "help me" robotic girls. Beetle himself looks battered and asks Peter to help him. Arcade then appears, telling Spidey that were he running the house there, it would have been much more lethal. Arcade also says Spidey has "taken the pill, so it won't be long now". Spidey says he's taken no pill, but thinks he is unsure. Arcade explains that there's a bomb on the premises, "somewhere full of innocent people", and that Spider-man will have to face "99 of the most vile villains on Earth", that he's already started and that if he deviates the bomb goes off. Arcade then offers him a blue pill, which he seemingly takes (but this isn't clear). Next thing, Spidey finds himself on an empty passenger plane with three costumed villians.
It's hard what to make of this series just from this first issue. Taken at face value, it seems to be light on story so far but high on experimental visuals. Artist Marco Rudy pulls out all the stops and really pushes the boundries of panel layout here using mixed media, distorted panel shapes and extremely odd camera angles to mirror Parker's drugged, hallucinatory state.
Rudy also has an interesting design take on several of the villains here. The scene with Arcade takes on a pixellated look that recalls 8-bit video games. The art seems to be going for an avant Dave McKean or JH Williams approach that can be appealing as it is off-putting and hard to follow on other pages. I almost feel sorry for those only reading this issue digitally, as it's great to see this kind of work on printed paper.
There's not much else I can say about the story right now. Kindt just has Spider-man blundering through a haunted house of sorts, drugged and running into one villain after another. But this is decidedly, obviously not current canon--besides Spider-man being Peter Parker, he utters something about working for Jameson still, and Madam Web is the original.
A good-enough start, full of trippy sequences and highly experimental artwork, the likes of which aren't seen in a Spider-man comic that often. I just hope the story has somewhere else to go other than just a "drugged Spider-man runs a gaunlet of foes" route.
So Kindt intends for Spidey to face 99 actual Marvel universe villains. I counted seven this issue, and then three more on the last page to make ten. This could get interesting.