Solid art can only keep you interested in a mundane story for so long. So while Ramon Perez's artwork continues to impress in this five part Learning to Crawl mini-series, Dan Slott's regurgitated storylines and uninteresting characters are making this title a less than essential read for even hardcore Spidey fans.
Last issue, Spider-Man and Clash squared off in a chaotic battle that took place during Mid-Town High's Science Fair. After a number of Peter's classmates and his Aunt May were nearly hurt in the fracas, Pete decided to call it quits on the whole Spider-Man thing. We'll see how long that lasts.
Things are suddenly going really well for Peter Parker. He's making money from the pics he's selling to the Bugle, he's succeeding in school and he's found a group of friends who think that he's just the cat's meow. Even without being some big shot stage performer, Pete's life is looking up.
Elsewhere, Clash is continuing to make a name for himself. After crashing a concert, Clash’s antics finally draw the ire of J. Jonah Jameson. Calling him a "Spider-Man copycat," Jonah writes a scathing article that catches the attention of Pete. Feeling as if Clash's rampage really is partially his responsibility, Peter sets out to try and stop this new menace. Using his wits, Pete tweaks his anti-magnetic inverter to make an anti-sonic inverter. To finish the project he needs parts that can only be obtained in a less than honest way though. So, he uncharacteristically "borrows" parts from both Mr. Cobbwell (remember him from ASM #2 (Story 2)) and the AV Club.
After finishing his invention, Pete heads to the Daily Bugle to try and drum up some more money. After meeting his future first love Betty Brant, Pete walks into Jameson's office only to be caught in the crossfire of what seems to be the first of what will become many Daily Bugle battles involving Spider-Man.
As the inevitable battle between the wall crawler and Clash rages on, Spidey eventually decides to use his anti-sonic gizmo on his enemy and it appears to work at first. Clash is smarter than your average goon though. By increasing the amplitude of his sonic blasts, Clash is able to short out Pete's little invention. After successfully giving Spider-Man a killer headache, Clash leaves the Bugle victorious.
Once Pete returns to the real world, we learn that Flash Thompson has ratted him out to the entire school. Now everyone knows that he stole parts from the AV Club. His friends now want nothing to do with him, his aunt is disappointed and both Cobbwell and Jameson want him fired. An obviously distraught Peter Parker is at an absolute low.
If you've grown tired of the wafer thin plot that Dan Slott has constructed around early Lee/Ditko Spider-Man issues from the '60s, you're not alone. Almost from the very start of this series, I've felt very little connection with this story's characters or plot. And although this issue does spice things up a bit by making a questionable decision by Peter the main conflict, it still lacks the intrigue or finesse to really keep me interested at all.
As I've said from the beginning, the artwork is the real star here. Ramon Perez and Ian Herring have done a wonderful job bringing a vintage, Ditko-style feel to the book. One of the most eye-catching parts of the art in this particular issue is the vibrant colors that are presented when Clash uses his sonic powers. Herring even employs an inverted color scheme when Clash attacks, causing Spidey's costume to illuminate in shades of green and purple.
We have one issue left to hash out all this Clash business. I guess we also need to resolve the whole Peter Parker is a thief thing too. Considering Slott’s recent history with ending things, I’m skeptical as to whether or not he can present us with a well-rounded ending that will make us feel like this whole Learning to Crawl mini was worth the time and effort.
The longer this series goes on, the more I wonder what the point of it all is.