Back in 1998, there was that year's Spider-event: Identity Crisis. A low level gangster named Joey Z had been murdered by the Trapster on order of Norman Osborn and Spidey took the blame. Osborn put a bounty on Spider-Man's head and it became impossible for Peter to do his job as a vigilante. So he came up with the idea to become four different superheroes that emphasized each of his powers. There were four Spidey-Titles at the time (Amazing, Spectacular, Sensational, Peter Parker) and each title focused on one of the new identities. Ricochet, whose power focused on Peter's agility, had his stories told in Amazing Spider-Man. Prodigy, who relied on raw strength, was featured in Spectacular Spider-Man. Hornet was a suit of armor that Peter wore, built with help from Hobie Brown, used in Sensational Spider-Man. Finally, Dusk was a mysterious black cloaked figure that could disappear, meaning that Peter relied on his spider-sense. Obviously this character was showcased in Peter Parker: Spider-Man.
After Spidey cleared his name, the four new identities were discarded but the story was apparently enough of a success that a spin off was deemed possible. "Slingers" was the result and only ran for 12 issues. I read it back in high school and haven't looked at it in...a very long time. I saw that spiderfan was lacking reviews, so I thought I could kill two birds with one stone. I just remember that I enjoyed the series at the time.
While it isn't included here, there was also a free Slingers #0 that came along with purchase of Wizard. Wizard was a magazine (back when there were magazines) that focused on comic books, comic movies, interviews with creators, etc. Here is a quick rundown of Slingers #0:
The Slingers are four teenagers hanging out on a rooftop. Spider-Man swung by and Ricochet (Johnny Gallo) was pretty impressed. Hornet (Eddie) said he seemed impressed and Prodigy (Ritchie) told them both to shut it, they were impatiently waiting for the figure in black on an opposite rooftop to jump across. Hornet flew over to talk to the girl, named Cassie (Dusk.) Ricochet liked to talk and Prodigy walked off in a huff. Dusk took her hood off and showed that she was a goth girl: black hair, elaborate facial makeup, eyebrow piercings, nose piercing connected to an ear-ring. Eddie gently tried to get her to jump, but she needed a moment. On the other roof, Prodigy was brooding and being annoyed with Ricochet for piling up a bunch of junk. Ricochet's weapon were throwing disks, and he was getting some practice. That had been the point of the meeting, after all. The thrown disk bounced around unpredictably and Prodigy arrogantly told Ritchie, "I'm nothing like you." Soon Johnny was doing back flips across the alleyway, Hornet was flying through it, and Prodigy was lifting cars.
Dusk, however, wasn't doing her part in the training. She was afraid that she would be kicked off of the team and while Hornet stayed quiet, he agreed with her. He promised to look the other way and count to three if she would jump. Back to the other roof, Ricochet was clowning around and doing handstands on the edge. He nearly fell off but was caught by Prodigy, who told him that he was going to get someone killed if he didn't take this seriously. He then dropped Johnny onto the roof. Eddie convinced the three to turn away from Cassie to let her jump. They counted to three but didn't hear her jump or scream. When they turned around, she had fallen to the pavement, ten stories down. In a panic, they ran off.
The story starts with some police looking over the scene of Cassie's death. Spider-Man was there, clinging from a wall high above, taking pictures and telling himself he needed a better way to play the bills. Later that night, Johnny and Eddie were talking over the phone about what happened to Cassie and Johnny was trying to keep Ed calm. John was calling from his father's house in Brooklyn and Ed was sitting in his dorm room at Empire State University. The conversation was cut short because Johnny's dad needed to use the phone. (That takes me back. One landline phone in the house.) They said that they will meet later and Johnny thought about how he misses his mother, who always said he was going to be special. She seemed to have died and Johnny doesn't think that his father was as impressed with him as his mother was. Eddie McDonough was never told that he was special, until people noticed his palsied arm.
At the coroner, the mortician was the creepy "joke about the cute dead girl" type but noticed that Cassie's body had looked worse when it had been brought in by the police. His assistant comments that she's still dead and they left, just missing her waking up. Her mind tried to piece together who she was, and she had quick flashbacks of her life. She had parents and lived in a large home, and they were concerned that she was going out again at night, always at night. Cassie looked at herself in an oversized mirror, her room lit by candles and her bookcase holding books about ghosts, witches and Wicca. She remembered her last moments, thinking, "long way down." The next she knew, she was out of the morgue and on top of Trinity Church's spire, telling some wannabe vandals, "Long way down."
Meanwhile, Hornet was arriving late to the meeting with Ricochet in Times Square. Johnny was already there and asked Eddie to call him by his real name, he was tired of all the covert stuff. Eddie was still in shock over Cassie's death and Johnny was trying to calm him down. Prodigy arrived and ordered Johnny to put his mask on, calling him Ricochet. He threw a disk at Prodigy in anger, who caught it easily and threw it back at him. Hornet demanded that they stop fighting and Prodigy warned him that it was a harsh world; Dusk's weakness would have gotten her killed eventually anyway. Prodigy left and Hornet left soon after, wanting to get away.
The next day they were back in class and Johnny and Eddie left a midterm. Elsewhere, Richie was practicing his wrestling in the gym and pinned his opponent for longer than necessary. As fan and friends greeted his beaten opponent, Richie told himself that they'd all love him eventually. He wouldn't give them a choice. He found Eddie and Johnny, telling them to suit up.
They next find themselves at the subway outside of Empire State University where a transit worker is sitting in the middle of the track. He is dying of an unknown disease and would never tell a doctor how he got it.
Though this is a number one issue, four issues were published. Each issue followed the same story, until the worker on the train tracks shows up. From that point, the story diverts to each character's perspective. This is Dusk's perspective.
The rest of the team saved the day, while Dusk stayed in the shadows where she is warm and safe. Out in the light she is cold and afraid. She only vaguely remembers their names but knows she likes Ricochet and is disgusted by Prodigy. Hornet makes her want to be better. After the three leave the scene, Dusk noticed a kid walking across a fallen "I beam" on the damaged subway platform. The kid fell off the beam and toward the street but was caught by the teleporting dead girl.
Prodigy made his way across the George Washington bridge to The Timely Motion Picture Studio, an abandoned industrial complex. Decades ago it had filmed silent movies, which had ended once the "talkies" took over the industry. He found an old man sitting alone in the empty warehouse watching the news on a black and white TV. He accused Prodigy of being a coward for standing in the shadows. It wasn't the way of a hero. The old man told him to come in and tell him about his day.
Elsewhere, Hornet and Ricochet were at their "headquarters" on top of a building in Times Square. Ricochet complained that they needed a new HQ since he couldn't fly or "leap tall buildings in a single bound. Hornet told him he could jump high enough, and Ricochet nervously tells him that there is a reason for that. "Eddie, I'm not sure if you know this or not, but they got a word for people like me. Do I have to spell it out for you? It starts with an 'M.' And I don't wanna start with an 'M.'"
Hornet is still grieving over Cassie and confused how he got to that point. They had just been college students that didn't know each other and now were thrown into a team together. Ricochet says he thinks too much but that's good because he has no one else to talk to. They both feel a sudden chill, not knowing that Dusk is watching from the dark. They decide to leave, with Ricochet riding on Hornet's back.
I just want to talk about the cover of this issue. I really like the attention to detail given to Prodigy, Hornet and Ricochet. Dusk, sadly, is underwhelming. She's doesn't have anything interesting about her design, she's just a big black silhouette looking over her teammates. It's too bad that they didn't pay as much attention to her look on the cover as they did inside the book. The back to back stances that the teammates have is cool, it kind of reminds me of the beginning of a videogame when you pick a character. Unfortunately the cover has too much going on. "Variant Collector's Edition!" "BIG 1ST ISSUE!" "With Great Power, Must Come Great Responsibility." "DUSK Falls over Manhattan!" (I do regret that covers no longer have the year and month that the book was published.) I don't know what Spidey's slogan has to do with anything and considering how Cassie died by falling off of a building, maybe "Dusk falls over Manhattan" was a poor choice of words. Or a great choice, I'm not sure.
Slingers is a product of it's time and it shows, both in terms of storytelling and marketing gimmicks. First issues of a comic tended to be oversized, hoping to draw in readers with extra material. When creating a new series that can be sensible, as you can flesh out the characters without carving up the origins into various issues. On the other hand, sometimes you can feel that the writer was trying to fill in the mandated number of pages set forth by editorial. I felt like the issue could have ended after Prodigy introduced us to Black Marvel but it continued for three more pages. It isn't a terrible thing, but we didn't get much more out of those three pages. Hornet worried more, Ricochet nearly "came out" as a mutant and Dusk was silently watching them.
Hornet didn't have much to do except worry and mourn Cassie. He is the heart of the team, I get it. Every team needs it's human member but he came across as a whiner. He didn't get much development beyond that. The same for Ricochet. He was the joker of the team, destined to butt heads with the wound-tight-enough-to-snap Prodigy. He felt like the kid of the group: he was cavalier about the secret identity aspect and didn't like being told what to do. Prodigy was right, he was going to get someone killed. I thought Prodigy was the most interesting of the team. He took what he did seriously, as well as his practice time as well as the safety of the team. Ritchie's flaw, of course, was his obsessive nature. He brought order to the Slingers but was also a dictator in the making. He was the character that I wanted to see develop. Dusk may have been dead but we saw just enough to make her mysterious.
If I have any criticism, it is that these characters may be cliché. There is always the hardcase and the rebel. Maybe Cassie's goth girl persona was too on the nose for the mysterious character but we didn't see enough of her for it to be overblown. A girl with a dark streak was different from what I was used to, so I liked it.
Good start, even if the character development was uneven.