Marvel's multiverse has been destroyed and all that remains is Battleworld! If you're unfamiliar with the latest Battleworld it is a "patchwork planet composed of fragments of worlds that no longer exist." Clear enough for you? Great!
Secret Wars: Spider-Island is one of those fragments and, you guessed it, this world is based on the Spider-Island event that ran from Amazing Spider-Man #666 to #673. This domain is now the Kingdom of the Spider-Queen and she works hard to make sure all its inhabitants remain under her mind control. And one last thing, Spider-Man is presumed dead in this world, he supposedly died trying to prevent the Spider-Queen from taking over Manhattan.
The story opens with a birds-eye view of Manhattan, a city now infested with mutated Spider-people under the mind control of the evil Spider-Queen. The Spider-virus, a contagion responsible for this infestation, indiscriminately attacks both normal and super-powered individuals allowing the Spider-Queen to have some serious muscle under her thumb.
There is resistance to the Spider-Queen’s rule, Agent Venom (aka Flash Thompson) leads a band of freedom fighters who have managed to evade the Spider-virus. Flash’s symbiotic suit is responsible for keeping him immune to the Spider-virus, a fortunate aspect of his bond with the alien. At the outset of the story, Agent Venom is working with Vision to procure medical supplies for the resistance. However, as the sun sets Venom picks up a new ally, Jack Russell (aka the Werewolf by night!).
When Jack Russell converts into the Werewolf he breaks free from the zombie-like trance that the Spider-Queen’s virus places victims under; this allows him to help Agent Venom. However, before the two can converse they’re attacked by Spider-Hulk (ie, the Hulk infected with the Spider-Virus) and his minions. Venom and the Werewolf are able to escape from Spider-Hulk through a hole in the road that leads them into the sewers. Once in the safety of the sewers, Russell informs Flash that there are rumors of a cure to the Spider-virus. He goes on to say that the this cure is being held under heavy guard at Horizon labs. The two then go their separate ways.
Agent Flash then rejoins Spider-Woman, Vision and the rest of the resistance at their headquarters, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. safehouse. Flash devises a plan to raid Horizon Labs in search of the putative cure. However, once Agent Venom and his team arrive at Horizon they quickly realize that they walked into a trap. The Spider-Queen had the Spider-virus-infected Avengers (Captain Marvel, Captain America and the Hulk) awaiting Venom’s arrival.
Agent Venom was outgunned but he was not outwitted as he quickly places plan B into affect. Inspired by the Werewolf’s resistance to the Spider-virus, Flash infects the Spider-Avengers with a myriad of formula’s designed to alter their state-of-mind. He gives Dr. Curt Connors’ Lizard formula to the Hulk, he gives Dr. Michael Morbius' vampire serum to Captain Marvel and he gives the Godstone that converted John Jameson into the Man-Wolf to Captain America. Flash’s rationale was simple, if the Spider-Queen’s DNA is a part of the Spider-virus and it enables her to have mind control over her victims, then he thought overwriting that DNA should eliminate her control. The theory worked, however the unfortunate side effect was that Cap became a wolf, the Hulk a lizard and Captain Marvel turned into a vampire!
The heroes weren’t out of the woods yet though, at the story’s conclusion Spider-Iron Man arrives with a pack of Spider-minions waiting to pounce on Flash and his team!
This was a really great start to this mini-series. Quite frankly I didn't know what to expect when I decided to review this series, but there's a lot of potential here.
I think one of the classic flaws of a mini-series that falls under a larger umbrella of a Marvel-wide crossover event is that they tend to lose the identity of the main character that they're representing. In other words, you would expect this book to be more of a Secret Wars story than a Spider-verse story, but its not the case here. The clever plot device to convert Avengers into Spider-Man's rogues in an attempt to cure them of the Spider-virus keeps the story feeling as though its a Spider-Man story through and through. That's a job well-done in my opinion.
The protagonist of this story is Flash Thompson, not Spidey, so that creates another uphill battle to keep this story Spider-Man-relevant. But the creative team does a pretty solid job of using Flash's motivations to homage Spidey. Flash keeps the resistance fight alive because he feels he has to honor Spider-Man's sacrifice; this plays true into Flash's character who has always worshipped at the altar of Spider-Man.
For part one of an off-beat mini-series, I'm intrigued, that's about as much as you can ask for!
A great start to an interesting facet of Marvel's latest Secret Wars. Fingers crossed that this one continues to deliver.