When is a team-up not a team-up? When it’s NOT A FREAKING TEAM-UP!
You may recall in the last issue of Superior Spider-Man Not-A-Team-Up that Spidey spent a few pages with Luke Cage and Spectrum but most of his time with Fulmina, a Medieval History student who was transformed into electricity for no reason that I could ascertain. Otto taught her how to leap into Manhattan’s power grid and convinced her to take charge of her life, which she did by causing a massive blackout in her attempt to return the world to the Middle Ages. Now, the conclusion…with less teaming-up than the last one.
Oh yeah, and there’s also this alien invasion. As Spidey battles aliens and looters, Fulmina waxes poetic. “I can feel my reach extending, Spider-Man, as I open my arms and embrace this querulous, anxious metropolis and bring it the solace of long-sought peace.” Yes, she really says that. SpOck calls her a tyrant (he should know) and a bore. “Which is a singular thing to say bout a super-powered terrorist who’s disabling Earth’s defenses during an actual alien invasion,” he tells her. But Fulmina believes that, “The invasion is a symptom…The more this planet embraces technological advancement the more extra-terrestrial attention it’s going to draw.” She refers to the upcoming “purer world” without technology and page 3 panel 1 shows that world with a shepherd and his sheep in Manhattan near an old and worn statue of Captain America. (Does that qualify as a team-up?) SpOck decides that Fulmina’s transformation has unhinged her but this won’t prevent him from stopping her.
And now, one page of “team-up.” Spidey finds Luke Cage who puts the blame of Fulmina on the web-slinger and tells him that Spectrum will confront Fulmina in the power grid. (This happens off-panel and comes to nothing.) Spidey leaves, heading for his lab on Spider-Island, which will still be up and running with its own generator. On the way, he spies a hospital whose “generator must have failed.” He knows that he shouldn’t let the “needs of the few” concern him. But he stops and helps anyway. Afterwards, with the crowd cheering him, he wonders why he stopped to help. “Why does something that makes no objective sense feel like it makes all the sense in the world?” he thinks. (An interesting character moment but completely out of character with Otto as he is currently portrayed in “Superior.”) With “Fulmina still raving away but more distantly, like a radio signal going out of range,” SpOck makes another stop, this time to battle…yes… more aliens. As he web-swings on again, Fulmina, who seems to have become the size of Manhattan, tells him “I’d almost forgotten you, you seems so far away” and that “Your friend Rambeau is in here now, looking for me. A sad little girl, lost in a dark wood. She’s so tiny.” (And, as I said, irrelevant.) Spidey tells her that forgetting him would be a mistake and he arrives at Horizon Labs. (I thought has was going to his lab on Spider-Island.) There, he orders the Living Brain to bring him the neurolitic scanner; the device he used “to permanently eradicate Peter Parker from my mindscape" (in Superior Spider-Man #9, July 2013).
Fulmina has just jumped from Manhattan into The Bronx when she finds herself transformed back to Sylvia Prell and sitting at a table at the Café Daphne on West 81st Street with Spider-Man. He tells her he “uploaded you into my head,” and that “You’re part of my brainwaves now.” Controlling his mindscape, SpOck conjures up an idyllic Middle Ages that collapses into death and horror. He reminds her that Medieval times were “a world of poverty and plague…crude, primitive medicine…rampant superstition…brutal class divisions…incessant, internecine warfare.” (Something a Medieval History student should really already know.) Enraged, Sylvia attacks SpOck and, for a moment, sees him with Dr. Octopus’ head. She realizes “if you can alter your essential self in this place…so can I.” And suddenly she is back in her energy form and Spidey’s mindscape looks like an empty holodeck from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Spidey rebukes her, saying, “Rather than respond to my critique of your ideal world, you threaten to kill me.” (He says this twice in an odd little sequence.) Just then, a spider-bot reports more aliens invading. He races outside to view an approaching armada. With Fulmina still stuck in his brain, he shows her the ships and tells her, “It’s not just Earth that has advanced…it’s the entire cosmos. We all evolve together, like cells in an organism and those who don’t get preyed upon.,,Ideology can never be allowed to take precedence over survival.” Then he releases her, sure that she knows what she must do.
She does. Seconds later, all the lights come on in Manhattan. Then, she becomes a huge electrical being and destroys the alien armada…and apparently herself. As little flakes of electricity fall from the sky like snow, SpOck thinks, “Fulmina, wherever you are…you have made me proud.”
All right. We may as well accept it. “Team-up” in this title doesn’t mean what we think it means. Spidey spends two issues conversing with Fulmina, a new short-lived character? Team-up. Next issue, SpOck assembles the Sinister Six, a bunch of villains? Team-up. I suppose you could make some sort of case for calling these stories, in the strictest sense, “team-ups” but they aren’t any sorts of team-ups that I want to read. Let’s call this series what it really is. A second Spider-Man book. There’s no shame in that. I’d read that. Instead, it’s just putting team-up fans like me in a bad mood.
This story isn’t terrible but, bad mood that I’m in, I’m in no mood to defend it. The way SpOck convinces Fulmina to give up her delusions is intriguing; the dialogue between the two is mostly crisp and effective. Del Mundo’s artwork is nicely expressionistic with some great Spidey poses and moody moments. (I particularly like page 9 panel 1 with Fulmina manifesting her face through Manhattan skyscraper lights, which are in turn reflected in the river as a lanky Spidey swings crazily overhead, his webbing wiggling like a signature.) But that doesn’t make up for my reading two issues somehow related to a mini-series I’m not following, in a team-up book without team-ups.
And let’s not forget the cover. It shows Spider-Man web-swinging while Thanos looms over the Manhattan skyline and Fulmina (?) turns away from the both of them. Or is it Fulmina? It looks like a glowing boy with a backpack and a lightning bolt jutting out of his head. And Thanos is not in the comic at all. Was there a miscommunication between the cover artist and the editor? Am I supposed to understand this cover? Would I understand it if I was reading “Infinity?” You know what this cover says to me, the Superior Spider-Man Team-Up reader who is not reading Infinity? It says, “this issue is not for you.”
So Fulmina has made Spidey proud? I’m glad somebody is happy. I’m giving this one-half web.