Christos N. Gage and Richard Elson; cover by Jeff Dekal
I’m a little late to the party on this one, but I picked up the main Inhumanity series and decided I wanted this one shot to go with it. I’m really glad I picked it up. The Superior Spider-Man title itself seems to be focusing mainly on Otto-as-Spidey stroking his own ego and taking his own idea of crimefighting to the extreme, and to the detriment of his human relationships. But the one shots, like this one, seem to be reminding him of what it truly means to be a hero and humbling him without humiliating him.
The story here has only four main characters: a firefighter, a Spider Island minion, a grieving husband, and Spider-Man himself. The story focuses strongly on the human element: the firefighter, who keeps trying to rescue people, while the MacGuffin of the story is literally sucking the life out of him; the husband, who’s using the MacGuffin for selfish reasons that he tries to convince himself are good reasons; and Otto-Spidey, who shows a surprising amount of compassion to the grieving husband and a respect for the firefighter for working despite the odds and without powers.
The Superior Spider-Man arc and its one-shots haven’t been the redemption story I was hoping for, but this particular one gives us a glimpse of Otto discovering, and taking to heart, that being a hero is as much or more about helping people as it is about the glory and proving himself superior to Peter Parker. The poor mundane is left respecting Spider-Man; Spider-Man swings away with respect for the firefighter, and I closed the book with more respect for Otto.
Brian Wood and Kris Anka; cover by Terry Dodson
I’m still feeling a little shameful reading this title given what we know of Brian Wood, but it’s an ALL! WOMAN! X! TEAM! So my fangirlishness won out over my sense of social justice, and I’m glad. Because this one was worth the read.
Ana Cortes was a bored little rich girl who sought to become the new Lady Deathstrike as a lark. It didn’t turn out like she had hoped. The first arc of this series was John Sublime’s sister Arkea showing up in what seemed an anti-climactic battle for the team’s first outing. But now it all comes together as Arkea escapes and forms a sisterhood with The Enchantress, Typhoid Mary, Lady Deathstrike, Black Queen Selene, and a newly resurrected Madelyne Pryor (the Jean Grey clone once known as The Goblin Queen).
Anka’s art is show-stopping and beautiful, even as Wood’s writing illustrates the strength and conflict on the team. Storm, team commander, calls a sound-off. Rachel’s her number two. Psylocke is still Psylocke, going with snarky quips these days. M has expanded her codename to — Monet. One name. Like Madonna. Or Cher. Monet is happy to play the powerhouse, and despite the awful new costumes, Anka showcases her strength beautifully.
He also showcases Arkea’s complete breakdown when it is obvious that her Sisterhood won’t survive this team of X-Men. For a creature that’s supposed to be so superior, she shows a lot of rage that the X-Men are beating her. My favorite image, though, has to be Storm getting right in Arkea’s face. It is a perfect “Do Not Fuck With Me” face.
I’m not especially thrilled to see Rachel griping about being Storm’s second nor about her knowing something about Arkea that Storm didn’t. Seems a poor fit and uncharacteristic for Storm as a way senior X-Man. So for now–still hanging on as a reader for the team, despite the imperfections. The Jubilee backup story was also not bad, though I’d rather have a whole issue all for one story. And okay, it is good to see Quentin Quire starting to grow into the heroic destiny that freaked him out so badly in Battle of the Atom. It’s really good to see Cipher back again. That alone is worth keeping the book for in my opinion.
Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman
I’m not going to lie, after three issues I’m still not quite sure what to make of this book. At the start of the story, we learn that the main character is the survivor of a fire that burned down an orphanage. Makes sense, as it’s the title. From there, it turns into an oddball mish-mosh of plots and themes, which don’t wrap up tidily in issue 3.
In this issue, our main character, Rock, is tricked into drinking a tonic that sends him the planet of the warrior from issue 2, where he has to die painfully or go on spirit quest to help the inhabitants of the planet find water. Meanwhile, his two best friends and kickass fighters are having some kind of “how to deal with relationships and love” conversation back on Earth.
If I used phrases like “choppy storytelling” or “the same old tropes”, they wouldn’t be true exactly. Yes, the story jumps around. A lot. Since I’m not sure if this is all some little kid fantasy, it adds to that mystery. There’s also so much fist fighting and so many bizarre bad guy bosses that it feels like a 90s video game, like Street Fighter. For me, it’s as if the creators took all the different foods they loved, tossed them in a bowl, and baked them together, and what came out was something not quite delicious, not quite horrible, but possibly entirely genius.
According to the endnotes, Burn the Orphanage turns into a new monthly series in May, so I guess I’ll have a little more time to figure out exactly how I feel about it.