Spider Island is finally here. Well, the prelude is here and the prelude is enough to spark interest. The idea of all residents of Manhattan Island being infected with spider powers seemed a little kitschy, to me almost a Syfy movie of the week. It’s Dan Slott though, and he understands Spider-Man not just as a character but also as a concept. He knows the world and how it operates and what has kept Spidey fans rolling deep for nearly seven hundred issues. Spider-Man #666 (yeah, how cool is that) is a set up issue but in typical Dan Slott fashion, much more than that.
Slott’s slant on this story kicks off from the first page and, as the story unfolds, there’s one of those “Oh I get it” moments as all the ideas click into place. Spider-Man 666 opens with our hero swinging through New York, happy as a clam. He has a high paying job and an awesome girlfriend, his allegiance with the new Fantastic Four (aka the Future Foundation) and the Avengers has given him a status of hero, something Spidey has rarely enjoyed. At one point, he even brushes off a thank you from a cop, claiming he’s too busy. Web Head even swoops down and saves the day for Spider-Girl and some C-List heroes against Hydro Man (it ends with a great nod to an old cartoon). He doesn’t really help them as much as he “saves” them and then acts a little too magnanimous about it.
That’s when the story begins to come together. Slott is deftly using shades of Spider-Man’s origin to tell Spider Island. Too busy, too wrapped up in himself, his ego getting the better of him, all of these things led to tragedy for Spider-Man in the beginning. Slott continues to unfold the subtext of his story by pushing a small pebble down a hill that becomes the mighty boulder. First it’s Carlie, who calls to try and explain to Peter that she’s developing weird powers. Then a simple burglar breaks Spider-Man’s webbing with sheer power and, in a bold move, Slott brings in the Jackal, a character responsible for the Clone Saga, one of the worst runs of Spider-Man comics. The Jackal is part of these bedbugs that are giving normal humans spider powers but he’s not alone, there’s a mysterious woman in the mix as well as a mutated version of the last clone of Peter Parker.
While all this is going on, Spider-Man is hanging out playing cards with the Avengers, totally unaware what’s happening in his hometown. The two most telling scenes happen apart from each other but create an idea that runs through the entire story. The first is when Peter almost steps in front of a bus and has to be rescued by Phil, who also happens to be the new Hobgoblin. The second is at the very end, when Spider-Man is swinging home and being followed by regular people who can now swing like Spider-Man. It not only sets up how lost Spidey is without his Spider Sense, but also that he’s too wrapped up in his own life to see what’s going on around him. By the last page, you hear the click sound as Spider Island becomes clear. Spider-Man is always at his best when the chips are down, when his life is a mess. Things have been too good for Spider-Man, and though we’ve all rooted for him to have that life, he just can’t handle it.
I don’t think Dan Slott is so into entropy that he’ll completely destroy Spider-Man’s life, but I like how he’s taken elements of the past and shown how they effect Spidey’s present. I’m also enjoying the mystery here. An entire island full of spider-powered people is a power keg waiting to explode, but how and why the explosion happens isn’t easy to predict. Stefano Caselli’s art is some of the strongest he’s pulled off in a while. I’m still not a fan of his human faces, they tend to look too harsh and pointy, but his movement is wonderful. He really captures the action and joy of Spider-Man swinging through New York being a hero. It’s not Humberto Ramos, but it’s still an awesome job. Spider-Man 666 is the beginning of something big and in Dan Slott’s hands that can only mean good things.
CRAVEONLINE RATING: 8.9/10