Amazing Spider-Man #680 was good and fun enough that this week’s immediate followup of issue 681 was the first book I pulled off the stack yesterday, despite the cover that, if you remove the planet Earth from the background, looks like a frame grab of a Spider-Man / Human Torch bukkake flick. Seriously: if that’s how people look in hard vacuum, we now know why HAL wouldn’t open the pod bay doors: because it’s fucking hilarious. They look less like they’re suffering from asphyxia than like they have a pube caught in their throats. I could go on, but rumor is there’s a whole comic book behind this cover.
Writers Dan Slott and Chris Yost have delivered what is still a big, fun comic book, but in no way will it make you smarter. In fact, you’ll need to turn off large parts of your brain in order to fully enjoy it as the high-budget b-movie that it is. The science in this issue makes Michael Bay’s Armageddon look like Nova with Neil Degrasse Tyson.
We return to the story in the middle of Spider-Man and The Human Torch’s attempted rescue of John Jameson – an astronaut that historically makes the Laika the Space Dog look like a competent, jut-jawed space marine – and the crew of the space station Apogee 1, only to find that the crew has been turned into zombies by Dr. Octopus.
Now, you need to keep those broad strokes in mind – remember: Spider-Man, an astronaut who was once a werewolf, a man who can burst into flames at will, and fucking space zombies – because if you don’t keep remembering that this is the sequential art version of a 1938 sci-fi serial, the utter lack of scientific logic you are about to see will give you the bends. To wit:
- We are repeatedly told that the Torch cannot spend too much time afire because it burns off the oxygen needed to live. We then see Spider-Man vent all the oxygen into space to render the space zombies unconscious. This would totally work, as the dead do, in fact, lack consciousness.
- We see Spider-Man in a spacesuit in hard vacuum performing acrobatic wall crawling, which is realistic because in no way is a spacesuit is a thick, heavy life support device in which it is difficult to move. This is why we saw so many videos of lunar astronauts breakdancing.
- The Human Torch blows a giant airhole in the bottom of the makeshit re-entry capsule they rejiggered out of a sensory deprivation tank. That tank then splashes down, and Spider-Man and the Torch float on it to Daytona Beach. That floating could totally happen.
This, however, is nitpicking for humorous effect. Let’s take a deep, non science fascist breath and remember: story about Spider-Man, zombies, et al. This is meant to be a b-movie, and it totally works on those merits. The dangers of space – ridiculous as they are – constantly ramp up to keep the tension rising in the story. Sure, some of those plot devices don’t meet the scientific sniff test, but if you can put that aside, it makes for a decent little Dangers In Space story. You want realism in that kind of story? Put down the funny book about the man with superpowers and go rent Apollo 13.
And not only is this a b-movie, it’s a buddy movie. The best part of this issue, as it was in the last one, is the characterization and the interplay between Spider-Man and The Torch. Sure: almost none of the space science in this space story is realistic, but you can keep your “Failure is not an option” macho NASA bullshit when this book gives us dialogue like:
They’re space zombies! They’re gonna eat my brain!
…if they were going to eat anyone’s brain, it’s mine, because yours would be like empty calories.
Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art continues to work very well on this book. There’s no major changes in his style from the last issue; realistic figures, with clear and unambigous storytelling with standard, easy to follow panel placement. Sure, his photo references of a space suit seem to have come less from NASA and more from Dustin Hoffman’s jumpsuit in Outbreak, but I’m willing to give it pass since form must follow function, and in this case, “function” is to depict a suit where the man with superpowers can jump around like a ninja. And Klaus Janson’s inks continue to generally stay out of the way… although the page one recap of last issue depicts John Jameson looking like Bruce Wayne from The Dark Knight Returns bought some Grecian Formula and went into space. In general, however, the art is solid and works for this story.
There are going to be some people who simply cannot set aside the science gaffes in this issue, and will be unable to enjoy it. And yes, those inconsistencies make this issue a little harder to fully embrace than it’s predecesor. But if you can shut off the parts of your brain that demand that kind of realism, this is a fun, quickly-paced space adventure with excellent dialogue. you could certainly do worse this week… once you get past the cover, which looks like Doc Ock is playing Spider-Man and The Torch a Ke$ha record.