'Avenging Spider-Man' Brings Team-Ups Back, Big Time [Review]

One of the biggest pieces of news surrounding Avenging Spider-Man #1 – other than it being a brand new ongoing Spider-Man title next to Amazing Spider-Man, the first in years – was that every copy would have a digital version included absolutely free. And I’ll tell you, I’m all for that, as making the digital version and the print version part and parcel for the same price is a neat move by Marvel. What doesn’t quite make sense to me about this comic being the test run is that Avenging Spider-Man is a comic book that demands to be read in print.

Or, at the very least, in a full page format like the iPad, though the bigger the better. Particularly as that’s the point of this book. Sure, Amazing Spidey has huge moments, but those are always tempered by the ongoing soap opera of Spider-Man’s life. Avenging Spidey is ALL huge moments from top to bottom. That’s the whole reason the book exists, particularly as the artist is Joe Madureira, who’s not known for drawing small intimate scenes. On an iPhone, his panels look dense and packed. In print, they look as large and in charge as you’d want them to be.

I’m not saying DON’T seek this out digitally… Please do. If this experiment is successful, hopefully it will become a regular thing with Marvel, and that would be a large step forward for the industry. But don’t forget to buy a print copy, too.

The other big piece of news is that Avenging Spidey is a not-so-stealthy reboot of Marvel Team-Up, focusing instead of Spider-Man and one of his friends in the Avengers. Here in the first arc, it’s Red Hulk, and we’re promised plenty more as the series goes on. This title, I’m happy to say, is a worthy heir to the beloved team-up books of yesteryear. I’ve already mentioned Madureira’s art, which is as bold and superb as always. But it’s Zeb Wells script that shines here.

Wells has been slowly building an impressive body of work at Marvel, from a Carnage mini-series, to an epic run on New Mutants that spanned the history of the Marvel Universe. Here, we’re getting Wells flexing his comedy muscles (the writer started in comedy shorts, and currently writes for Robot Chicken) in full force. Here’s a Spider-Man writer who is as funny as Spidey is supposed to be, and the book is better for it. One “pose” page with Red Hulk and Spider-Man has one of the better riffs on an ‘80s juice commercial I’ve seen recently (you’ll know it when you see it). And even a poster has a gut-busting joke on it in the form of the perfect slogan for Mayor J. Jonah Jameson to use for the New York Marathon.

I’m not going to get into the plot, other than to say the Marathon gets kind of ruined, and Red Hulk and Spidey head to stop it. Suffice to say there’s a certain “hot” area of the Marvel Universe that once again gets explored here, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. If there’s one downside, its that there’s not a ton of meat in this issue… It’s the sort of (here goes the old fogeying) adventure that would have been neatly tied up in one issue back in the day, which now will take three or so issues to tell. That’s a bit of bummer, but mainly because the rest of the issue is so gorgeous to look at and fun to read.

That gets to the crux of it, and a very stupidly structured comment, but… This comic is fun. And fun is what started the idea of a team-up book, so happily, and finally: Avenging Spider-Man falls right into the long line of great Marvel Team-Up books. We’re glad to have it back.

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