Returning to the concept of teaming Spider-Man up with other Marvel Universe luminaries, “Avenging Spider-Man” #16 by Chris Yost and Paco Medina jumps right back into the heart of the shared universe by teaming the webslinger up with the faculty from the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning: Wolverine and the X-Men. Yost sets the meeting up as the ultimate test for Otto Octavius to pass in order to maintain his hold on Peter Parker’s life.
The basic thrust is to have the X-Men team up with Spider-Man to halt the rampage of a giant spider. Pretty simple and virtually prescriptive, but Yost manages to add excitement and intrigue in having Otto-Peter sweat out the collaborative effort due to the presence of Rachel Grey — one-time Phoenix and current Marvel Girl. That’s truly where the book wobbles a lot. Rachel Grey should be able to handle the mutated giant spider singlehandedly, but as written by Yost in “Avenging Spider-Man” #16, this latest Marvel Girl barely seems capable of selecting an outfit without some help from her teammates. Compounding that shortcoming, the X-Men barely cooperate as a team and Wolverine and Spider-Man have a heart-to-heart for the ages.
Paco Medina and inker Juan Vlasco present a highly detailed story that puts hair on the giant spider’s legs, claws on Spider-Man’s fingertips and follicles in what would be the mustache area of Beast’s beard. I’ll forgive the oddities and nits waiting to be picked in the X-Men’s apparel, given the substantial detail and consistency applied to each character throughout “Avenging Spider-Man” #16. Medina’s art has wobbles of its own, including two pages where a character pops out of his own panel so much that he becomes a distraction and negative influence on the panels around him. That serves as a double-edged sword, however, as it gives the reader a chance to see the new Spider-Man in a revelatory light, prominently displaying the details of the new outfit, including the weird nose thing.
This is the first issue of “Avenging Spider-Man” with Octavius spinning the webs, the concept of having Spider-Man fight his former allies one after another has already worn thin for me. I dread the possibility of formulaic story construction with this “new” Spider-Man as he turns every potential collaboration into a confrontation, but Yost seems to be working towards a story that can thread through a number of team-ups. The initial seeds for that long-term tale are planted here in a subplot that truly looks and smells like a done-in-one comic that fans of classic “Marvel Team-Up” stories should enjoy so long as there is more fighting alongside instead of fighting against.
Take the good with the bad. There are positives, like the details in Medina’s are good, but some storytelling choices are not so good. The Otto Octavius-commandeere Peter Parker continues to obsess about women in a manner I truly do not recall Octavius doing before, but it remains inline with what Dan Slott has been writing in “Superior Spider-Man” and “Amazing” before that. This Spider-Man also suffers no fools and provides a memorable encounter with Wolverine that is certain to shade the future relationship between two of Marvel’s most recognizable icons. As a sum of its parts, “Avenging Spider-Man” #16 is an enjoyable comic, even if some of those pieces are less than perfect. Yost and crew have a fun high concept to work with, it simply needs some more polish.