Dark Reign: Sinister Spider-Man #1

Before we go any further into this review, I'd just like to point out: "Sinister Spider-Man" is a brilliant name for a series. How can any Marvel fan resist a book with a name like that?

Tying into Dark Reign, "Sinister Spider-Man" focuses not on the real Spidey, but instead on the Dark Avengers version -- who is, of course, Mac Gargan, the current incarnation of Venom. From the word go, it's a book that positively revels in its concept, casting Gargan as a deranged, anti-hero version of Spider-Man -- much to the surprise of the villains he faces, who were, in truth, expecting to face a much less violent version and are understandably upset when they realize what's going on.

This series looks like it'll balance the "Dark Reign" elements with the "Sinister Spider-Man" elements quite well. Fans of both Dark Avengers and the regular Spider-Man comics will find elements to entire them, including the most visible use of Mayor J. Jonah Jameson outside of the parent title -- a natural choice, given Gargan's history with the character. Meanwhile, tension between Osborn and Gargan gives the book an investment in the Dark Reign event.

The artwork from Chris Bachalo is tending towards his better work. Bachalo can often be chaotic, and his current penchant for "open" panel boarders makes his artwork even harder to love, but the more excessive elements of his style are reigned in well, and the action is clearly conveyed even as his page design evokes Venom's fractured thought processes with irregular panels and asymmetrical layouts. The occasional switch to pure black and white art is an inspired visual touch, too, and overall, the good does outweigh the bad.

Although an enjoyable issue, I'm not fully sold on the direction of the series itself. There is a cliffhanger that truly screams for resolution, but the second plot about villains and a new "Redeemer" character leaves me cold. It's a mixed bag, but ultimately should be worth another look in the future.

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