"Web of Spider-Man" is an anthology title that replaces the late, barely-lamented "Amazing Spider-Man Family." Though, if you didn't check the cover, you could be forgiven for not noticing that anything had changed. This anthology title features 3 stories -- the first is a Kaine solo story, the next is the latest instalment of Spider-Girl, and the last is one of those fits-anywhere vignettes anthologies are often built on, featuring the return of fan-favorite (ahem) Frog-Man.
The opening story is written by J.M. DeMatteis, the writer who made by far the most out of Kaine the first time around. With the twisted clone of Parker now back in play following recent events in "Amazing Spider-Man," this short works as a good reminder of all that was ever salvageable about Kaine. However, as the story that's arguably the main draw for the book, it feels a little inconsequential. There are no major revelations or twists -- the barest hint of a subplot starting, perhaps -- but overall, it's simply a character piece that fits virtually anywhere in continuity. At times, it feels more like an illustrated handbook entry than a story.
The second short features Spider-Girl -- officially the series that wouldn't die -- and for a small selection of fans, it's bound to be both exciting and enjoyable. However, I stopped reading "Spider-Girl" years ago, and I struggle to follow what's going on. Worse, I don't even find myself interested enough to try and find out. Admittedly, the limited space DeFalco has doesn't lend itself to complex and deliberate storytelling, so it's easy to forgive him the wish to play purely to his audience -- but as a consumer, I find myself annoyed that a third of "Web of Spider-Man" will always be devoted to something I'm not interested in reading. Annoyed enough to be discouraged from buying it? Quite probably.
It'd probably help the title's chances if one of the three stories could make me glad I bought it, but while Sean McKeever and Stephanie Buscema's Frog Man six-pager was by some distance the best of the lot, with a cute story and some energetic, animated-style artwork, it wasn't substantial enough to recoup $3.99's worth of goodwill by itself. Unfortunately, despite the slight reworking, "Web of Spider-Man" makes all the same mistakes that "Amazing Spider-Man Family" anthology did, without replicating the relevance of the stories that made the "Amazing Spider-Man Extra" anthologies the enjoyable reads they were. Perhaps the next issue will be completely different -- it is an anthology, after all -- but in all honesty, I'm not sure I'll be around to find out.