SECRET INVASION: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, ISSUES #1-3
Writer: Brian Reed
Penciller: Marco Santucci
Inkers: Mark Pennington (#1-3), Meikis & Olazaba (#3)
Colorists: Jeremy Cox (#1-3), Soto & Kalisz (#3)
Letterer: Jared K. Fletcher
Publisher: Marvel Comics
WHAT IS IT?
This is a tie-in to the late-aughts Marvel crossover event, Secret Invasion.
It may fall under the Amazing Spider-Man banner, but this is not a Spider-Man comic – this three-issue miniseries centers around newish superhero, Jackpot.
Now, you may be asking yourself why a site that mostly covers non-Big 2 comics would review a forgettable tie-in from a crossover event over a decade old, and why I, Matt Ligeti, titular Comic Book Yeti, would break my no-review-writing hiatus to cover...this?
Well, dear reader, my answer is simple:
How dare you speak to me?
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Jackpot is trying hard (but not as hard as Marvel editorial) to assert herself as a superhero in the new, post-Civil War superhero environment. Unfortunately, the DB (a tabloidier modern iteration of The Daily Bugle) takes one of her heroic actions and spins it negatively, as the DB is wont to do.
What should've been a simple trip to the DB offices to threaten libel and fix her superhero PR turns into a hijinks-filled field trip with the DB higher-ups when a Super Skrull shows up looking for Spider-Man, inexplicably.
Will Jackpot save the day (or, at least the Bugle's top brass)? Will she establish herself as an important new addition in the superhero spectrum? Will she learn her lesson after this and get a publicist?
Brian Reed does his best here. It's a new character that Marvel was trying to make a bigger deal in the middle of a crossover event. The character he inherited (Alana as Jackpot) was already in a transitional phase, having taken over the Jackpot title from its original owner, Sara. And, to be honest, I'm not sure if it was set in stone yet that this was not supposed to be Mary Jane Watson in a mask, so he probably had to tread carefully on continuity. It's a tall order, especially in only 3 issues, and Reed delivers a cohesive story with a complete arc and enough character development to make Jackpot not unlikeable.
The art is a very solid Marvel house style, delivered by Santucci, Pennington, Cox, et al. You can tell the team spent a lot of time on it and, even when you had many more hands touching it on issue #3, quality doesn't decline, and everything looks cohesive.
Pacing is good, both from a plot perspective and from a panel one. We get the best panel work in the first issue, and you can tell Marco Santucci had more time to give thought to how readers would view this comic as they turned the pages. The untraditional panel shapes give the comic a chaotic feel, which makes sense – it's a chaotic comic.
Jared K. Fletcher might ring a bell for current TKO readers as the publisher's designer, but here, he plays the role of letterer. He keeps balloons tight, placed well, not upstaging any of the action. Subtle bits of flair show his designer vision and ability to go above and beyond: a balloon tail tucked behind the art to show a speaker just out of view; sound effects given 3D effects, color and direction based on their source – good lettering like this almost feels wasteful on a Big 2 title where it's less likely to get noticed.
The action is Bruckheimery, especially once you get to the second issue. Little dialogue, lots of stuff going boom – it's the draw of the Big 2, and this title does it well.
It's your typical Marvel comic under the Spidey banner. It's light, with enough action to raise the stakes, but nothing too scary or adult. Good for young readers.
We get some fun gags from the editors, from an editor listed as a Skrull Queen, to notes throughout that keep the gag going.
The comic, at times, is self-aware (see below) in ways that reward veteran readers.
Seeing of mixes of powers and costumes of favorite heroes on Skrulls was pretty fun.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
Pretty much the rest of the comic. The whole thing is a bait-and-switch, using the "Amazing Spider-Man" title to increase the popularity of the Jackpot character. Characters throughout these issues talk about how they saw Jackpot on the news, or how cool she is – it feels manufactured and comes across as an obvious push from Marvel Editorial.
In the same "bait-and-switch" vein, Spider-Man only makes an appearance in the first page or two of issues #2 and #3, likely as the bare minimum to retain the title of a Spider-Man comic (or in case someone opened the cover to check Spider-Man is in it before they purchased it). Even the cliffhangers hint at things that could happen that never actually come to light in the next issue.
These three issues are a veritable who's-who of "who's that's," from unpopular villains, background Daily Bugle employees, and a B-plot featuring Harry Osborn on a date. A goblin-esque villain shows up, only to be revealed as Menace – a Green Goblin/Hobgoblin wannabe I hadn't even heard of before. Because of this, my personal reaction was a big shrug, and I can bet I wasn't the only one who felt like it was hard to care about the events in these issues.
Jackpot herself is written like an adult man's idea of a "cool girl." Down-to-earth, unsure of herself, imperfect, but still kicking ass. This might have worked for some audience members, but it fell flat for this yeti.
A catch-up page would've been preferable to the awkward in-world narrative catch-up we get in these issues. Its artifice take you out of the moment pretty hard.
We also see very little of Jackpot's actual powers, to the point where I even wondered if she had powers in the first place. In one instance, it looked like she was using some kind of superpower, but that same effect was used later by the super Skrull.
Speaking of which, we get no reason for the super Skrull hunting Spidey or why he has the powers of specific Spider-Man villains.
You get a lot of cringey moments in both the writing and the art. The Skrull talking about fighting naked, or calling Alana a "cow." Jackpot in poses that would make the Mass Effect cameraman blush. A costume with bellbottoms.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
You know, if you're into the crossover, and you're a completist ("completionist"?), you'll likely "have" to read this.
If you like reading comics related to characters you see on the screen, you may also want to read this – Marc Guggenheim is allegedly developing a Jackpot film for the screen.
Honestly, this was my first experience with the character and, because of that, the miniseries felt like a failed attempt to establish the next big Spider-Man supporting character/love interest. I use the word "failed" not only because I hadn't heard of her, but also because Marvel kills Alana off shortly after this, giving the moniker back to Sara, who later changes her name to Alana because comics. I won't even get into the fact that she looks like Mary Jane, calls people "Tiger," and has a superhero name that clearly teases a link to MJ's famous, "You hit the jackpot" line.
As an adult 13 years removed from this comic, it honestly didn't do much for me. But man, the kid version of me would probably enjoy the rule-of-cool aspects of the fight scenes. And the preteen version of me would love the male-gaze-iness in the art. So, maybe there's an audience for this thing, after all.
WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT?
Check out bigger titles around Secret Invasion if you're wanting to read more around the crossover, or any number of Amazing Spider-Man issues if you're wanting more of Spidey, since you didn't see much of him here. The Marvel Database also has some suggestions on what to read if you're interested in finding out more about Alana or Sara.
You should also check out Shelfdust, who's doing some great Secret Invasion coverage currently!
HOW DO I BUY IT?
From your LCS
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