‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #4’: Dan Slott’s ASM #17 haunts Christos Gage’s latest effort

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It’s hard not to feel sorry for Christos Gage. The guy was asked to write a Spider-Man story that stood on its own while also supporting Brian Michael Bendis’ Civil War II and Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man.

Question: How does the hero who a.) asked The Prowler to resort to corporate espionage on behalf of Parker Industries, and b.) teams up with Carol “Minority Report” Danvers have the moral authority to lecture a confused man like Clayton Cole?

Answer: He doesn’t.

Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #4 is a book that actually reads better the less one knows about the current Marvel universe. For people who just want to roll around a few philosophical questions about redemption and free will like marbles, Mr. Gage’s work satisfies. For people who love the character Peter Parker, however, the issue is just one more reminder of just how intellectually discombobulated he has become thanks (in large part) to writer Dan Slott.

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Here is what you need to know for CWII: ASM #4:

  • Spider-Man tries to talk Clayton Cole off a psychological ledge during the one-on-one battle predicted by Ulysses. Peter wants the scientist to give up his “Clash” technology and start a new life.
  • Robot Master reconstitutes himself and attacks the two men just as Peter seems as though he might have a breakthrough.
  • Clayton leaves Spider-Man to deal with the villain on his own, saying that he needs to go his own way.
  • Spider-Man defeats Robot Master, who vows to take Parker Industries to court for Cole’s attack.
  • Peter Parker and Ulysses discuss the Inhuman’s powers, whether they are appropriate to use, and how to channel them to save lives. Peter now says it would be wrong for Ulysses to work for Parker Industries because the company will be stronger by learning from its own from failures.
  • Spider-Man agrees to work with Carol Danvers to profile potential future criminals. He will fight for the cause if necessary, but says he will act like her personal Jiminy Cricket (It worked out so well with Doctor Octopus, right Pete?)
  • Clash steals a massive amount of off-the-books cash from Roxxon and announces that he will no longer work for other men. The villain begins to recruit for a criminal empire.

Fact: Clayton Cole wanted to “redefine” himself as a hero using Clash technology.

  • What then, we must ask, gave Spider-Man the moral authority to say that Clayton Cole should not do that, but Hobie Brown as the Prowler can?
  • Why is Dan Slott’s Peter Parker a stand-up guy for asking Mr. Brown to break into a business and steal technology for his own selfish reasons, but Mr. Cole is “ruining” his life for trying to turn over a new leaf as Clash — the superhero?
  • How can Peter Parker, a man who has been falsely convicted in the court of public opinion multiple times, endorse Captain “secret detention” Marvel?

In short, CWII: ASM #4 is filled with creative contradictions, which are not treated as such. As was stated in previous reviews, it is tough to discern how culpable Mr. Gage is for the story’s flaws when a strong argument can be made that he is doing the best he can with messes made by other men.

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If you have read the previous three issues of Civil War II: The Amazing Spider-Man, then you may as well buy the conclusion. If you have held off this long, then skip it and take note: The modern Spider-Man is like a boat without an anchor in a storm that shows no sign of breaking.

Again, I feel bad for Mr. Gage — but even more so for the writer who eventually replaces Mr. Slott. Where does a man begin with so much rubble to clear? I guess we’ll find out.

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Related:

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #1’: Gage offers reprieve from Slott fare

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #2’: Gage explores ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ recidivism, and redemption

‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #3’: Peter Parker turned into hypocritical jerk to keep story going

 

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‘Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #2’: Gage explores ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ recidivism, and redemption

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Marvel’s Civil War II has been a mixed bag of good ideas and poor execution, but writer Christos Gage’s work on the project has generally been a notch above his peers. Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man #2, like the issue before it, highlights just how much potential he has as a writer, even if some elements of the book are rough around the edges.

Here is what you need to know for CWII: ASM 2:

  • Spider-Man, tipped off by Ulysses, defeats a “quintronic man.” (The aftermath features a nice nod to Amazing Fantasy #15.)
  • Clayton Cole (aka, Clash) runs into an old henchman he knows, but rebuffs an offer to talk about working with the Owl.
  • Clayton eats a meal with his parents, who are seemingly rotten people. They tell their son Peter Parker is exploiting his genius, liken Clayton’s beard to a something a homeless man would sport, and say his girlfriend Donna (a single mother who works at Parker Industries as an administrative assistant), is only interested in him for his future earnings.
  • Donna breaks up with Clayton just before he asks her to marry him. She is worried about what will happen when her son learns about his criminal past.
  • Clayton explodes on a coworker and later becomes paranoid (with good reason) when Ulysses and Spider-Man act like gossipy high-school kids around him.
  • Spider-Man catches Clayton using an experimental device that can retroactively track and record sound waves. The two have an argument and Clayton storms off.
  • Mendel Stromm (aka, Robot Master), pitches a heist of Parker Industries to Clayton in a bar for henchmen. The plan is to frame Harry Osborn Lyman.
  • Peter tells Harry in a private meeting that he wants to make amends with Clayton, never realizing that the Tinkerer has been given a request to upgrade Mr. Cole’s “Clash” costume.

I mentioned in my first review that Mr. Gage added more intrigue to ASM in one issue than Dan Slott has in months. The good news is that Mr. Gage continues to creatively cross his ‘t’s’ and dot his ‘i’s’ in ways the head ASM scribe shows no interest in duplicating. The bad news is that as a reader it’s hard to witness Clayton’s behavior and not think, “Is Peter Parker the worst judge of character of all time?”

Consider this: Peter Parker’s ‘very close’ girlfriend tried to kill him, his inner circle lies to him and tries to work with corporate saboteurs, and his biggest investor (and secret santa) was the head of an international terrorist organization. He might want to have Doctor Strange check out that spider-sense one of these days, because it certainly doesn’t work during job interviews…

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Overall, CWII: ASM #2 does a good job of getting readers to think about how hard it must be for an ex-convict to escape the long shadow of sins past. There is a nuance to Mr. Gage’s message about second chances and redemption that has always been absent from Mr. Slott’s work, and for that he should be commended.

At the end of the day, however, Mr. Cole largely comes across as an unsympathetic character due to his actions and the way artist Travel Foreman depicts his hair-trigger rage (an apology by the character afterwards does little to endear him to readers.)

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The best-case scenario for Mr. Cole is that he is using inside knowledge of Mendel Stromm’s attack to his advantage — as a hero. Perhaps he will set-up the villain to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt to Spider-Man and Ulysses that he is a good man. There will likely be confusion along the way  — a brief fight with Spider-Man, which technically will prove Ulysses was correct — but in the end Spider-Man and “Clash” will work together to take down Robot Master.

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What did you think of CWII: ASM #2? Do you think “Clash” will be back to his villainous ways, or will he redeem himself by double-crossing Robot Master? Let me know in the comments section below.

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