The Spider #4: Disintegrating Web

The Spider #4

After an auspicious start, Dynamite's other series about a noirish guy in a cloak and a fedoroa killing criminals on the street seems to have lost its footing, as The Spider #4 is much more pain than gain.

This is one of those books I'm always excited to get just because of how goddamned cool the protagonists' costume is. Real fedoras – not the hipster ones of today – are unassailably cool, plus the well dressed suit look and the bitchin' mask with the pre-Spider-Man web-pattern all make for a great dark-protector sort of style. As the series has moved on, however, it's been a little more difficult to let that carry me through.

Not that it doesn't have some good ideas. Richard Wentworth is living a double life as a vigilante and a police consultant, and he keeps having to work with Hilt, the jerkwad cop assigned to bringing The Spider in for breaking the law, and the woman he loves is married to the commissioner, who is also helping to cover Wentworth's ass and protecting The Spider. It's a good set-up for some drama. But this latest issue is kind of a perfect storm of what not to do.

A zombie-making gas has hit New York City thanks to an Egyptian-themed villain named Anput, and they're in quarantine. We open with The Spider saving a woman from being eaten, and he actually says "Come with me if you want to – I don't know – live, I guess, but be traumatized." There are ways to make a trite Terminator reference work, but that ain't it. It starts the issue with an ugh. Then he fires a web at oncoming threats and blurts "Suck it, zombies." One imagines they have to find a way to differentiate this guy from the much more erudite and smooth Shadow, but it's just another eye-roller. Then The Spider finds out the main target of this zombie-gas attack was his father's main corporate rival, named "Rollaburton."  Four pages in, and that's three shots straight to the groaner-plexus.

Then Hilt tries to arrest him even though he just saved a bunch of people, and Spider dares him to try it. Hilt freezes, and then Spider leaves with "You know where to find me. In your mother's bedroom." Yes, we've spent three previous issues building up HIlt as an overbearing dick, but this still leaves us with the impression that Spider is kind of a lame douchebag himself. That gets reinforced when he takes off his mask, and we're reminded that he looks like some college kid playing dress-up with his dad's black trench coat, losing any of the presence he had in the costume.

Colton Worley's art style, which I hesitate to call 'photo-realistic' because it looks to be actual photographs run through some Photoshop filters, is so frustratingly hit and miss, and it's nowhere more evident than on the page where Wentworth goes to threaten his father for information. The close-up of his father looking frightened is pretty stark in conveying that genuine terror, but the next panel of Wentworth's glaring eyes just feels like he told some friend of his "hey, dude, make a totally mean face into this camera."

Next comes a very generic 'send the girl away because she's in danger' sequence which tries to ratchet up the unresolved sexual tension between Wentworth and Nita, but can't help but feel a bit forced, especially when her husband, the commish, busts in and interrupts whatever connection was happening – and that interruption winds up with a really poorly-rendered panel of said commish with a Mark Ruffalo-looking head pasted onto a body, with a misaligned hat pasted on top of that.

Jump to a scene where Wentworth talks to his nerd-tech team just as they happen to finish tracing Anput's location, thanks to enhance, enhance, enhance. At least writer David Liss doesn't actually use the word 'enhance,' but that's what happens – along with some random keyboard clacking that doesn't seem necessary to pinpoint the location, since the enhanced image is a freakin' street sign intersection.

I have enjoyed much of Liss' work before, and I still really want to like this series, but The Spider #4 went off the rails and resorted to clichés and uninspired dialog choices, and it's very disappointing.