19th Jul2021

‘Sinister War #1’ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Nick Spencer | Art by Mark Bagley | Published by Marvel Comics

I’ve written elsewhere that I’m not Nick Spencer’s biggest fan, and I’ve not been impressed with what he’s done with Peter Parker and the Spider-Man books he’s written. Yet here I am reviewing a Spider-Man book he’s written. Hear me out, though. I like Spider-Man as a character, whoever is writing and drawing him, so I’ll always give a writer or artist a second shot at impressing me. I also like Mark Bagley as a Spider-Man artist, so he helped draw me in. Finally, the premise was interesting. The hook is always designed to entice us in, and it worked with me. The Sinister Six is always a fun concept, and Spencer is not only running with that, but throwing in a whole lot more. There’s enough in all that for even an old cynic like me to take a look.

So let’s do just that.

For those that just came in, like me, there’s a handy recap text at the beginning of the book. Kindred has escaped from Ravencroft Asylum, and has formed several teams of super-villains all aimed in Peter’s direction. Top of the food chain is Doctor Octopus’s Sinister Six, complete with a Lizard now separated from his human counterpart Curt Connors. I guess the book is called Sinister War for an obvious reason. Also, why are Doctor Strange and Mephisto lurking on the fringes of all this? For now, let’s start with the bit about MJ being on her way to becoming a movie star, though Peter is blissfully unaware that her director is non-other than a supposedly reformed Mysterio. Yikes. While she plans to reveal that secret to Peter later that evening, he plans a sparkly ring sized surprise of his own. Nick Spencer does love a whole tangle of soap opera plots does he not.

Time to meet the first of our villain teams, so step up the Savage Six. Led by The Vulture, this is a team of animal based villains, Rhino, Scorpion, King Cobra, Tarantula and Stegron. They’ve decided to crash MJ’s film premiere, as they have a particular beef with Mysterio, though unaware Peter’s there. Fisticuffs ensue, and Mysterio has to reveal his true identity as he fights back against the Six. Peter’s not sure who he’s less pleased with, the Savage Six attacking or the fake film director things. As Spidey fights everyone and Mysterio fights Vulture, all this chaos needs is a few more villains. So say hello to the Sinister Six.

Doctor Octopus, Electro, Kraven the Hunter, The Lizard, Sandman. Uh, that’s five. Leaving aside some of these characters were dead or otherwise engaged until recently, I’m guessing that Mysterio is on their shopping list for the vacant villain slot. Sort of a ‘Villains Got Talent’ winner. So while the villains engage in a huge super brawl, small details start to slip out about what’s underpinning all this. Mysterio knows a little more than he’s been able to reveal so far, Mephisto cough, Kindred cough. For good reason or bad, he kidnaps MJ, the target of Doc Ock’s team. Peter, meanwhile, finds himself the prisoner of Kindred himself. Kindred, for those who don’t know, is someone who has literally been to Hell and back and is, seemingly, a version of Harry Osborne. By the looks of what he’s got in store for Peter, Peter may find himself there as well.

Well you certainly can’t say that Nick Spencer underwrites. In this one issue he’s packed in stuff that would take Brian Bendis a 6 issue mini-series. At times it was all a little bit too frenetic, almost like what would happen if a fan wrote the book. That being said, I did enjoy it. It was all a little bit too obvious, and ultimately was something that could easily have run in the pages of the regular book where all these sub-plots started, but it was popcorn comics. Just an all out brawl between different super-villains, typical Peter-Mary Jane angst, and a dastardly master villain pulling all the strings. The art, by Mark Bagley, felt nicely classic, which I assume is the vibe they wanted. It felt like I was reading a late 90’s Marvel book, nothing wrong with that. Bagley is great at getting multiple characters up there on the page, and he certainly earned his page rate with this book.

This is the sort of book I would imagine younger readers especially will love, all out fighting between loads of characters. For older readers, looking for a little more depth and nuance, this may not be the book for you.

Light and entertaining, with the promise of much more to come. Nothing wrong with that.

***½  3.5/5

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