A new Marvel event launches this week in Dark Web, and it’s a crossover between Spider-Man titles and X-Men titles. At its core, Ben Reilly and Madelyne Pryor are teaming up as they feel slighted due to being clones and castaways. That and Ben lost his good memories and blamed Spider-Man! Spinning out of Amazing Spider-Man #14, Dark Web is a decent start to a story about the pain and isolation we feel during the holidays.
At least, it seems that way, as the main focus in this opening issue is Prior and Reilly kicking off their plan to attack New York City. Clearly, they feel rejected and like outsiders, and thus their actions are valid as they strike against those who oppressed them. It’s not made abundantly clear why they are attacking NYC, only that Pryor needs something out of the X-Men base there. In the city happens to be all sorts of heroes like Magik, Jean Grey, and Cyclops, who go into hero mode as demons attack.
You may be disappointed if you’re expecting a deep psychological exploration of these characters or their minions. Hallows’ Eve is just one of the new forces working with Ben and Pryor, as Venom is also in their fold, and she’s not much more than a henchman at this point. Meanwhile, Venom is seeking to find his son as he’s returned to this timeline after being untethered from time in Al Ewing and Ram V’s series. Pryor has made him into the 1990s version of Venom, which loves to eat brains, to make him more malleable. That’s just one element of the series that looks pretty ’90s, and once you realize that’s the vibe Zeb Wells and Adam Kubert are going for, you’ll be fine enjoying the action and general focus of the story.
Speaking of Kubert, the art looks good, and it appears he’s playing around with layout design as he did in Wolverine this past year. The crowded New York scenes feel iconic, with superheroes like Cyclops in street clothes which is always cool to see. Pryor’s rage is also apparent in a fun scene involving her playing the organ. The brutality of Ben Reilly is also apparent in a vital scene involving Norman Osborn. The hundreds of blows he enacts on him are felt through many panels overlaying each other. It’s a neat effect to show how fast he is and how he’s not holding back. The ’90s revival look of Venom is also great, with a panel and then a full-page splash cliffhanger page to sell the concept. There are also some great demon designs, as Pryor has inanimate objects come alive with sharp teeth and angry faces.
The opening scene is reminiscent of the Clone Saga stories of the ’90s. Ben walks peacefully with Janine but runs into Peter Parker and Mary Jane. Soon they’re insulting him and laughing maniacally in his face. Then they start ripping his lips and hair off, showing him forcibly he’s fake and a “nothing person.” It’s disturbing stuff and helps establish Ben’s state of mind. Something about the screaming faces is reminiscent of a bygone era.
Dark Web #1 kicks off what should be an exciting exploration of two broken clones who want to feel regular and respected again. I can’t say the story is all that deep or that it probes its characters, but it certainly brings an unmistakably 1990s Marvel vibe. It also does the very ’90s thing of bringing characters rarely together into one crossover, which is exciting as we will likely get unconventional moments and new twists and turns for our favorite characters. Dark Web is a fun escapist nightmare that thoroughly weaves in superhero theatrics.
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