Spider-Man: Animals Assemble! | Review
Spider-Man: Animals Assemble!
Writer/artist: Mike Maihack
Amulet Books; $12.99
With great power, you may have previously heard, comes great responsibility. In cartoonist Mike Maihack’s new original graphic novel, Spider-Man: Animals Assemble!, the powerful superhero gets a quite different sort of responsibility than those he’s generally wrestled with over his decades as a comic book, cartoon, and movie star.
One day he’s sitting on a rooftop, recounting his origin story to a surprisingly interested-seeming pigeon–just as perennial foe J. Jonah Jameson is decrying the city’s pigeon problem as a menace–when Iron Man suddenly shows up. It seems there’s some sort of super-villain activity in Central Park and Iron Man needs Spidey’s help. Not with the villain, but with Iron Man’s goldfish; could he watch it while Iron Man investigates the villain?
Spider-Man, never one to shirk a responsibility, no matter how minor it might seem, accepts. No sooner does he do so, then Captain Marvel arrives, also mentioning the threat in Central Park and also needing a pet-sitter for her alien that looks like a housecat, Chewie. Soon, one Avenger after another seems to spot Spidey and ask for his help, not in fighting a super-villain, his usual forte, but in pet-sitting their respective animal friends.
These include some preexisting “name” pets (the new Captain America’s falcon Redwing, Hawkeye’s dog Lucky, Squirrel Girl’s squirrel Tippy-Toes, etc.), but also some new animals original to this story (Ant-Man’s ant, Black Panther’s black panther, The Hulk’s gamma-irradiated axolotl, etc.).
In fact, it’s such a long list of animals that it really does take a superhero to keep an eye on them all, a task that becomes complicated when Chewie takes off with the goldfish and Lucky takes off after Chewie, and then gets downright crazy when Ms. Marvel drops off the Inhumans’ giant bulldog Lockjaw, who has a cold and teleports whenever he sneezes.
Somehow Spidey and his new army of animals all end up in Central Park, where they find the super-villain all the other Avengers were looking for, and it turns out to be the most appropriate villain of all, given the circumstances: Kraven The Hunter. Spidey, with a little help from each of his new animal charges, manages to take down Kraven before the rest of the Avengers catch up.
Maihack’s story has a nursery rhyme or picture book-like sense of repetition to it, with each hero dropping off their pet being followed by Spider-Man vowing to look after them all, adding to the list each time, but the cartoonist varies each encounter so that they repeat without feeling repetitive. Rather, the story has a sort of almost musical rhythm to it.
It also has a very satisfying resolution that ties together the earliest moments of the book—Spidey bragging to the pigeon about the importance of awesome flips, Jameson complaining about pigeons—with the ending.
Maihack, who specializes in friendly, approachable superhero characters, designs a lovely, lollipop-headed Spider-Man with huge, expressive eyes with which he manages some effective emoting, absent any other facial features in his mask. The nature of the story also allows us the chance to see Maihack’s versions of a wide swath of the Marvel Universe’s superhero population, first as they approach Spider-Man one at a time and later in a nice action-packed splash page as they all arrive on the scene together.
Obviously written for the youngest readers, but with a sense of humor and awesome art that any Marvel fan should appreciate, Animals Assemble! is a super-fun book.
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About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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