Tuesday, March 31, 2015

SPIDER-MAN: THE MUTANT AGENDA #1 - March 1994


The Mutant Agenda!
Credits:  Steven Grant (writer), Scott Kolins (penciler), Sam De LaRosa (inks), John Kalisz (colors), Steve Dutro (letters)

Summary:  After training in the Danger Room, the Beast reads a newspaper article about the Brand Corporation’s conference on genetic research.  As he leaves to attend, Rogue confronts him, telling him he can’t go alone.  At his prompting, Rogue absorbs Beast’s consciousness and realizes why it’s so important for him to go by himself.  Meanwhile, Spider-Man leaves his apartment to attend the conference.  Shortly after Brand CEO Herbert Landon appears onstage, he’s attacked by the Hobgoblin.  Beast and Spider-Man intervene, but are unable to prevent Hobgoblin from destroying the roof.

Continuity Notes:  
  • A footnote places this story before Amazing Spider-Man #385.  There’s no indication on where it takes place in X-Men continuity, but I would guess it’s shortly before the “Phalanx Covenant” crossover.
  • Beast previously worked for the Brand Corporation during his days headlining Amazing Adventures.  He wonders now if Brand is using genetic research he thought he had destroyed.
  • Rogue’s touch should have left Beast unconscious, but instead he’s completely unharmed.

I Love the ‘90s:  Spider-Man questions if Hobgoblin can have a comeback like The Beverly Hillbillies.

Review:  For anyone who’s curious, Spider-Man: The Mutant Agenda was published out of the Spider-Man office during the pre-Clone Saga days.  I don’t think the X-Office had much involvement in the series; Bob Harras isn’t even given a “special thanks” credit.  Steven Grant might seem like an odd choice for writer, but this is during his brief period writing Spectacular Spider-Man, so his inclusion isn’t totally arbitrary.  Scott Kolins at this stage is a new artist, one that fits the house style of early ‘90s Marvel, meaning this comic is hard to differentiate from the average issue of X-Men Adventures.  Kolins will go on to experiment with linework and develop a unique cartooning style.  But at the moment, his work is about as generic “’90s” as you can imagine.

My assumption is that this miniseries was commissioned under the naïve hope that Marvel could somehow convince the mainstream audience of Spider-Man’s newspaper strip to buy a comic book.  I guess there’s nothing wrong with trying, but if you’re already a reader of the regular monthly titles, there’s nothing here of interest.  The basic premise that Spider-Man and Beast would team up against the Hobgoblin at a genetic conference hosted by the Brand Corporation could’ve been the basis of any issue of X-Men Unlimited (and/or Spider-Man Unlimited), so I can’t say it’s a story Marvel would’ve never told.  The execution, however, treats the reader like a baby who needs all of his exposition slowly spoon-fed.  The action stops on four separate occasions to give us exposition dumps, patiently giving the reader flashbacks to moments like Hobgoblin’s past as the Jack O’Lantern, or that time meek teenager Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider.  I realize that this is information that should be given out to new readers, and many comics in the ‘90s had a bad habit of not clearly identifying the cast, but reading origin flashbacks for every major character in the story is simply a chore.  If you are fan of comics, the books not the strips, you quickly get a sense that you’re reading a story that could’ve easily been published as a free Pizza Hut promotional comic.  

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