Web #6-7

Written by Matthew Sturges and John Rozum
Penciled by Roger Robinson and Tom Denerick
Inked by Roger Robinson and Bill Sienkiewicz
40 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

I can’t begin to imagine how hard it is to launch a new superhero comic in today’s market. More often than not people don’t want things that are new, instead seeing the same old favorite properties rehashed. So to introduce something new, it needs to grab readers right away, have that extra little oomph that makes people decide this new character or concept is worth reading instead of (or in addition to) an old favorite. That’s why I think that The Web (and The Shield) failed, at least enough that DC is canceling their titles in June. The sad thing is that even with a horrible lackluster mini-series (The Red Circle) to introduce the characters, coupled with some potential readers thinking, "Yuck, revamps of superheroes from Archie Comics," there was a lot of potential in these two titles. And in the case of The Web, the latest two issues seem to have finally fully realized the potential.

New writer Matthew Sturges is at least temporarily staying away from the idea that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people using the Web suit under a subcontract to main character John Raymond. It’s not a bad concept, but for now with readership weak, it makes sense to focus solely on the lead and not worry about all the other Webs out there. The end result is a book where there’s a greater stake for the reader, because you only have to worry about our hero, not a nameless person in a similar suit. Sturges is also building a supporting cast for the character; bringing back Raymond’s ex-girlfriend into the fold, plus a new (unwanted) sidekick nicknamed Kitcat sent to him by Oracle. Oracle’s taking control of the Web’s lair and technology in Angela Robinson’s opening four issues was the one thing that stood out for me then, and clearly I wasn’t the only one. Raymond’s swaggering bravado getting taken down a dozen or so notches by Kitcat is probably the high point of Sturges’s first two issues, and Sturges has find just the right balance of making her both an assistant and a foil for the lead without making you wonder just why she’s still around. The plot of the two issues isn’t bad either; it’s standard superhero material involving assassins, potential death of a bad guy, and the like. Where it shines isn’t the plot of the story, but rather the telling of it. Sturges having the Web freaked out over the death of Stunner is a nice touch since he’s supposed to be a new hero, for example. We’re getting to watch the character figure things out bit by bit over time, and it’s a good technique to keep us interested and around for more. I’d like to see some deeper, more intricate stories here, but at this point I’m just glad we’re getting the nice touches that we are along the way.

Roger Robinson’s art on The Web has been consistently strong, both inked by Hilary Barta as well as on his own. It’s a blocky sort of style, but one that handles action and speed excellently. A scene as simple as the Web taking off into the air has a nice punch to the visual, letting the reader almost hear the sonic boom as he accelerates. Likewise, in fight scenes, having the Web’s cape swirl and flap through the air has a good visual. Robinson’s also good at squeezing a large number of panels onto a single page without making it feel cramped; he uses a lot of tight focuses on characters to let their faces or bodies tell the story, and it works well.

The Web continues its second feature starring the Hangman, which has been entertaining enough since day one to keep me around. John Rozum’s Xombi is still one of my all-time favorite comics, and his Hangman stories have generally had the same level of weirdness to make me happy. While these two issues don’t have quite the same level of oddity and wonder as earlier ones (my favorite so far involved a sentient tsunami), they’re still good. After five issues of the Hangman easily dispatching his foes, it’s nice to see the lead finally encounter someone who isn’t going to fall to the Hangman’s darkness powers and nooses quite so easily. It makes the new villain that much more interesting, watching him fight back against the Hangman in a smart, logical method.

It also helps that the second feature is drawn by Tom Denerick and Bill Sienkiewicz. Denerick’s always had a traditional, deliberate style that sets up the layouts well, but has sometime proven to be a little variable in the finished forms. That’s definitely not the case here with Sienkiewicz’s inks, which give Denerick’s pencils a rough, edgy look that meshes perfectly with the weird world of the Hangman. This is probably the closest we’ll get to a monthly series by Sienkiewicz these days, and quite frankly the stories look gorgeous. There’s just right right level of, "What the heck is that?" in each story that result in Denerick and Sienkiewicz each bringing their best parts to the comic.

Why is it that titles sometimes finally get good right before the cancellation axe hits them? I’m hoping the books come back in some form (perhaps an anthology title, although then again those would probably sell even worse) but my hopes aren’t high. If they do, definitely take a look at whatever form The Web returns in, especially if Sturges and Robinson are connected. Even better, if we get more Hangman stories from Rozum, Denerick, and Sienkiewicz, jump right on that. (It does make me wonder if we’d gotten a monthly title of The Hangman with The Web as a second feature if we’d have seen higher or lower sales.) After an incredibly dull mini-series to introduce the characters (and thus dooming the two series right out of the gate), I’ve come to enjoy my Red Circle doses. I’ll miss you, The Web.

2 comments to Web #6-7

  • Thanks for the kind words, Greg. Much appreciated. The stuff that was meant to be coming next was the stuff I was really excited about writing as well.

  • Roger Robinson

    Thanks for the comments. Matt and I are making sure that this book ends strong for the fans that are enjoying The WEB and are sticking around til the end.