Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #4: All Time Heroes [Review]
The announcement of a new comic series starring Wolverine and/or Spider-Man tends to be greeted with universal cries of "Oh great, another one," but if you're not reading Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert's Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine, you're missing out. This is a book that shows the omnipresence of these characters doesn't dilute the quality of a good story from a solid creative team. The fourth issue of the book was released this week, and while the series hasn't been hitting shelves on a monthly basis, it's been worth the wait. Issue #4 starts to shed more light on the whys and whos behind the events that have been pulling Spider-Man and Wolverine forward and backward in time, from pre-history to an apocalyptic future. Here they've both been split up and sent to each other's respective origins, with Wolverine finding himself in a mask and wrestling against a teenage Peter Parker while Spider-Man's being pursued through the frozen wastes of Canada by a young, feral James Howlett accompanied by a pack of wolves. Aaron's snappy comic dialogue for Spider-Man, in all his versions throughout time, feels so true to the character's cleverness and sense of humor. And Kubert and Aaron manage to slip in a small but touching moment in Wolverine's trip into Spider-Man's origin.
The big new element introduced to the story, though, are a few antagonists for the heroes. Czar and Big Murder are a pair of supervillains who seem to be a mash-up of Terry Gilliam's time traveling heist film Time Bandits and mainstream pop culture portrayals of gangsta rap. The Czar is armed with the Timestick, a wooden club studded with the diamonds that has been key to Spider-Man and Wolverine's trips through time, and one that makes him capable of literally hitting someone so hard it knocks them into next Tuesday. Or to the historic disaster of his choice.
The two make their base of operation on a mansion on an asteroid at the end of time, which they fill with treasure, attractive women and talented musicians from throughout history, and chefs that cook them fresh dinosaur. Which they visit in between trips throughout time fighting knights and pirates and vikings, because why not? There's an undeniable sense of chaotic fun about the way the two of them use their access to all of time for their own amusement rather than the typical cackling power-hungry form of supervillainy. It fits the overall tone of the book so well and makes for interesting confrontations when they see the heroes.
Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine could easily have been the title of a book that was rushed out to print every month in anticipation that readers would buy it anyway. Jason Aaron and Adam Kubert should be applauded for telling such a good story, and for negotiating all the tricky pitfalls that can come from doing a storyline so heavily reliant on time travel. And I should also applaud the rest of the art team, inker Mark Roslan, colorist Justin Ponsor, and letterer Rob Stein, and everyone at Marvel who helped create this book and had the patience to give it the time it needed. With four issues down and two more to go, there's still time to start this one if you haven't picked it up, or to catch up if you're behind.