Review by Karl Verhoven
The Extremist packages two Spider-Man outings from 2009 written by Fred Van Lente in a style approximating light comedy. One introduces a new killer vigilante, and the other unites Mary Jane Watson with the Black Cat in a sort of Spider-Man’s ex-girlfriends team-up spectacular.
The Extremist murders media personalities who’re distorting the truth as he sees it, which is very similar to the Foolkiller’s method of operation, but Van Lente is savvy enough to differentiate him. His origin is tied into the X-Men, and his method of defining who’s good and bad is by reading Kirlian auras, the disputed parapsychological technique of allocating mood to a colour aura surrounding people revealed under certain photographic conditions. The tension builds well, and the pay-off works.
Van Lente has a pleasing light touch with Spider-Man, although some might feel he tips a little too far into comedy. It’s certainly not subtle. Given the premise, the shock jock at the beginning might as well be walking round with a “Kill me now” sign on his back, but there are some neat observations. Considering whether to swing around the city looking for crime, Spider-Man decides against the idea noting “People are just robbing each other on the internet now. Less overheads”. On the same page he’s pictured looking at a box labelled “Bad Spidey Pics. Never Use.” Due to financial circumstances Peter Parker has to post them online, and that’s the start of his problems.
It’s a good opener, if somewhat hampered by the mish-mash of artists. Pat Olliffe manages a few pages, but Javier Rodriguez isn’t on top form, with strangely angular figures, and a bizarre design for the villain. That, though, is better than Pepe Larraz’s highly stylised work on the Black Cat and Mary Jane story, transforming what are intended to be two of Marvel’s most alluring women into mobile geometric shapes. Their expressions have default settings of scowl, smirk and puzzled shock. It’s not a pretty sight, and if Van Lente’s script wasn’t exactly subtle comedy for this tale, Larraz’s art is the equivalent of tripping over trousers that have fallen down. The best art here is from Nick Dragotta concluding the Extremist story.
In conception a confrontational and accusatory teaming of Mary Jane Watson and the Black Cat might have seemed a good idea, but it’s over-egged and never convinces.
If found cheap, the title story certainly justifies the purchase, but don’t approach at cover price.