Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality
Dr. Strange may not be the Sorcerer Supreme anymore, but he still has a few tricks up his sleeve. He teleports Spidey and the Red Cat to where he originally trained with the Ancient One, so that Spidey can learn some magical mojo to stop Hobgoblin!
But before anything at all can go down, who should show up, but MORBIUS?!
After a brief scuffle, the heroic trio retreat to the safety of Kamar-Taj. Later, though, a sleepy Spidey goes back out to fight some more, and Dr. Strange realizes that the symbiote is in control, not Peter.
With that little deal made, it's back to the training montage, as Strange takes a relative year (to the world's week) to train Spidey as best he can in the mystic arts!
Strange things are afoot in Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality #3, both literally and figuratively. This issue definitely suffers from middle-act syndrome, with no true beginning or end, and a few too many stocking stuffers crammed in to fill the space. For the plot to work, it’s fine for Dr. Strange to whisk Spidey away to his magical hideout so he can learn the ways of the Force or whatever. But there’s a lot of filler fights that pad the issue out and actually detract from that actual plot point.
Case in point: Morbius. He somehow knew exactly where Spidey and company would be the moment they got there, which is a hugely contrived plot point that seems to just be checking off a box for a quickie villain fight to eat up some pages. (Ditto goes later in the issue for Doc Ock, but at least that scene has a whole “the sheriff’s back in town” vibe going for it.) Ostensibly, the Morbius fight was put there so that eventually Dr. Strange would figure out that the symbiote was controlling Peter sometimes, but it reads more like filler than anything else. Its resolution is similarly forced: if Strange could just snap his fingers and transport Morbius to Antarctica, why didn’t he just do that in the first place?
For a whole issue that is supposed to be focused around the idea of Spidey learning magic, there’s surprisingly little of that at all. The training scenes are completely glossed over, and cuts to a relative year later with Spidey back in town and working some magic mojo on Doc Ock. Personally, I think, especially given writer Peter David’s Knack for fish-out-of-water humor, those scenes could have been a kick to read. Instead, they’re simply not there, so that we can get on with the fight scenes.
There’s a twist as to who the true mastermind is toward the end of the issue that promises to up the stakes considerably. (What, you didn’t think Hobgoblin became Sorcerer Supreme all on his own, did you?) And although this issue was more of a mixed bag than previous Symbiote Spider-Man installments, it’s still a fun read. Greg Land’s art complements the story well, and he even eschews his typical cheesecake nonsense for the most part. Of course, he can’t seem to resist the urge to showcase Red Cat’s cleavage as much as possible, but that’s pretty much par for the course as far as he’s concerned. Readers may have to decide for themselves if such a thing is to their tastes or not, but since it’s not to the point of distraction, I can’t bring myself to hold it against Land.
A bit more uneven than previous Symbiote Spider-Man outings, this issue still proves to be a fun and bouncy read despite some padding in the plot. If you're an old-school Spidey fan, this is definitely a book worth checking out!
Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality #3 (of 5)
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 7/107/10
Color - 7.5/107.5/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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