Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality #4
Confronted with the frightening reality that not only are they up against Hobgoblin and Baron Mordo, but the demonic Nightmare as well, Dr. Strange whisks Spider-Man and him away for a safe respite...
The problem is, Mordo has hidden the Word of God book - which could undo his warped new reality - in Nightmare's realm!
Worse, though - the Red Cat's treachery is revealed!
And so, Spider-Man and Dr. Strange become trapped - in Nightmare's realm, where his deranged rules and logic reign supreme!
For the penultimate issue of Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality, writer Peter David decides to go all in with the “alien reality” part of the title, sending Spider-Man and a be-ponytailed Dr. Strange into Nightmare’s realm to fight… well, nightmares. It’s unfortunately a well-worn trope, and one that does little to advance the plot. At the other extreme, it might be a bit imprudent to go so far as to say the issue is a complete waste or anything so snarky.
Let’s be honest, though – the hero facing his own worst nightmares is nothing new for genre fiction. How many times has Spidey relived the death of Gwen Stacy? Rehashing it here says nothing new about Spider-Man, unfortunately, or that fateful event. And that’s the major problem with the so-called nightmare sequences – there’s nothing too frightening or world-shattering going on. Rather, they form a pastiche of already-thought-of ideas that simply aren’t all that interesting.
There are bits of fun throughout the romp – see the above Deathlok/J. Jonah Jameson hybrid – but ultimately, not enough feels fresh or unique to justify the narrative capital burned throughout these pages. The issue doesn’t feel like it’s stalling, exactly – there’s an important beat where Dr. Strange confronts the symbiote directly about its control of Peter – but it’s maybe just a bit more wayward than readers might like. Instead of feeling like the story is barreling toward an inevitable conclusion, this issue is caught somewhere between feeling like it accomplishes not enough and trying (and failing) to do too much.
Greg Land gets plenty of opportunities to flex his penchant for cheesecake between the treacherous Red Cat and Nightmare’s daughter Daydream. The images of both women are beautiful, of course, and their images look surreally flawless. Slings and arrows have been hurtled for years at Land for his admitted practice of tracing models, but the end result is striking regardless of individual opinions. More importantly, though, Land is given the opportunity to flex and show he is capable of more than his reputation (earned or not) suggests. The scenes in Nightmare’s realm are vibrant and eye-popping, giving the book an assured, unique look that stands out on the shelves.
Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality #4 is the kind of comic that reads well enough, isn't overtly bad by any means, but winds up being forgotten almost as soon as it's finished being read. No one will feel ripped off in purchasing it, but it reveals the inherent limitations of a flashback miniseries of "tales we forgot to tell you:" there's only so much that the writer can do without interrupting established continuity. Here, Peter David's efforts just feel kind of disposable.
Symbiote Spider-Man: Alien Reality #4 (of 5): Nightmares
Writing - 7/107/10
Storyline - 5/105/10
Art - 7/107/10
Color - 8/108/10
Cover Art - 6.5/106.5/10
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