Amazing Spider-Man #18.HU Humanizes Z-List Villain, The Gibbon

by James Ferguson

There’s no doubt that Spider-Man has one of the most impressive and extensive rogues galleries in comics. The list goes on and on from the big bads to the truly obscure. Amazing Spider-Man #18.HU focuses more on the latter half of that equation with a story centered on the Gibbon. I’ll wait while you run to Wikipedia to look him up.

Back? OK! Since he’s an animal-themed villain, the Gibbon has been captured and forced to fight for his life in Central Park as part of Kraven’s mad scheme. We saw a glimpse of the character in Amazing Spider-Man #18, siding with the Vulture instead of the web-slinger and ultimately regretting the decision. How did he end up in this mess now? Perhaps more importantly, why should we care? I mean…it’s the Gibbon.

Characters like this leave a lot of room for creators to play. When you look at long-established villains like the Green Goblin or Doc Ock, there are tons of stories in their history and their personalities are so ingrained, that it can be tough to do something new. Writer Nick Spencer delivers a somber tale with an unlikely and misunderstood protagonist here. Yes, you are going to learn to love the Gibbon by the end of this issue.

The story bounces between the past and the present as the Gibbon thinks back to how he got to here in the first place. He didn’t set out to destroy the world or even terrorize a city. He was a quiet kid that looked different and got swept up in the criminal underworld thanks to a number of increasingly strange situations. In the scheme of things, he would be a guy you’d walk by on the street and maybe notice for half a second and he was fine with that. After a lifetime of being teased, he’d welcome something like that. Instead, he’s being hunted by Kraven robots driven by rich people.

Colorist Erick Arciniega differentiates the flashbacks from the modern day scenes with a kind of sepia tone. This makes the older images appear like old photographs, drudged up from the Gibbon’s memories. It contrasts well with the harsh look of the night and the trail of blood left behind. Although these scenes from the past were often filled with ridicule, they pale in comparison to the agony he’s going through right now.

Artist Ken Lashley gets in on this too with a different style for both. The flashbacks have a more classic look and feel to them, like they’re ripped from old comics. The present day sequences are more gritty and darker, with a lot more detail. This again, harkens back to a simpler time in the Gibbon’s life. While it wasn’t perfect, it was a lot better than this.

Lashley really captures the look of sadness in the Gibbon in nearly every scene. This poor guy has never been taken seriously. He’s not a ferocious killing machine. He’s just an average guy that looks a little different. This makes the run through Central Park all the more harrowing because he doesn’t deserve this.

There’s a particularly brutal sequence that’s broken up into a number of smaller panels. Each one focuses on an act of violence as the Gibbon takes so much punishment. It’s almost hard to watch by the end. Letterer Joe Caramagna breaks up the Gibbon’s internal narration into single word caption boxes, scattered throughout the page. They start out big, but get small by the end as he loses this fight. These small boxes carry such weight.

Some people might wonder why Marvel would bother with an entire issue devoted to a Z-list character like the Gibbon. It works to show just how big and deadly this storyline is. Kraven has pulled out all the stops for this plan and he doesn’t care who is hurt or killed along the way. It also gives Spider-Man another reason to take Kraven down hard and fast. If you weren’t invested in “Hunted,” you will be after reading this.

Amazing Spider-Man #18.HU from Marvel Comics is currently available at your local comic shop and digitally through ComiXology and Amazon Kindle.

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