Ever since the Spider-Man line imploded into one book 18 months ago, there’s been very little in the way of spin-offs and miniseries. There was the Secret Invasion mini, an annual, the Short Hallowe’en one-shot and two sporadically-published anthology titles. That’s not much room for an entire stable of characters to work with. Either way, Marvel have finally decided to lift the apparent embargo on Spider-Man spin-offs with, er, a miniseries staring Martin Li – aka, crime boss Mister Negative.
In fairness, Negative’s status as a crime boss in New York does naturally bring him into conflict with The Hood, and it’s for this reason that he’s being given his own series under the Dark Reign banner. Whether or not he’s interesting enough to support such a series so soon after his creation isn’t yet a proven quantity, though.
To the series’ credit, unlike most of the Dark Reign minis, this one does seem to have wider relevance in the ongoing tapestry of the Marvel Universe. It’s just unfortunate that it’s more related to the events in Amazing Spider-Man instead of the events of Dark Reign. Amongst other things, this issue tells readers Li’s previously unseen origin, which will presumably matter later on in Amazing Spider-Man. Beyond that, the action focuses on the Hood and Negative’s gangland war, though there is just enough time for Spider-Man appearance towards the end.
Pencils for the issue come from Gianluca Gugliotta. They’re decent enough throughout, though for obvious reasons there’s a definite sense that Gugliotta is favouring the pages that feature Spider-Man than elsewhere. There are some nice moments elsewhere, such as the White Dragon’s re-entry to his hideout, or the White Rabbit (no relation) action scene, but it’s not going to blow you away.
Although Van Lente does a lot to expand Negative’s character and backstory throughout the issue, there’s no denying that the appeal of the book lies mainly in seeing a lot of supervillain’s on the loose as much as in Negative himself. It’s not a harsh judgement to say that Mr. Negative is still not that interesting as a stand-alone character – a few more issues like this, though, and he might be.