By Mark Waid, James Robinson & Gabriele Dell’Otto
Now that the Ultimate universe is more convoluted than the 616, the only people who actually read Ultimate books are the longtime fans that are already in the know. There’s no longer a way to bring new readers into the fold. That’s why Marvel decided to print Marvel Original Graphic Novels (OGN), which is a series of one-shot hardcover stories meant to be a perfect point to jump into comics. The first one was Avengers: Endless Wartime and despite having a solid creative team, was beyond awful.
Does Family Business share the same fate? Like Endless Wartime, the stars couldn’t be brighter. Mark Waid, James Robinson, and Gabriele Dell’Otto are one heck of a team. Fortunately, the story and presentation is miles better. That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods yet, though. This plot is still crappy.
A comic by Waid and Robinson is bound to have some interesting character work and that’s where the story is at its strongest. The main antagonist (Kingpin) plays his role to perfection. He’s a shadowy figure who is always pulling Peter Parker’s strings from a world away. It makes for a neat conflict. Peter Parker/Spider-Man is also written well. Actually, he hasn’t had a high quality voice such as this one in years.
While we’re on the topic of bright spots, the art of Gabriele Dell’Otto is simply spectacular. Like Alex Ross, Dell’Otto is able to bring a sense of realism, while still keeping it within the ridiculous realm of funny books. When you first see Peter in the Spider-Man costume, it’s a thing of terrible beauty. The entire book is beautiful. If you’re a fan of truly fantastic superhero art, Family Business may be for you.
Other than the solid characterization and incredible art, the book doesn’t have much else going for it. The story is sloppily put together. By the last page, you’ll be scratching your head, wondering why they went in such a lame direction. The way the story is told and how the little threads are put together have a sense of urgency, as if this was just put together yesterday. The entire plot of Peter’s parents and his supposed “sister” is boring. Most stories involving Peter’s parents feel out of place, so the writers already had an uphill climb. Plus, the whole sister thing feels a little too much like Gwen Goblin babies, and that’s never a good thing.
Endless Wartime and Family Business both suffer from a lack of identity. Is it a book for new readers? Well, not really. It’s still full of 616 continuity. Is it a book for longtime fans? No, because it’s sloppy writing that comes across as condescending. They keep some things from current Marvel lore, while tossing other things aside….who is making these decisions?
While an improvement from the first OGN, Family Business is still a messy book with no sense of direction. You could do worse than this, but there are a ton of better Spider-Man stories to start noobs off right. At this point, Marvel OGNs are looking pretty messy.
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