As I’ve said before, I love single-issue comic book stories. It’s great being able to pick up something and read it in one quick sitting. Writer Paul Jenkins and artist Talent Caldwell put together a forgotten gem of a single-issue story in 2004’s Spectacular Spider-Man #21. Best of all, this features a slice-of-life story that we usually don’t get to see in super hero comics.
Jenkins has put together a story about what should have been a fun evening for a bunch of Marvel’s super heroes—poker night. Little did everyone know that their game would be crashed by the Kingpin, who wants in on this game. Kingpin’s motivation isn’t that he wants a night out with the boys heroes. Instead, he spots everyone money and turns it into a high stakes tournament. If any of the heroes win, they can keep the money and do whatever they wish with it. If Kingpin wins, he plans on using the money to buy a new yacht named Heroes’ Folly as a way to embarrass them for not being able to beat him in a card game.
Since this is a Spidey book, the game ends the way you think it will. That’s to be expected. But what makes this such a good read is that the witty dialogue between the characters and how expressive Caldwell makes everyone. There’s a lot of little things going on the side in this book that are briefly mentioned but are expanded through the rest of the story through clever use of facial expressions and posture, like Dr. Strange and his sidekick Wong being completely bewildered by the rules of poker, or Angel and Black Cat being super flirty. After the game, you are left with the impression that a certain winged mutant is going to be making out with a certain burglar turned hero. Way to go Warren!
Even the wisecracking between Spidey, the Human Torch and Thing is laugh-out-loud funny. Jenkins and Caldwell deserve a lot of credit; they were able to turn a filler issue into a classic. Go read this.