Overview

Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham #1

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Ultimate Civil War: Spider-Ham #1

Credits

  • Words: J. Michael Straczynski
  • Art: Mike Wieringo, Nick Dragotta, John Severin, et al.
  • Inks: Mike Manley, Nick Dragotta, John Severin, et al.
  • Colors: June Chung
  • Story Title: N/A
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Jan 31, 2007

Peter Porker the Spectacular Spider-Ham returns in this Marvel special. But, as humor comics go, is it Brand Ecch or Not Brand Ecch?

It seems incredible but Spider-Ham, Marvel’s "funny animal" version of their flagship hero, is only a year or so short of being a quarter of a century old. Debuting in the painfully-punning Marvel Tails in 1983 (alongside the likes of Captain Americat, Hulk Bunny and the Goose Rider!), he then graduated to his own short-lived title as part of Marvel’s Star Comics imprint for younger readers in the 1980s and in the 90s made sporadic appearances in humor-based comics like What The--?!. A reasonable level of success for a lampoon of another property.

Self-parody is a dangerous game though. Take it too far and you point out the shortcomings in your own work. If you don’t take it far enough, however, you run the risk of gentle digs at your own material being seen as nothing more than back-slapping smugness. J. Michael Straczynski avoids either extreme in this one-shot by providing an issue so rambling and incoherent that the readers are left scratching their heads in bemusement at what the point of these twenty-three pages actually was.

This is a difficult issue to describe because the paper thin plot only seems to be there to link a series of pinup pages of pig-themed Marvel heroes together with humdrum porcine satires of familiar characters. Spider-Ham’s quest for his missing thought balloons, and the sense of self they provide, is the catalyst for a muddled and largely nonsensical story. A disastrous encounter with Dr. Strange sends Spider-Ham spinning through alternate realities viewing other versions of himself along the way. Most of this seems to be an excuse for a series of splash pages or single-panel shots of the likes of Iron Ham, Deviled Ham, Ant-Ham, Hambit and so on.

There are the odd moments that bring a smile to the face (but only a smile), chiefly those about sadly vanished comic book conventions like thought balloons and characters no longer speaking on covers. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between as, given its plot-lite structure, the issue has to rely on little more than puns, more puns and, quite bizarrely, a number of non-puns (Wolverham, Fantastic Ham, Aunt Ham) that wouldn’t make it into even the worst fan fiction.

Artistically this issue could have been a lot of fun given the plethora of diverse talents on show. Mike Wieringo, Jim Mahfood, Ariel Olivetti, Sean Phillips and John Severin (the latter on a The ‘Nam satire entitled, obviously, The ‘Ham) and many others represent a lost opportunity on the interiors.

With Civil War playing out across the Marvel Universe this was an ideal chance to give Marvel’s readership a lighter respite from the heavy drama. Sadly there’s little to recommend here. If you want a genuinely amusing take on Civil War check out the Mini Marvels backup in the Spider-Man and Power Pack miniseries instead.

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