It’s a well-known fact that Peter Parker has both the best rogues gallery in comics, at least on Marvel’s end of the spectrum. Just about any one of his villains can carry their own mini-or ongoing series, and many of them have. The latest to join the ranks of Venom and Doc Ock is Janine Godbe, aka Hallow’s Eve, a relative unknown whose nom-de-plum was as the girlfriend of Parker’s most famous clone Ben Reilly. Following the events of the recently concluded “Dark Web” event, Janine now possesses a bag of magically-endowed Halloween masks that transform the wearer into the embodiment of whichever mask she chooses. Only in comics, people.
The debut issue of Hallow’s Eve finds Janine a wanted fugitive, having barely escaped from the clutches of Limbo. Along with her bag of magic masks, Janine is using her newfound powers to take control of her future, a future that happens to involve stealing lots of money while on the run with her formerly heroic boyfriend. Her activities catch the attention of the police, as well as Beyond Corporation, the agency responsible for the manufacturing and manipulation of super-hero and villain alike, as well as Ben Reilly’s present memory issues.
If you’ve been following the current “Amazing Spider-Man” title, including the Spidey/X-Men crossover “Dark Web”, that synopsis should make sense. If you haven’t, well, Hallow’s Eve may not be the most anticipated book on your pull this week. Despite its continuity-baggage, however, this issue is surprisingly accessible and offers an interesting character study on one of Spidey’s newest baddies. Writer Erica Schultz takes what could have been a creatively-empty, editorially-mandated tie-in and instead delivers a story that functions as both an epilogue and the start of a unique character’s new journey. Schultz establishes Janine as a lost soul trying to find herself, existing somewhere between villain and potential anti-hero, but never quite committing to either, at least not yet.
Complementing the excellent writing is Michael Dowling on art. Dowling’s character designs and layouts are fine but there are a handful of inconsistencies that hold it back from being truly great. The action scenes, while sparse, are handled very well and are truly a highlight, particularly an early scene when Janine goes into “ghost-mode.” The book’s concept is solid and its protagonist’s powers are cool and silly in all the best ways. Plus her design is super-cool, with her standard attire resembling a cross between Spidey villains Shriek and Hobgoblin. While the issue has its shortcomings, it still serves as both a great continuation and introduction to a character who has the potential to stick around for years to come.