Spider-Ham #5 out this week from Marvel Comics concludes a self-aware series without forcing a joke or meaning. What seems like a shameless adult animation parody gives way to a meaningful tribute to it.
Recap (For the Non-Bingers)
Spider-Ham notices his universe in danger, so he enlists Spider-Man’s help since Ham’s popularity/ego drives his universe’s heroes away. In an ever twisting plot, they find the antagonist to be pop culture-loving X-Men villain Mojo.
Spider-Ham #5 Story
Spider-Ham #5 is very much a meta-commentary by writer Zeb Wells. Who, in addition to comics, is also a writer/director of stop-motion sketch animation. The Robot Chicken/Super Mansion influences are apparent with the Family Guy parody at the beginning. With creators like Butch Hartman dealing with executives who want rip-offs of popular shows, this serves as some catharsis. Mojo practically represents the executives and toxic fandoms all in one. He even outright admits that he doesn’t understand the nuance of including complex topics. Nowhere is that more apparent than when Mojo attempts to use one of the other heroes of Spider-Ham’s world to rip-off Bojack Horseman.
But Spider-Ham #5 uses parody to give way to tribute.
The artwork by Will Robson is surprisingly versatile and practically tells the entire story of Spider-Ham #5. In just the first pages, the Family Guy parody feels lifeless and stiff. But when Porky Pig style commentary breaks the immersion, the dynamic change in artwork shifts the issue’s tone. Even the difference in some characters’ designs goes this way, such as Black Colt into the Bojack knockoff. It’s a violation of comfort that lacks what makes the source material good, that is until the joke turns on Mojo.
The color palette by Erick Arciniega also demonstrates this dynamic. The opening pages have single color areas that are, for the most part, lifeless with few gradients. By the time that immersion’s broken, the pages not only have more realistic blends, but there’s also a yellow saturation resembling old newsprint comic books. This aged/oxidized look helps give Spider-Ham #5 a look of authenticity. Because despite the cartoony influence, this is a comic book through and through.
The lettering by VC’s Joe Carmagna does its part as well in Spider-Ham #5. Most of the wordmark fonts like the laugh track in the first pages look like they were copied and pasted. All while making sure that the voices of characters like Colt (small font) and Thrr (classy font) are authentic. Carmagna ensures they fit on the page without getting in the way of any character’s actions and providing a flow for the reader to follow. With big emotional moments coming in wordmarks that try to burst out of the word balloons.
Spider-Ham #5: Guaranteed A Fun Time
Spider-Ham #5 culminates by thriving in the absurdities of parody and comics. But just because parody makes fun of subjects, that doesn’t mean that people don’t have respect for source material. There are fine lines between comic effect, ridicule, commentary, and tribute. Spider-Ham #5 manages to do all of it in a balanced way.