Art: Red Bunn
Original Printing: Lion Annual 1970
After the weekly serial finished in April 1969, the Spider made a final brace of appearances in the 1970 Lion Annual. "Island of Menace", then, is the last of the 'classic' Spider strips, and never have commas been so inverted. The story, like its' bedfellow "The Spider Meets The Fly", is rather bereft of pace, despite only lasting the usual Annual strip length of eight pages. The problem is that the plot's pretty limp. A reclusive scientist, Doctor Skrantz, just calls the Spider and asks him to evaluate a project he's been working on. The Spider can not only find time for this, but can walk into a simple trap too, when it turns out the project is a synthetic hunter, housed on the titular island. Quite why Skrantz needs to lure the Spider over to his island in the first place, or whether he couldn't come up with a more practical synthetic man than a giant hunter (what, is he meant to stalk the President around the White House or something?) isn't something we really get explained to us.
The strip manages to combine some of the worst aspects of the Spider, with an implausible and joyless villain matched up with Siegel's old habit of the Spider somehow secreting just the right device to get him out of a spot - in this case, when Skrantz' mechanical hounds sonically attack the Spider, Pelham and Ordini, the Spider just happens to be carrying "something I invented recently... an intersonic adjuster!". Needless to say, the hunter is undone when a vital mechanism has been left smack in the middle of a room, utterly unprotected. We don't even get to enjoy Reg Bunn's fine pencils one last time - not only is this several notches below his usual work in terms of dynamics (regardless of how little there was in the background, Bunn could always do terrific dynamics - not so here, for example in the first frame on page 7, the Spider looks very stiff and unnatural, compared to his usual languid, comfortable poses), but it's randomly daubed in red, losing any atmosphere (as per usual, I've greyscaled the scans). A disappointing swansong for the Spider in strip form. Though the last panel's worth something, as you can tell how much of an idiot the Spider thinks Ordini is via his very weary look.
|The Spider - "Island of Menace"|