Greg Rucka, Mark Waid and Marco Checchetto kick off their Omega Effect crossover with this issue, and right off the bat, I wish this could be a much longer story. This is an issue so good that I want the story to last beyond the short crossover it’s scheduled to be. How often do you really get a crossover story in which all the characters are pitch perfect? You get exactly that here, and it is even more impressive than usual considering the variety of personalities from the likes of Spider-Man, Daredevil and Punisher.
I should admit to some bias here. The friendship between Peter Parker and Matt Murdock is easily my favorite Spidey friendship, and the rivalry between Daredevil and Punisher is one of my favorites in the Marvel Universe. It hasn’t felt like either of these things has gotten a good story for quite some time. Here, the two are combined into one really good story. How could I not love this?
The premise of this crossover comes directly out of Waid’s current Daredevil run. Daredevil has come into possession of the Omega Drive, a data storage device made from some scavenged Fantastic Four technology containing extensive records on five of the foremost criminal organizations around. This creates a problem for everyone. That is, except for the Punisher. Frank Castle would love to have the Omega Drive and use it as a big, detailed hit list. Spider-Man comes in Mr. Fantastic’s stead to get Reed’s technology back, and Daredevil has gotten himself so deep in this situation already he can’t give it up without some assurances. The end result of this is a crossover that manages to feel legit without some ridiculous contrivance to swallow to get these characters together.
The big question here for readers is if you should bother checking this out if you haven’t been following either Daredevil or Punisher. My answer is yes. Waid and Rucka do as good of a job as can be done in summing up the need-to-know information from their respective titles. Daredevil has to explain to Spider-Man and Punisher how he got into this situation, and that serves as an explanation to readers as well. On top of that, the story succinctly drops in what you need to know about Punisher’s new partner, Rachel Cole. Now, I’ve been reading both series, so I could be wrong. But I do think this issue is welcoming to new readers, even if I’m not one of them myself to know for sure.
As this is Spider-Man’s book, it’s his narrative voice we get. This is the perfect choice for the first issue of the crossover. See, Spider-Man is the newcomer to the situations with Daredevil and Punisher, making him an excellent gateway character for readers who aren’t familiar with Daredevil’s acquisition of the Omega Drive or Punisher gaining a partner in Rachel Cole. Readers get to ride along with Spider-Man’s inner voice as he gets a handle on these things. Plus, the inner monologue is just funny and perfect Spider-Man. The comment he makes about Punisher having a partner and the way in which he unsuccessfully tries to resist making it is one of the better parts of the issue.
Writers sometimes struggle when having Punisher interact with heroes in the Marvel Universe, especially when that interaction consists of a team-up. Fortunately, Rucka’s smart take on the character completely bypasses that problem. Frank Castle is not an unrelenting maniac controlled by a compulsion to kill every criminal he comes across. He’s an intelligent man on a mission. That means when he needs to join forces with a hero like Spider-Man he can adapt. He can choose not to kill for the time being. It’s so very believable and simple that I wonder why writers ever had a problem before.
As awesome as the writing is, the best thing about this issue is probably the art from Marco Checchetto. Seriously, this is some amazing work. Every page is wonderful to look at. I was unsure of who Checchetto’s style would work for Spider-Man, but seeing it here completely wins me over. No, I don’t believe his detailed and somewhat grounded style would work on an ongoing basis for this or Amazing Spider-Man, but it is a refreshing take that I like seeing. I really love his Daredevil, though. There’s a character Checchetto’s style fits perfectly. But what it all comes down to is that I love his work on Punisher too much to want to see him on any other book. Still, it’s inevitable that an artist this good is going to be pushed up the ladder sooner or later. I won’t be surprised at all if he is snatched away for bigger projects after this crossover is over.
What it comes down to is that if you’re a fan of any of these characters -- Spider-Man, Daredevil or Punisher -- this issue is worth your time and money. You aren’t going to find better portrayals of any of them. It’s going to be a real shame if Amazing Spider-Man’s much hyped Ends of the Earth story ends up overshadowing this one, because it almost every respect, this looks to be the superior story. The Omega Effect combines two of the classic relationships of the Marvel Universe and drops them into the middle of a potential gang war featuring the likes of AIM and the Secret Empire. And bottom line -- it’s done extremely well.