Spider-Man: Fever (#1 – 3) – Brendan McCarthy

4 out of 5

That time you did mushrooms and dreamed that psychedelic indie art madman Brendan McCarthy worked for Marvel… TWAS NOT A DREAM AT ALL.

In the late years of Marvel Knights, when the imprint would pop up at random, the randomest of randoms occurred when the swirling, computer coloring of Brendan’s bedecked a Spider-Man comic cover on the racks.  I snatched the thing up in my own fever and marveled at the dude taking on Spidey and Vulture within the first few pages.  …And Dr. Strange, because that makes sense for McCarthy’s proclivities.  And, oh heck, a drug trip sequence as well when Spidey gets sprayed by mystik pesticide and has his soul sucked out by arcane spiders…

Yeah, this is as nuts as anything Milligan and Brendan got up to back in the day, and is stuffed with Brendan’s common dream totems and an Aleister Crowley proxy.  Strange, responsible for letting loose the magics that have ensnared Spider-Man, follows “the webwaze” past some talking dogs and an Aussie magician also wandering the path (in kangaroo feet-boots, or some such), while Spidey trips and is put to the task of fetching dinner for the evil Arachnix.  Good god.

But look: the stuff is genius, and the established characters keep Brendan somewhat rooted to an actual plot, even if he does toss at least eighteen too many “what the heck is that?” one-off terminology references in there.  Seeing him blend these characters with his imaginings is to remind how fantastic of an artist he is, and how smart his compositions are; Steve Cook assists with the colors, and this teamwork also helps to maintain a dose of organic-ness to things, when Brendan has slipped into too much computer work over the years.

Spider-Man fans might find this a bit too out there (and may take issue with McCarthy winding some spider mysticism into Spidey’s origin), but anyone familiar with Brendan’s work should have a blast with it, even / especially if they’re adverse to Marvel stuff, because clearly Brendan had a grand ol’ time rediscovering his inner Ditko and Kirby and reinterpreting it through an LSD haze.

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