When I read the main Spider-Island trade paperback, I found it to be a mainly bland story divided unevenly among multiple titles. The art wasn't outstanding, but most of it wasn't too bad either. Despite the story's blandness, it was also strangely riveting. In this story, a infestation of genetically modified bedbugs caused by the Jackal gives everyone in Manhattan powers like Spider-Man. We have a Punisher story, a Shang-Chi and Iron Fist story, an Avengers story, a Spider-Girl story (Anya Corazon, that is), a Spider-Woman story, a Cloak and Dagger story, a Herc story, and Black Panther story, and a Heroes for Hire story. There are also an assortment of other, sillier stories that focus on regular New York people, and strangely enough, some cat.
The only stories of note, I believe, were the Punisher story, The Avengers story, the Cloak and Dagger story, the Herc story, and the Black Panther story. The Shang-Chi/Iron Fist story was pretty dull with mediocre art, as was the Spider-Girl story. The miscellaneous stories didn't have good art and the premises weren't very well executed. The Heroes for Hire story had okay art, but the story was boring and the characters just didn't do it for me.
In the Punisher story (written by the great Greg Rucka of Gotham Central fame, please do check that out), a handful of spider-powered thugs rob a bank, but then they all start getting a tingling in their spider-sense. Guess who's infiltrated their group? This story was masterfully done, setting up the suspense from the robber's point of view, and while I don't claim to be a Punisher fan, I thought the ending was pulled off very well. The art wasn't anything to write home about, but the style was very conducive to the tone of the story.
The Avengers story stars Jessica Jones-Cage, Hawkeye, Miss Marvel, and Frog Man as they take on the now spider-powered terrorist group ULTIMATUM (Underground Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army to Unite Mankind). Meanwhile, Squirrel Girl has to take on the Cages 'spider-powered baby daughter, who is quite a handful, it seems. This story was fun and funny, though the gross out gag that the resolution calls for is a bit tasteless. Frog Man is pretty goofy and funny, and Hawkeye's antics trying to get his spider powers to work are good for a few chuckles. The art is also good.
The Cloak and Dagger story is a favorite of mine, if only because I really like Cloak and Dagger. In it, crime boss Mr. Negative is informed that Dagger is destined to kill him, so he hatches a plan to... do something. I'm honestly not sure what he was hoping to accomplish by what he did, something about "dying with honor" or whatever. At any rate, the story's characterization of Cloak and Dagger is really well written, the dynamic between them just as I'd expected it to be (before I read this story I'd never read a Cloak and Dagger story). The art isn't great, but it's not strictly speaking bad either. Just could have done better.
The Herc story stars the titular character, Hercules, as he deals with his spider powers and tries to track down someone who he suspects is a con-man trying to pull the wool over his eyes. He gets brainwashed by the Queen (the Jackal's partner) however, and ends up fighting the X-Men. This story was, like the Avengers story, fun and funny, and the art was good. Herc's escapades make for a good story, though it is, in the end, unresolved. But liked it, which is why it made the cut.
Finally, the Black Panther (the Most Dangerous Man Alive!) story. This story was kind of cool, what with Black Panther's Batman-esque portrayal, and the art suited the story, but the narrator is actually some guy named Overdrive. Black Panther himself didn't get as much panel-time as I thought he should have, but when he is on panel, it's awesome. The plot was okay, the villain wasn't much to speak of, but all in all, it was a pretty cool story.
Overall Spider-Man: Spider Island Companion is a mediocre read with mediocre art. Most of the stories are okay to good, but two of the three big stories are real let downs, so they kind of drag it down. And now that I just looked at how much it costs on Amazon.com (I know it's a thick read, but thirty bucks? Gee whiz), I'm not sure that the trade is worth the asking price. I know it doesn't matter for me, because I got my copy from the library, but I'm just saying. But anyhow, I'd say that this trade paperback isn't essential to your Spider-Man collection, especially since it doesn't actually have Spider-Man in it, you should only get it if you're a completist or a really hard core Cloak and Dagger fan. If you're a Spider-Man fan or a casual reader, I'm afraid that I can't say I'd recommend this.
Image courtesy of amazon.com