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for Monday, January 4, 2010

Amazing Spider-Man 615

It took me a long time to get over "One More Day," a travesty ranking with the grandeur-delusional "Clone Saga," the even-more-so "Chapter One," and the "Gwen knocked boots with Norman" storylines as the buttocks of decades of web-slinging wonderment. The Marvel press tried to make me believe the story was correcting the "wrong" of a married Peter Parker, but all I saw was a cheap end run around any interesting resolutions of the then-current predicaments of our hero and his loved ones. I still loathe the concept that, to save Aunt May, Peter and Mary Jane would make a deal with the devil that would horrify May if she knew of it. It was ghastly storytelling unworthy of its otherwise talented tellers.

I did eventually get over "One More Day" and started reading the retconned version of Amazing Spider-Man that commenced with issue #546. After all, I reasoned, I was able to enjoy many different versions of Spider-Man in the movies, in various cartoon series, in Ultimate Spider-Man, and in Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. What's one more?

It was awkward at first. Like when you run into an old friend trying to act/look decades younger than their age and not remotely succeeding. The attempts of Spidey's new writers to restore humor to the character were often clumsy, as were their "everything goes wrong for Peter" riffs. But, whether the writers eventually found balance in their stories or whether the editors guided them to that welcome place, Amazing Spider-Man began to feel like a real Spider-Man comic book again.

There are many things I like about the past couple years of Amazing Spider-Man and a few I don't care for. What I like most is the sense that anything can happen, as exemplified by the fate of The Daily Bugle and the election of J. Jonah Jameson as mayor of New York City. Of course, I had the same sense when Peter unmasked during "Civil War". This time around, I hope Marvel has the creative fortitude to stick with what they've done...even if it means losing Daily Bugle cast members I like.

Several of the longer stories have been excellent. Among them would be Spider-Man being framed for murder, Norman Osborn as the nation's top cop, and the mayoral election. The whole gathering of the super-villains bit, accompanied by the usual "let's make them even more evil and more powerful" stuff, doesn't thrill me, but I won't condemn it for its familiarity without seeing where it goes. As for the return of anything remotely tied to the afore-mentioned "Clone Saga," insert your own retching noise here.

"Brand New Day" can justifiably take bows for some wonderful character work. Harry Osborn has never been more interesting than he is right now. Mary Jane Watson has been handled extremely well. I love the hilarious dynamic between Peter and Jonah now that they are kind of sort of brothers. And I am flat out in awe of what has been done with Flash Thompson. If anyone's asking, I would like to see Flash become a more prominent character in the series.

New characters? Peter's new roommates and other acquaintances have made for some good interactions and stories. The introduction of Jonah's father was a pleasant surprise and it's been fun to see his courtship of and marriage to May. I got a kick out of Peter's relatives from the non-Parker side of the family.

I'm intrigued by Spider-Man's close relationship with Johnny Storm and the rest of the Fantastic Four. However, I'm baffled as to why the Four, who have managed to keep Osborn from screwing with their lives, have not done more, even clandestinely to help their friend. On one hand, such help is the logical consequence of their friendship. On the other, we'd lose some of the "poor Peter" stuff that's working well for the series. Mark me "on the fence" when it comes Spidey and the Four.

With Amazing Spider-Man being published three times a month, editor Stephen Wacker and crew are juggling six writers and at least twice as many artists...and doing a good job of it. The writing is usually good, often great, and very rarely substandard. The same can be said for the art. With an overview covering this many issues, I'm not going to comment on the individual writers and artists. I'll save that for my future reviews of individual issues or stories.

What don't I like about Amazing Spider-Man? Beyond the things I've already mentioned, it comes down to this:

The sex.

I begrudgingly accept Amazing Spider-Man isn't suitable for all ages, though I give Marvel credit for publishing a Spider-Man comic book that is in its Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man. I find it sad younger readers have been kinda disenfranchised from the "main" Spider-Man title.

Beyond that, here are my problems with the sex in the current Spider-Man stories...

My minor issue is with Aunt May and her new husband, J. Jonah Jameson, Sr. I like that they're...ah...frisky and that Peter can be uncomfortable with that. That's funny and human. But when you do the joke/scene/whatever over and over, it can quickly become a crutch. These are rich characters who should not be defined by one aspect of their lives.

My more serious issue is with Peter himself. I can't dispute Wacker's contention that young people of Parker's age do have sex. What I can and will argue is that Peter would be neither casual or shallow about it.

If you tell me Peter and Gwen were having sex while they were together, I wouldn't bat an eye. If you tell me Peter and MJ were having sex even before they were married in the former continuity, I wouldn't doubt it. Those were committed relationship and that's what Peter would have taken from his formative years in the care of Ben and May Parker. That's the Peter Parker I know.

What we've gotten so far in this new series of stories is one drunken romp in the hay with his hostile roommate and a few booty calls with the Black Cat. I'm not buying it.

Amazing Spider-Man is on the right track, but it needs fine tuning. As it is, I'm impressed by the overall quality of the title and awed by how Wacker and crew have kept it coming our way three times a month. I went back and forth between giving it the perfectly respectable three out of five Tonys or a more impressive four out of five Tonys. It's a close call, but I'm going with the the hope that, when next I review the title, my choice will be between four and five Tonys.

Tony Tony Tony Tony

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back Monday with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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