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Reviews and commentary by Tony Isabella
"America's Most Beloved Comic-Book Writer & Columnist"

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for Monday, June 7, 2010

Amazing Spider-Man 629

I read Amazing Spider-Man a month or three at a shot. Here are my notes on issues #624-629 [Marvel; $2.99], though some of them are opinions I've previously stated. Oh, yeah, and there will be some SPOILER WARNINGS in the mix.

You have been warned.

This Spidey six-pack starts with the conclusion of our hero's battle with the newest Vulture. It's a good effort by Mark Waid, but not good enough to overcome my boredom with this whole Gauntlet revisiting of Spidey's foes. There's a sameness to these villains; the "new" versions are more brutal, more murderous, and much less interesting in their redesign. They suck the wonder right out of the super-hero genre.

There used to be variety in comic-book villain personalities. There used to be variety in what these bad guys wanted from their operations. What's sad with the current fixation is that Wade and most of his fellow Spider-writers are good enough to bring us far more interesting villains than what they're giving us these days. Heck, just looking at a week's worth of newspapers should give them ample inspiration.

Speaking of newspapers and related matters...don't you hate it when smart characters do stupid things just to advance some plot? In an attempt to clear Mayor J. Jonah Jameson, who is being accused of helping create the new Vulture, Peter Parker fakes a photograph of the Vulture attacking JJJ and does this without running it past the Mayor first. Jameson embraces the journalistic ethics that he mostly (but not always) follows, outs Parker for this fraud, then fires him. In issues to come, because of this dumb thing he did, Peter will find it difficult to earn a living.

I could accept Peter faking photographs when he was a stupid teenager and needed money to take care of his sick aunt. It makes less sense to me now, coming off as a contrived plot development to put the character through more misery. Lord knows the readers have seen plenty of misery heaped on Parker over the decades, but there were usually compensatory victories for the guy and those kept the stories fresh.

Not that anyone asked me, but it defies my willing suspension of disbelief that Peter Parker, this genius of both photography and science, can't earn even a moderately decent living. Way back in the day, when Jim Salicrup was the Spider-editor, I pitched an idea for Peter to become a Bugle science-writer. This would have made use of both his great talents, allowed for amusing moments as the guy struggled to learn how to write, and allowed for his Aunt May to feel some pride/relief her nephew hadn't completely wasted his potential and his years in college.

With this current plot development, I'd like to see Peter win back the respect of his friends in the print media. Sic him on a big story that he breaks using more of his Parker skills than his Spider-skills. Because the trials and tribulations of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man should result in the occasional victories. Otherwise, we readers are reduced to sadistic voyeurs.

Issue #625 has Joe Kelly's finale to the "Two Rhinos" serial that's been running for a while. It's not the ending I would have preferred, but it's a powerful conclusion nonetheless.

Written by Fred Van Lente, issue #626 seems to exist to move various sub-plots forward, albeit in small increments. The result is a mostly unsatisfying issue, though I did like seeing Peter and his roommate settle some old issues.

The best issues of this six-pack were the three-issue serial written by Roger Stern and drawn by Lee Weeks. It has Spider-Man trying to prevent the latest Captain Universe from slaughtering the Juggernaut. The writing is first-rate with Spidey sounding a lot more like Spidey than usual. The visuals are clear and exciting. I'd like to see a lot more Spider-Man from Stern and Weeks. They make for a nice bright alternative to the dark and depressing fare found in the majority of Marvel and DC super-hero titles.

Spider-Man Grim Hunt

Along with the above issues, I also read Spider-Man: Grim Hunt - The Kraven Saga, a freebie designed to brings readers up to date on some current events in Spider-Man's life and promote an upcoming showdown between the web-slinger and the daughter and wife of the late Kraven the Hunt. My admiration for the hard work that goes into projects like this is considerable. My distaste for this screamingly boring storyline and the psycho Russians driving it is even more considerable. I'm praying this tedious Gauntlet/Kraven story ends soon. It ending swiftly is a ship that passed many many months ago.

Many former Spider-Man readers bailed on the character after Marvel inflicted the DUMBEST SPIDER-MAN STORY EVER on them. I can understand that. The story whose name should never be mentioned - it rhymes with "Veal With the Level" - is years in the past and it should stay there. Unfortunately, Marvel plans to revisit it soon in what can only be described as a desperate appeal to convince us that it wasn't as dumb as it is. If you keep picking at the scab, the wound will never heal.

That said, I do mostly enjoy reading Spider-Man these days. I make a mental adjustment that it isn't the same Spider-Man I was reading before the DUMBEST SPIDER-MAN STORY EVER and it works for me. Most of the issues rate a solid three out of five Tonys, one or two fall below that, some earn fours, and, once or twice, we've seen a five out of five Tonys in the run.

Tony Tony Tony

If you liked Spider-Man in the past, why not give the current version a chance? You might enjoy it.



Everett / Kevin O'Neill

Judging from the date my father wrote on this cartoon, this is from the December 19, 1986 issue of Comics Buyer's Guide. That's when CBG was a weekly newspaper.

British artist Kevin O'Neill had done remarkable work for that country's 2000 AD weekly, so it was not a surprise DC would recruit him on one of its management's frequent visits to England. What was surprising...the Comics Code censors decided O'Neill's art style violated the Code. They would refuse to approve any stories he drew. What was even more surprising...DC took this lying down. O'Neill did eventually do some fine work for DC, but the company's first response was as spineless as indicated in the above Everett True. Of course, now, when I look at the brutal excesses found in so many DCU titles, I sort of wish there was someone or something to rein in their editors/writers/artists.

By this time, I had stopped trying to fit my new Everett True cartoons into the character's historical format. My concerns were more with the jokes and the positions I was espousing than with the homage aspects of the feature.

The artist of this cartoon was Gary Dumm. I'm guessing that the "#163" represents how many Everett True strips I had written to this point. I have no idea how many strips I wrote before pulling the strip from CBG for a short run with The Comics Journal and Amazing Heroes, but I'm guessing it was a lot and that the final tally would astound me.

Watch for more Everett True all week long.

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

Tony Isabella

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Discuss this column with me at my Message Board. Also, read Heroes and Villains: Real and Imagined and view my Amazon Wish List.

Recent Columns:
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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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