Thursday, June 21, 2007

Review - Amazing Spider-Man 541

By J. Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney, and Bill Reinhold
Colors by Matt Milla, Letters by VC’s Cory Petit.
Published by Marvel Comics, $2.99

Marvel recently announced they’ll be canceling the two regular Spider-Man titles that aren’t AMAZING in favor of a three-times-a-month schedule for their flagship title, edited by Steve Wacker of DC’s 52, presumably with a staff of writers and artists working in concert, much like the way network TV is created these days. The change is coming after the “One More Day” storyline, which threatens to “change everything!”, which, itself, comes after “Back in Black,” in which we are smack dab in the middle. That makes the next few issues of AMAZING the end of a long, storied, Spidey-chapter, and since I've written before that I love Spider-Man the character and not-so-much SPIDER-MAN the comic, I thought I’d stop by AMAZING and see how the end of everything we know is shaping up.

AMAZING, and most mainstream superhero comics, are already taking several cues from TV. Most every issue starts out with a “Previously…” page to get you caught up in case you’re a new reader, or maybe just confused by all the competing Spider-appearances since the last issue of your preferred title. It’s interesting that in a given episode of, say, RESCUE ME, the previouslies take a good two minutes, getting us up to date on the goings-on of the expanded supporting cast, but with AMAZING, with 540 previous installments over the course of 40+ years, the previouslies consist of:

-Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, and is now Spider-Man

-Spider-Man revealed his identity to the general public

-Spider-Man and Iron Man got really mad at each other

-Aunt May got shot because the Kingpin wanted to kill Spider-Man

-Spider-Man got really mad at the Kingpin

On a TV show, the actor portraying Mary Jane might pull the executive producer aside and mention her disappointing at being a series regular, and a recognizable cog in the Spidey machine, and yet left with nothing to do these days but sit in a hospital room and offer Peter Parker an ignored shoulder to cry on. At least Aunt May, unconscious she may be, is a plot point. As it stands, Peter’s supporting cast a) doesn’t seem to exist in this issue, and b) for those who are around, don’t have much to do but watch this installment of AMAZING happen around them. Some might say, hey, if you want Mary Jane, go read SPIDER-MAN LOVES MARY JANE, about to be handed off to the capable Terry Moore -- but really, if this is the flagship Spidey title, and has been for the aforementioned 40+ years, why can’t I get it all for my three bucks? The internets points to Morrison and Quitely’s ALL-STAR SUPERMAN as superheroes done right, with every 22-page issue crammed full of ideas, drama, and modern mythology -- but really, we should be demanding the same of all of our periodical entertainment. Here’s hoping the upcoming sea change gives Spidey and his cast the depth they deserve.

Tell me more: Amazing Spider-Man, Marvel Comics.

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