Saturday, February 26, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #655 – A Review

If you’re looking for the next installment of my Dan Jurgen’s Justice League America back issue retrospective, you’ll have to try another Saturday. Part 2 is in the queue ready to post, but Amazing Spider-Man #655 was just too good to not mention. Actually, there were several good books in my box (more so since I didn’t make it to the store the Wednesday before last). I totally loved the ASM 654.1 issue starring Venom (which I just added to my pull list). I don’t really feel it was false advertising -- lots of times we’ll have a supporting character be the main focus of a book for an issue. Plus, Flash’s observation of Peter screwing up “BIG TIME” by confiding in MJ when he has another girlfriend was just what I’ve been saying for awhile now. Seeing the symbiote take control of him during the mission was intense and really upped the danger level of the assignment. I also loved seeing him trying to stand up to comfort Betty – he’s already getting dependent on his new legs and will really miss them when his “tour” is over. And just a quick update on Spider-Girl: Issue 4 came out and all I can say is Clayton Henry will be back in issue 6!

Our favorite comic storeowner mentioned that he was surprised we got two silent funeral issues from Marvel this week – the other being FF #588. I agree with his assessment that both were well done. Nick Dragotta did an exceptional job on the art for FF, but I’d say Spidey was the better of the two (otherwise, I’d be writing a FF review). Also, if there is one thing I’ve come to notice about wintertime is that it’s the time for people to die. Something about the pre-spring days just lends itself to grief, whether from a sudden tragedy, the end of a long illness, or even old age. The majority of funerals that I’ve attended seem to occur during this time of the year. In fact, I was at one last weekend. For two services to be occurring the same week in the Marvel U is totally realistic from my point of view.

Since I rejoined the Spidey bandwagon after my long absence, I’ve been waiting for an issue drawn by Marcos Martin. His work is perfect for this character and it’s a shame he can’t illustrate each and every issue (not that I haven’t been enjoying the other artists) -- awesome, awesome stuff. However, I can’t forget Dan Slott’s wonderful pacing either. Just because it’s mostly a silent issue, doesn’t mean it’s just a bunch of pretty pictures. I bet Dan wrote more for this issue than he does for a normal one, if I remember some of my “Nuff Said” scripts. I would love to read his notes for this book.

Let’s start with the cover. Beautiful. The Big Time banner is gone (Yea!) and going white with black lettering was extremely effective. It’s a minimal image, but that just makes it more impressive – great design, especially with the blood-splattered web (The actual cover is much better than the image above).

Knowing someone who recently lost his wife made me especially sensitive to Jonah’s sadness. Of course he would forget to turn off her alarm setting. Seeing the bed so neatly made with her reading pillows and stack of books on the end table was heart wrenching. The silence puts you into the same numb-funk as the character. You don’t see Peter crying, but you can tell he’s on the verge with the puffy eyes. The one and a quarter page spreads of the cathedral and the gravesite are wonderful – you get the impact of the larger size without having to sacrifice too much storytelling time. I also appreciated how the scenes skipped around a little, capturing the most important moments. It was very easy to follow (sometimes you have to read into a silent panel) and emotional.

The dream sequence was also fantastic. I loved the slight change to the colors with the pinkish-red on Spidey’s costume (like you only had one red in your Crayola box and it wasn’t quite right). You get a good grasp of Peter’s afterlife beliefs with his outrage that the burglar would be going to same place as Uncle Ben. No One Is Good but One Peter. The exchange with Marla is particularly chilling – his subconscious isn’t letting him off the hook – he does seem to try harder when Aunt May is involved. The two page upside-down and sideways shot of all the dead characters from the Spidey Universe was spectacular, especially given the level of detail involved. It was nice to see Sally Avril from Busiek’s Untold Tales of Spider-Man series, the “Kid who read Spider-man”, Jean DeWolfe and of course the Spider-Mobile. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the memory for longtime fans. I didn’t even know Jackpot was dead.

I’m little confused by the culmination of the dream where he finally lets out his rage against the burglar only to have killed Uncle Ben instead for going too far. I understood the sequence well enough, but not the meaning. To me it seemed like Uncle Ben was cautioning Peter against going over the line, but the victims caught up in his battles are calling for lethal force. Regardless of what he should’ve heeded from the dream, he seems to be making the decision that he will do everything in his power from now on (For the record, I think he should've listened to Uncle Ben instead and this will result in terrible consequences for Peter -- yes worse than seeing his loved ones die). I love the irony of his “no one dies” vow, but he’s about to meet a villain that’s going to make that promise impossible to keep.

GRADE A+: Marcos Martin rules the Spidey art world and he and Dan Slott deliver a moving portrayal of Marla Jameson’s funeral, resulting in significant changes for Peter following an innovative and Easter-egg filled dream sequence. It’s good to love Spider-Man again!

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