Saturday, January 05, 2013

From the Archives: Amazing Spider-Man #600 -- A Review

This was originally posted on the Cosmic Comix website back in the summer of 2009.

I found my old review of ASM #600, which I referenced in this morning's post.  Enjoy!

My first car was a black, two-door ’77 Chevy Nova.  I got it during my senior year of high school in the autumn of 1987.  In Virginia, you only had to pay for personalized plates once (instead of yearly like here in Maryland), so I was all set to make my beautiful six-cylinder vehicle into my own “Batmobile” or BATMOBL or something similar.  Unfortunately, that plate had already been taken.  Undaunted, I chose another comic-themed name for my car – SPIDEY.  Spider-man was wearing his black costume at the time after all and I even hung my Mattel Secret Wars black Spider-Man action figure from the rear-view mirror.  Man did I LOVE that car!  And I also really loved Spider-man – if you asked me then I’d quickly tell you he was my favorite super-hero – no question.  In fact, when I went off to Virginia Tech the following year, I quickly gained the dorm-nickname of “Spider-Matt”.  Everyone knew what a huge fan I was.

Jamestown, VA side of the James River Ferry circa 1990 (photo taken by Alan Wright)
Now my love of Spider-man can be described in a lot of ways, but I’ll just mention a few for context.  One, I just loved reading the comic as a kid.  I’m pretty sure my first issue was #172 with the debut of the Rocket Racer.  The Spider-Man live-action TV show was a favorite of mine in 2nd Grade too.  I still have my old Power Records from the school book fairs around that time. I had the 8” Spider-man MEGO action figure, including the Spider-car with the web-trap in the back.  I even had the Pocket Heroes Green Goblin Mangler, which turned Spidey into a flat piece of cardboard.   Secondly, I really identified with Peter Parker.   We both grew up without our fathers.  Both of us were shy, yet studious, and we were both picked on at school.  The similarity continued as I too got to marry my best friend and my first child (a daughter) was born just a month after May Parker – the Spectacular Spider-Girl, was born in the fall of 1996.  I even considered myself a photographer too.  I don’t know if my likes just happened to coincide with Peter’s or if Peter helped influence my likes, but essentially it was like I was Peter Parker.  I wish I could climb walls though.

It’s no secret that I fell off of the Spider-man bandwagon WAY before the One More Day fiasco.  The whole Gwen Stacy/Norman Osborn affair made me quit cold turkey.  I believe issue #511 was the last one I purchased.  One of the things that I really hated about where that story was going was that MJ supposedly KNEW about this mess all this time.  It was too much.  Luckily, I had Spider-Girl to replace Spider-Man as my favorite super-hero.  I even consider the MC2 universe to be the “real” timeline of Spider-man.  Consequently, I’ve missed The Other, the unmasking, Iron Spider, One More Day, Brand New Day, and host of other stories.  I did buy an issue of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man (#23?) where Pete and JJJ have it out over his revealed identity, and I’ve read a few issues from the local library, but essentially I’ve been out of the loop for a long, long time.

Which brings me to today [Andy, please don’t edit out the preamble above.] and Amazing Spider-man #600.  I bought it.  Even Rusty had to comment on the purchase, “Matthew’s buying Spider-man?”  “What?  Are you trying to discourage me from getting it?” I asked.  Then I added, “For nostalgia”.  I had even deliberated for a while on which cover to get:  Alex Ross or John Romita Jr.  I ended up choosing the JRJR one – I really liked how the dark blue of his costume disappeared into the blacks of the cityscape.  I carefully selected the best copy on the rack.  So, I was off early from work to start my vacation, my family was out for the afternoon, and after a nice nap, I had the opportunity to essentially read the entire main story in one sitting.  It was AWESOME!

I was hooked on page one, where we learn that Doc Ock is suffering from some degenerative condition due to brain trauma, caused by Spider-Man’s punches (as well as from some other events).  Ock’s not super-human, so it makes perfect sense that he could be affected in this way.  I love it when a writer can come up with a new concept or story twist that immediately works, simply because it’s so obvious – I wonder why it hasn’t ever been used before?  Dan Slott does a terrific job on this story, his characterization of Spider-Man is spot-on.  I laughed out loud several times over his quips.  Doc Ock undergoes a really cool and drastic transformation, which makes him even more like an octopus than ever before.  His master plan and how it goes awry is very consistent with his character’s history of mental illness. JRJR’s art is outstanding as usual.

One of the things that sold me on getting the issue was the tag line beneath the story’s title: “A Full Length Spidey Novel”.  That wasn’t just hype either, as this story is massive, clocking in at 62 pages plus a front-back cover.  There is a lot of action, but there are also some great moments with Peter’s supporting cast.  The crux of the story centers on Aunt May’s wedding to JJJ’s father and Ock’s master plan and how the two intertwine.  There are guest stars galore, including Daredevil, the New Avengers, and the Fantastic Four.  A lot of Peter’s supporting cast was new to me, but I could easily understand the dynamics.  I think it really helped that Norman Osborn and Harry do NOT appear in the main story at all. It was like that Dark Reign aspect of the Marvel Universe was put on hold for this story.  This was a wise move, as it will help make this story achieve “Classic” status more quickly.  I’d love to go into some of the details, but I’ve got to sleep sometime!

Not only did we get this incredible main story, but also there are six other good short tales in the book.  In fact there is not a single reprint.  They don’t even waste pages showing you Tom thumbnail sized versions of all 600 issues.  Contrast this with the Incredible Hulk #600, which had the issue covers, a reprint from Hulk: Gray, and a seemingly unrelated solo story of the all-new She-Hulk.  With $4 comics becoming the norm, this $5 masterpiece of 104 pages is quite a bargain. I really liked the back-up features, especially the Stan Lee/Marcos Martin “Identity Crisis” story, where Spidey sees a Stan Lee-type shrink to try to sort though all the myriad retcons and wacky storylines he’s had to suffer through in the past.  The Mark Waid/Colleen Doran’s tale “My Brother’s Son” was very heart-felt.  I also liked the “If I was Spider-man…” story where Peter overhears some kids on the playground discuss how “Spider-man is cool, but being Spider-man isn’t cool”.  The “Fight at the Museum” tale, by Zeb Wells was very funny with the “Comic Guy” from the Simpsons giving the history of the Spider-Mobile. I even enjoyed the text piece at the end of the book.  I tell you if this isn’t your Best of the Week, then you didn’t read it.

So, does this mark the return of my life as the Amazing Spider-Fan?  Will I start buying ASM on a regular basis again?  Maybe, maybe not – but I am considering it.  Regardless, this issue was a great way for me to reconnect with one of my heroes.  Be sure to check it out.

Matthew G. Mann, Sr.
2009 July 22

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