Amazing Spider-Man #578

20th November 2008 | by | No Comments

It’s been a model of inconsistency, this Amazing Spider-Man run. The rotating creative teams may have helped keep a steady flow of story ideas going – necessarily for the by-now baffling decision to continue putting it out three times a month – but it’s meant that, for all the “Brain Trust”’s best efforts, the book is struggling to get a handle on a firm identity at a time when it arguably really needs it. On the bright side, it means that if you don’t like an issue or story – such as the Guggenheim propaganda-fest or Zeb Wells’ dull “Fat Punisher” tale – there’s another one along shortly afterwards. On the other hand, though, by far the best stretch the series has had so far was when Dan Slott and John Romita Jr were let loose to tell a proper six-issue story, which is pretty telling in itself (not least because those two should clearly be the full-time team).

Still, the arrival this week of Mark Waid, while it swells the number of writers apparently involved in the overall setup to ridiculous proportions, promises to bring a bit of class to proceedings – an inconsistent writer Waid may be, but he knows his stuff. And despite a distinctly unappealing cover (because, you know, going for a retro feel with the whole series is one thing; directly referencing one of the most iconic images in Spidey history is a bit much, though), he pretty much hits the ground running with what might be the best non-Slott issue so far.

It’s well-constructed, as Waid hangs the promise of a fortune cookie across the issue as a whole, and in the sequences in which Peter is either bemoaning or praising his luck, he feels properly “Peter”-ish. Indeed, characterisation is done well throughout, but you’d expect nothing less from someone with Waid’s experience – he doesn’t need time to bed in as regards understanding the character. The story itself is fairly simple, but it’s nice to see a bit more of a claustrophobic, “trapped” kind of affair, as it distinguishes the issue from its recent counterparts a bit. After all, in during the current “Spider-Tracer Killer” storyline, Spidey’s only had to deal with fleeting moments of accusation or distrust before being able to swing away – throwing him in an enclosed environment with a bunch of assorted New Yorkers allows for a closer examination of his current relationship with the public.

I’m impressed, too, by the work of Marcos Martin. I wasn’t hugely enthused by the first arc he did on the title, but he ups his game here. His character work is strong – it reminds me a bit of Bret Blevins at times – but of particular note is his storytelling, reminiscent of Romita Jr in its construction. There’s an especially neat moment where in just a couple of panels he effectively conveys the feel of an out-of-control subway train.

Capped off by an intriguing cliffhanger – I don’t know if this particular character has ever appeared before, but I definitely want to know more – it’s on the whole just a strong, solid Spidey issue, striking the right notes without doing anything too outlandish (or, admittedly, all that exciting). The main villain is a bit of a disappointment – especially with no hint of an update to that wretched costume – but aside from that, in the wake of a pretty poor bunch of issues following New Ways To Die, this is enough to get Amazing back on my reading list. At least until the next stop on the merry-go-round, anyway…