You might have noticed that this week, a Spider-Man comic came out featuring none other than President-Elect Barack Obama. What this means, in real terms, is that actual Spider-Man fans like you and me have a hell of a time actually finding the comic in question, as thousands of people who haven’t bought a comic since they were 9 years old rush out and grab a copy.
Of course, they might be disappointed to discover that the story in question is a rather hastily thrown-together 5 pager where Spider-Man very quickly defeats the Chameleon with his spider-ability to… have a conversation. Obama himself will probably get a kick out of it, but readers themselves aren’t going to be particularly entertained.
Luckily, there’s a lead feature by Mark Waid, whose recent 2-parter was one of the best stories in what’s been a rather good year of Spider-Man stories. This one-off “romance” issue isn’t perfect, but it is still on the right side of the quality boundary, as Betty Brant takes the spotlight trying to fix up Peter with a new girlfriend.
The best thing about this issue is that it uses one of Spider-Man’s biggest strengths – his supporting cast – to show what people must think about Peter. Spidey himself gets a few fleeting appearances, but the focus is on the characters and their relationships. It works well from that perspective, addressing the matter of Brant staying at the Bugle while the rest of the Spidey cast jumped ship, and it even manages to advance a sub-plot about J. Jonah Jameson Snr. in a development aimed at regular readers. Most of all, though, this issue it makes me pine for the days when most comics were structured this way, rather than in plodding, 6-issue paced-for-trade chunks. Imagine that. 12 stories a year, rather than 2. Sigh.
But still, enough misty-eyed complaining. Waid and Kitson are two creators who work in perfect fusion with one another, and even though the story has a slight air of smugness about it, it’s not enough to completely spoil things. Whether or not you want this story to be one that thousands of Obama-hungry non-comics fans end up buying is, of course, another matter – but in truth, they could do far, far worse.