If Marvel are looking to ditch the thrice-monthly, rotating-writers setup of Amazing Spider-Man any time soon, then it should be pretty clear to them that Dan Slott has given by far the most convincing audition to get the job full-time. While other writers have impressed in flashes – or, in some cases, not at all – Slott has proven pretty consistently that he has an absolute handle on the tone, style and wit of a good Spidey book, as well as a knack for getting the character. And while the first part of this two-part story featuring the Fantastic Four felt a little by-the-numbers, the second part manages to make itself one of the most important issues of the “Brand New Day” (are we still calling it that?) continuity so far.
In tackling the whole mindwipe fiasco properly for the first time, Slott sets himself up for something of a fall, but at least manages to come up with some form of logic for the whole thing – even if it still leaves as many questions as answers, particularly concerning how Peter knows how it all works in the first place. Nevertheless, it’s about time the issue came up, and considering Spidey’s own history, it makes sense that the Fantastic Four should be involved somehow. We don’t necessarily want him unmasking to all and sundry a la Ultimate, of course, but dealing with the story elements that could be hampered by the mindwipe one by one (see also recent issues of New Avengers) feels like a step in the right direction, and the eventual resolution is a pleasantly-played scene.
What really makes this issue stand out, however, is its – quite literal – advancement of the continuity in other areas. I’m sure there will be those who will quibble over the fact that the “Brain Trust” have seemingly come up with new positions they’d like to place various characters in and decided to simply fast-forward rather than build up to them organically – but to be honest, with the franchise having felt a little stale in recent months, and overly rooted in the aftermath of the Spider-Tracer-Killer/Menace storylines, it’s a nice way of freshening things up; and what can’t be denied is the cleverness of the way Slott rattles through the changing events of the “real world” in parallel with Spidey and the FF’s adventures in the Macroverse. He even finds time for some decent character progression (and introduction, even), and gets some decent humour (including one laugh-out-loud moment) out of J. Jonah Jameson. I can’t say it’s a storytelling device I’d like to see used all the time, but here, it’s entertaining enough to be effective in achieving its goal – although again, I can’t help but quibble with a bit of the issue’s internal logic (if time moves faster in the regular world than in the Macroverse, then why has “a lifetime” passed there since they visited two years ago? I’ve a sneaking feeling Slott completely misused the word “exponential” in his attempt to explain the contradiction).
Rarely for a present-day comic, it feels like there’s a heck of a lot of story in the pages of this – and in these financial times, it’s always nice to have a sense of value for money. It’s true that the Macroverse stuff isn’t the most compelling adventure the character’s ever had, but nevertheless, there’s essentially two issues’ worth of content in here, and that’s no bad thing – helped by the style of Barry Kitson, who’s not exactly George Perez or anything, but still has a relatively “old school” feel that allows for a decent amount of imagery, panels and dialogue to be packed onto a single page.
And it all leads up to a twist that, while guessable from advance publicity, is nevertheless an intriguing new situation for the Spider-verse (well… Spider-city, I guess) to find itself in. While the realism around it happening at this point in time is possibly dubious, it’s such an obvious idea that I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before – and it’s rich in story potential. So long as Slott is telling as many of those stories as possible, the Spidey books feel like a genuinely interesting place to spend some time.