Saturday, 27 June 2009

Archaic Spider-Man Reviews: Number 58

Salutations to Ganesha, and what better number to start on than 58? Nice, strong number.

In fact, the number refers to a comic we get fortnightly over here in Blighty, Astonishing Spider-Man. I'm an ardent fan of the webbed wonder, so this is the perfect comic for me; three slots fortnightly which hold classic stories a young 'un like myself has never read. The comic also keeps in line chronologically with the other Panini UK collector's editions, and carries a main storyline that is a few years behind the US. At the point of writing, Civil War is only just wrapping up over here; but I am always broadly spoiled as to what Spidey has coming in Astonishing Spider-man, or 'Astonspid', the shortened name that is creepily reminiscent of 1984's Newspeak. A cursory glance at the collection of Max (creator of this proud site) indicates that Astonspid is rare in it's lack of adverts; this week's issue has as usual, 3 unbroken stories with a single ad between each. Very refreshing.

Well, so much for the comic. I shall be reviewing my subscription copy every fortnight here on Flip the Page, in the hope that it will be interesting to a largely American fan audience to see an almost clueless limey rant and gush about last years Spider-man stories. On to the issue, Astonspid No. 58! Ooh, exciting.

This seems like a good time to Read more! So do it.

The first two slots are taken up this week by Amazing Spider-Man 537 and 538, the conclusion of the War at Home Civil war arc. It's been a hectic conflict for Peter; he's had to deal with the ramifications of, y'know, telling everyone in the world who he was. A whole bunch of baddies sprung up to get revenge, including at least 3 Mysterios in a cluster-fuck of What?-ness. Pete's revelation led to one of the most embarrassing moments in years, as the Chameleon, one of my favorite villains, was taken down single handed by... Aunt May.

But enough of the past; now Spidey is on the run with his family after freaking over Tony and Reed's Negative zone prison. There's been some fairly good drama in this arc so far, but I've been hoping the end will be a bit more... astonishing? I'm a big fan of J. Michael Straczynski, and you can tell he's doing the best he can, but the constraint's of the crossover, as ever, curtails the drama of the individual comics. Rather than actually fighting anyone, Spidey has to go over and listen to Steve Rogers explain why he is rebelling against Iron Man. For, like, 4 pages. I thought this is what the main Civil War and Captain America arc was for! By this point in the war, surely every reader knows roughly where Steve is coming from? This kinda restriction is what frustrates me about these big events; the main comics are usually good on their own, but the other titles have to restrict their stories to accommodate the main one. This theme continues when it comes to the report of the final battle in Time Square. We are treated to a few pages of random fighting, with the usual 'meaningful' commentary by Peter Parker. Don't get me wrong; when this is done well it is very effective, but here it just feels like comic's-by-numbers, with no proper emotional power. Then SOMETHING HAPPENS! Of course, we aren't told what happened. You have to buy the main Civil War comic for that, silly reader. This is a bit like reading a competently made fan-fiction with every other page missing. Ugh.

In the sub plot, or as I call it the ACTUAL STORY, Wilson Fisk wants Spider-Man and his family dead. I'm not quite sure of the reason, but heck, he doesn't need a reason. He's a big fat incarcerated Kingpin of crime! Anyway, his big strategy is to hire a sniper. Actually, I like the way Marvel got sniper-happy around this time, it always seems simpler for the super villians to just shoot the costume they want dead rather than hiring some obscure thug like the Ox to get their ass handed to them. The sniper's big tactic is to sleep near the motel where the Parkers are hiding and wait for Peter to turn up. This sort of makes sense, because a sleeping enemy probably wouldn't activate that spider-sense that so often saves our hero's skin.That is, until said sleeping enemy, y'know, wakes up.... Ok, it makes no sense as a tactic, but I'm willing to pin the blame on Quesada restricting Straczynski's freedom, because the alternative would be JMS messing up, and as anyone knows that is impossible. Yep, I'm a biased reviewer, but show me one who isn't and... I guess we would have a job for them. Shush.

So the sniper shoots randomly into the house, and Peter's reactions mean he has time to tackle MJ out of harm's way. But tragically, the bullet hits May in the gut. Oh well, nothing Peter could do, I mean, he's not a precognitive, incredibly agile superhuman with rapidly firing tensile webbing. Ok, I take back some of what I said about snipers being a more sensible choice, because Spidey has dealt with gunmen so many times, it's hard to believe he wouldn't be quick enough to get May down too somehow. It feels like a reverse deus ex machina, as the bullet arbitrarily succeeds in hitting someone. I guess they had to make it believable that May is really in danger; she's had more heart attacks than I've had hot dinners.

Well, I guess this ending has got me waiting for the upcoming Back in Black with excitement, but only really because I'm sick of the overblown speeches and comprehensively anti-climactic action which Civil War, to me, represented. Also, I like AC/DC. Seriously, shush.

-Note. I don't think that there would have been a problem in the first place if they had simply made registration optional, with big incentives to sign up. Pretty much every vigilante who wasn't a Punisher figure would probably sign on the line. Heck, that's just my opinion.

The final Astonspid slot is taken up by Amazing Spider-Man 283, slap bang in the middle of the massive Tom DeFalco Hobgoblin arc. At this point, Hobby has already framed poor old Flash Thompson. I like the fact that the New York police department are presented as so inept that they will be utterly convinced of a man's guilt with an abject lack of motive or history! While this has been happening, Peter has sworn, not for the first or last time, to hang up his web shooters forever... just as soon as he deals with the Hobgoblin. Despite his constant self assurances that he will focus on taking down Hobby, Spider-Man ends up fighting the Absorbing Man and Titania. You remember Titania, one of the women given powers by Dr Doom during the Secret Wars? Ah well. The confrontation ends with Absorbing Man almost crushing Spidey with a bigass plane, a pretty cool moment that is ruined somewhat by the artwork. Apparently, when you absorb the qualities of a plane your ears swell to massive sizes and your eye's vanish completely. The perspective is all over the place too; one moment the characters are right next to each other, the next they are far apart in vastly different poses, despite the fact that nothing has happened. The penciler is Ron Frenz, which surprised me due to his usual competence, at least where the creation of characters is concerned. It's a pretty fun issue overall; run of the mill one shot filler, but unashamedly so.

By the power of Greyskull, I've run out of comic! Next issue: Back in Black begins, with Peter out for revenge, and on top of that, Spidey has to deal with a spate of copycats. Till then, g'night.


  1. Incentive - Insurance policy. A lot of heroes get bumps and scratches, or freeze-rays and what not, why can't they get treatment privately? And freely?

  2. It would probably be hard to get a private insurance company to insure you if you kept getting beaten half to death by Doc Ock