Friday, 24 July 2009

Archaic Spider-Man Reviews: Number 60

Woo, ok everyone, it's the one you've been waiting for! Amazing Spider-Man #600!
*Max whispers in my ear*
Woo, ok everyone, it's the one you've probably not been waiting for! Astonishing Spider-Man #60!
Ahh, coincidences. Anyhoo, Back in Black continues this week, as Peter confronts the man who shot Aunt May, rounds up dozens more copycats and then... doesn't do much in the third slot, really.

Oh well, let's power through. Hit the jump!

First slot is the second part of Back in Black. Aunt May is in a coma, and there's nothing Peter can do. That is, there's nothing useful he can do, so he's carrying on under the pretence that he is going to actually kill someone. Peter may believe it, as may JMS, but I really don't - it's such a played out cliché of superhero writing. These days, righteous superheroes with strict moral codes seem to be having little 'lapses' every other issue just to give a bit of narrative tension. Will the hero cross the line and become a killer? Of course they won't; a bit of deus ex machina in the final issue of the arc, and they're back where they were, and stronger for the experience. Bleugh.

I'll admit that Peter is being pretty badass; kicking ass, taking names and even throwing a guy out of a high rise. Wait a minute...

Did... did Spidey just stop a guy from falling by webbing his foot? That is exactly what he did to Gwen! Don't give me that 'she was already dead from shock' spiel, there was a snap sound effect right by her neck. This guy should be dead from the Gwen Stacey effect (or whiplash, to be more technical). This is a flippin' pretty page though, as Max might put it, although the perspective seems wrong on the building to the right, like it's been shoe-horned in.

Regardless, Spidey manages to track down the Martino, the sniper to a train station. He zeroes in on the guy by... standing in the middle of the station and waiting for the ol' Spider-sense to flare up when he is spotted by the sniper. This is slightly ridiculous of course, but it's also very cool, and a good reminder of why I like JMS; he's very good at finding new angles on superheroes powers, just like this. Spidey beats several shades of it out of the sniper, but before he can kill him *snigger* another gunman opens fire and hits Martino, who is rushed to the same hospital as May before dying. This is pretty ironic, but it is weakened by Peter actually pointing out the symmetry, several times. JMS, good writing isn't quite as effective when you wave it in the reader's face and yell 'I AM CLEVER'.

The issue ends with Peter finding out that Wilson Fisk put the hit out on him, and is therefore culpable for Aunt May's injuries. Peter tells Fisk to die, but I really hope he takes a less passive approach than telling his enemy to die next issue, it's a bit lazy. Seriously though, how likely is it that Peter will not just kill, but kill a character as major as the Kingpin? I'd put the odds at about 1000:1, which is about the same as the odds anyone will leave a comment to this review. I'm not bitter though. Really.

Slot two this week is slot 3 last time: The second part of The Strange Case of... With the now revealed presence of Calvin Zabo (Aka Mister Hyde) the strange name is now not QUITE as strange; but as a student of literature I feel compelled to point out that the name of the book being referenced is Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: there is no 'The'.

If I'm done being annoying, let's review this thing and go home. Peter is rounding up the copycats, several of whom are experiencing more mutations, and all of whom were in circumstances somewhat like Peter's when he was first starting out. This is interesting enough, but things really start getting weird when the cops are dealing with these doppelgängers. The tired, droopy detective has liver spots, a bedraggled appearance and a constant supply of coffee from his (black) whipping boy, Silas. This is just bizarre; but the icing on the cake is what they're looking at.

HAH? What?

Is that guy hulking out? Why is the guy on the ceiling? The shiny guy on the right is wearing a leather jacket OVER his costume, and his hair is coming through the mask; or is that a wig? Why are they all in the same cell? It's not that this is badly drawn or even unexplained. It's just a truly bizarre tableaux. Even though they are masked I imagine each Spidey with a fixed deranged expression as they pose improbably like retarded children. I really hope it's not just me who find this a little bit freaky.

I might have nightmares over that. Anyway, the perps go on about liking being Spider-men because it gives them a chance at a new life; presumably they missed the bit about hideous mutations and death. While this is going on, Zabo watches his 'control subject' try and break out of a weird cell that is modelled like a teen's room. I'll have more to say on this later. Peter meets Reed Richards (why is Peter meeting Reed Richards?) and we discover that Zabo has been tagging his experiments. Back to Zabo, where all is revealed: he is confused as to why a teen granted the powers of Spider-Man would chose to do good. As such, he is running a bizarre experiment in which he takes teens, mutates them and sets them loose to see if they turn to crime or heroics. As someone with a basic understanding of the scientific method, I want to point out that Zabo is insane, but he's not stupid. Even if we buy his motivation of curiosity, his 'control subject' is useless as a control and therefore has no purpose, and this experiment is the most unscientific... Actually, forget it. Spider-Man climbs walls, swings off buildings and has a precognitive danger sense, so calling this science dumb would be hypocrisy, in view of all the messed up comic book science there is.

I guess I'm looking forward to the finale, if only because I'm getting itchy waiting for a proper super-fight, since this was a very action light AstonSpid in general.

Whew, final slot. This week we have a new arc starting, Sandblasted

Sandman is breaking into Riker's, and he seems to swallow a guard whole. Pretty badass really. While he's kicking ass, Spidey dicks about with a helicopter for four pages in what we reviewers call 'filler' Back to the awesome: Sandman is thwarted by... water guns? LAME! He manages to escape without the guy he came for, and drifts apart in the water...

Wow, that's actually damn good. I could make a snarky comment on the fact there's a random shower which has drains feeding right to the sea (pretty good entry point for, say, Hydro-Man) but instead I'll just say that this art is pretty.

Peter has been posing as Ben Ulrich, working as Flash Thompson's deputy and using a holographic doohicky to change his appearance. It's a good thing the art isn't bad, because this is a silly concept. Ben Ulrich is still around, working at Frontline, so posing as him wouldn't work; and why would Peter choose to work under Flash, as assistant coach? He always hated sports. Obviously this disguise is bad, because Flash works out it's Peter and offers him a place to crash. When Peter has gone, however, Flash makes a mysterious phone call. Is the guy who used to make Peter's life hell going to make Peter's life hell? How... unexpected.

Instead of sleeping, Peter does the usual moping over a photo of Uncle Ben, but he's confronted by Sandman, who asks Spidey for help springing his dad out of Riker's – but this is the weird bit. Sandman sees the picture of Ben and declares that this man is the person his father is accused of killing about a month ago. Wait, what? Ben died years ago... Wait a minute, is this a callback to Jumping the Tracks? That was a time travelling mind-fuck which ended with an alternate universe version of Ben running around, but that ran ages ago... What the deuce is going on here?

I guess I'll have to wait till next issue to find out/take the piss.

Well, that was AstonSpid numbah 60. Next Issue, Spidey goes after the Kingpin for ordering the attack on his family, faces down Mister Hyde and, hopefully, works out how the heck Uncle Ben was around to get shot. Till then, g'night.


  1. Does this mean the kingpin is gonna die then?

  2. (and nice article)

  3. You'd think so, wouldn't you. I seriously doubt it though.