The Amazing Spider-Man
writer: J. Michael Straczynski
artists: John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna
The Spectacular Spider-Man #3
writer: Peter Jenkins
artists: Humberto Ramos and Wayne Faucher
For those of you who read last week's Formerly
Known as the Justice League #2 (which was pretty good,
by the way), here's the flipside. Of course we know what happens
to the big guns that Peter puts away, but we rarely see the
small fry, the petty criminals, and those who may have just
been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Many get caught in Spider-Man's web, but
he's never taken the time to set anyone free. Until now. The
most unexpected element of this storyline, indeed, many of
JMS's arcs in this book, is how it keeps tying back into the
first one of his run. Weaving in and out of Peter's life,
the mysterious Ezekiel pops up to drop another maddening hint
as to just what has been going on for the last two years,
and we're no closer to figuring it out.
But we're seeing pieces, and they look like
they do fit into a grand scheme. As JMS did with his classic
Babylon 5 television series, it's obvious that there's
Contrast that to The Spectacular Spider-Man,
which labors in the shadow of the main book. Clearly, writer
Peter Jenkins has been left darker corners of continuity.
Not only can he not apparently make any real changes in Peter,
the character he writes seems almost an alternate universe
version. The book even has a completely different supporting
cast (only Aunt May seems to be allowed to cross over) - to
the point that Spider-Man has to prove himself to another
uneasy ally on the police force.
It would be so much simpler if it was Detective
Lamont, but instead it's just a wannabe with a gruff attitude
and a real desire to see justice done. Straczynski's cop has
a unique personality; Neil Garrett is just another one of
Humberto Ramos' stock old coot characters.
Venom fans exist, and will scoop this book
up. They're welcome to it. Jenkins has added a twist to the
villain that may legitimately at least move the symbiote's
To be fair, Jenkins has an unenviable task
of just marking time. He's doing a fair enough job for it,
but unless he can do something serious with Peter's character,
there's just no point.
writer: Rick Veitch
artists: Yvel Guichet and Mark Propst
What started out as a promising turn on the
Aquaman mythos (such as it is) has turned simply repetitive.
A new mystic river gets discovered, The Thirst and Aquaman
race to get there first, and Aquaman loses.
The twist is that each time Aquaman loses
a river, he loses a finger. There's something vaguely mob
movie to that, but really, it just makes him look like fantasy
novel hero Thomas Covenant. Considering the sea king's usual
recent bitter mode, that's only fitting.
But of course, he's not bitter anymore. The
interesting thing that Veitch has been trying to bring to
the table is a man putting his demons to rest. In order to
fulfill his quest, Aquaman can't just learn to who mercy;
it has to become second nature to him. (Anybody guessing now
that the way to defeat The Thirst is to give in to him? Naaah.)
To play with that idea, Veitch has reintroduced
Black Manta, possibly the deadliest, most hated, and yes,
stupidest of all of Aquaman's foes. At least Veitch gave it
an interesting twist by making Manta autistic, which somehow
explains all his past villainy. Or it would, anyway, if Veitch
didn't constantly have the now-healed Manta constantly explaining
For some reason, this has felt stretched
out longer than it needed to be. Was Veitch contracted for
a full year and only intended to complete the one change in
Aquaman's personality? In order to kill time, he also throws
in pointless cameos from the rest of the JLA - seriously,
we've had J'onn J'onnz, Superman and Wonder Woman all just
stop by to say hello.
Maybe it's all just some grand scheme for
Aquaman's friends to be keeping tabs on him for some darker
reason we haven't guessed. Again, naaah.
Veitch's more serious intent has been undone
by the choice of Guichet as penciler. He's not a terrible
artist by any means, but he is limited. Every character always
looks pained somehow, but not in a sensitive way. It's more
like constipation. When reading fight scenes, we've learned
to accept that. But Aquaman trying to learn to be sensitive?
It looks as if he might have Aquarrhoids.
The new direction was a good idea; it's just
way past time to be heading into it.
Year One #9
writers: Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon
artists: Marcos Martin and Alvaro Lopez
It's been a quiet mini-series, with not a
lot of hype to it. But now that it's over, it stands as one
of the best books DC has done over the past few months.
You can see the very beginnings of the relationship
between Barbara and Dick, though it's completely under the
masks. For the first time in the past few years, it actually
makes sense that Cassandra considers her mentor to be the
better Batgirl. Maybe "better" is the wrong word; certainly,
Barbara is the braver, the tougher, and quite honestly, the
Beatty and Dixon haven't just straightened
out Barbara's character, though. Over these nine issues we
see a Batman grappling with the issue of having a family -
one that echoes in the regular books, especially Loeb and
Lee's Batman. Need a good contrast between Dick Grayson
and Tim Drake in the role of Robin? Tim may actually be better,
but Dick certainly had more fun.
At least in comics, a hero is really only
as good as her villains. By setting up and developing Killer
Moth and Firefly, Beatty and Dixon have finally given Batgirl
legitimate foes. Okay, Killer Moth is still pretty lame, but
even he knows it. Firefly, who has tended to be a third-tier
villain at best before, now has a personality beyond being
a pyromaniac, one that makes him a logical counter to any
and all female heroes in the DCU.
Bringing a slight hint of the animated series
without betraying a more European style, Marcos Martin and
Alvaro Lopez are a real artistic find. They've kept this book
moving, light and airy where it needed to be, but still able
to depict real darkness. It's a friendly style that may make
this a perfect book to give to young girl readers.
That book, by the way, looks to be scheduled
for November. So, if you haven't bought this mini-series (and
you've missed out), be ready in three months. And if you have
been reading, give that trade as a Christmas gift to any young
readers you know.