The Amazing Spider-Man #58 (499)
writer: J. Michael Straczynski
artists: John Romita, Jr. and Scott Hanna
Every now and then, a Marvel superhero book
just has to have a big knock-out dragdown fight almost for
the sake of itself. No foe could be more aptly named for such
a task than The Mindless Ones, slaves of the dread Dormammu.
And so, in the midst of an arc entitled "Happy
Birthday," we move away from the stories of Peter Parker's
exploration of his powers and himself. Instead, we get how
other heroes see him, as he fights alongside a who's who of
the big guns of the Marvel Universe. (And, almost inexplicably,
Clearly, the other heroes find him to be
goodhearted and loyal, someone they can trust. But it's also
clear that his wisecracks get on their nerves. No one more
so, unfortunately, than Dr. Strange, who finds himself victim
to both that loyalty and that humor.
Straczynski has given Peter an idealism that
borders on the naļve. In order for it to work, we have to
forget all the times the character has ventured into the realm
of the supernatural (outside of this run). With a storyteller
this sure, it's easy to do. It also helps to pretend that
no issue of Marvel Team-Up ever happened.
The issue also provides opportunities for
Romita to remind us of all the projects we've loved him doing.
(That's the best explanation I have for Cyclops' presence
- oh, yeah, some of Romita's work on X-Men was really
cool.) The artist skimps a bit on background detail, but he
has a huge cast to worry about, and handles them all very
well. The bobble-head effect seems to have gone away.
Once again, it's an enjoyable stop on a long
ride, setting up for a milestone issue next month.
writer: Judd Winick
artists: Jim Calafiore and Mark McKenna
It's clever of Winick to call this short
run "A Second Farewell." Not only does it aptly describe what's
going on for many of the characters, but it sets up his own
leaving them, some of his most vivid creations.
This issue turns the spotlight on Sunfire
and Nocturne, revisiting the world of the Vi-Locks. Doing
this seems to mix up the rules of the book, but it's refreshing
to see the aftermath of an Exiles intervention for a couple
First, it shows that they really do have
hope. The team's interference makes a difference in the realities
they visit. Certainly, they work in hopes of getting back
to their own homes, but seeing the results of their work should
lend them a little more sense of the nobility of their cause.
Too often the Exiles seem (understandably) bitter about what
they have to do. Winick also lays hints that the return to
their realities may not be as pleasant as they've let on.
This return also allows for better exploration
of character. Sunfire, long revealed to be a lesbian, had
the beginnings of a romance with this reality's Spider-Girl/Woman,
and if there were any clues to that in the midst of the earlier
living dead pastiche, they sure slipped by quickly.
So other than a couple of obligatory encounters
with rogue technozombies (and that's not a euphemism), this
issue has little action. But it does have romance, heart,
and tragedy. In a way, this and the previous issue have involved
completing two characters' tasks, as their own emotional damage
may now be able to heal.
Calafiore isn't the strongest artist for
portraying quieter moments, but he does a decent job here.
When he can just deal with alternate hero designs and action,
the book looks really good. But there's not a lot of subtlety
of emotion in scenes that could have used it.