Remember the back-ups in the first Brand New Day issue that mostly just teased future stories? Imagine an entire double-sized comic with nothing but longer versions of that. Does Amazing Spider-Man: Extra! deliver enough substance in its 39 pages of story to justify July’s fourth ASM issue. Read the full entry and find out! Oh, and leave a comment. This was a particularly expensive month to review Amazing Spider-Man and I only get paid in feedback.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: EXTRA!
“Death of a Wise Guy”
WRITER: Joe Kelly
PENCILS: Chris Bachalo
INKS: Time Townsend
COLORS: Antonio Fabela & Chris Bachalo
In the first of three stories contained within this volume, Mr. Negative’s goons snatch Hammerhead off his hospital bed while he teeters toward adamantium bullet-flavored death. Doctor Tramma, a sadistic female super-physician, struggles to repair Hammerhead while the patient re-experiences his life’s memories.
Hammerhead grew up in Italy as the son of an abusive Russian immigrant (who hit the boy’s head with a hammer). Ashamed of his roots, he pretended to be Italian and, after killing a highschool rival (with a hammer), was recruited by the Manfredi crime family. With a string of successful crimes under his belt, including the murder of his father, the Manfredis send him to America to move up in the organization. Once there, Hammerhead developed delusions of grandeur and started calling his own mob meetings without the boss’ permission. The consequence: being beaten with a metal bar and left to die on the streets of Brooklyn, where Doctor Jonas Harrow found him and decided to save his life with metal skull implants.
In the present, Mr. Negative offers to save Hammerhead’s life if he stops pretending to be what he isn’t and accepts his role as a blunt instrument. Hammerhead initially resists, but with shame as his weapon Mr. Negative sways Hammerhead to accept the job and the enhanced metal skeleton that comes with it.
Quite frankly, this is the only story in Amazing Spider-Man: Extra! that’s worth a damn. New writer Joe Kelly didn’t just tell Hammerhead’s overdue back-story; he uncovered the core truth in what we already knew about him and applied it to every aspect of the character’s life.
Hammerhead is a habitual pretender, but it goes deeper than him pretending to be Italian or pretending to be a Twenties mobster. He derives all of his lies and delusions from the theme of him wanting to be a constructive, repairing force in the world, when in reality he ruins everything he touches. He spills soda on his father’s car, but claims he can fix it. He breaks a girl’s model church in school, and lies that he can mend it because his father was a famous sculptor. He pretends to be a crime lord, an organizer, though he’s truly a hit man, a destroyer. In the end, he opts to receive his upgrades without anesthetic so that he can finally feel something inside of himself get fixed. Disturbing, yes, but a poignant piece of character analysis. Chris Bachalo’s hyper-abstract art style is perfect for this type of psychological odyssey.
But would some writer please think of a reason for a person to turn to crime other than not getting hugged enough as a child? I swear, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a villain origin that didn’t draw from the “daddy hit me, wah wah” well. Kelly could have convincingly portrayed Hammerhead’s dark turn as a result of his environment and his inherent personality traits, so why the cliché?
The purist in me thinks Hammerhead’s new skeleton looks a little too high-tech. His appeal is in being a pulpy throwback gangster, so some of it might be lost if he becomes some sort of a cyborg. Still, I’m mildly interested in where Hammerhead’s arc is going, which is more than I can say for any other plot line in Spider-Man.
WRITER: Zeb Wells
PENCILS: Patrick Olliffe
INKS: Serge Lapointe
COLORS: Rain Beredo
Peter arrives late to Harry Osborne’s birthday party with his Spider-Man mask stuck to his head the Trapster’s glue. Pete hides it by tying the mask around his head like a do-rag, inviting ridicule from Harry’s socialite friends. Worse, Peter picks a fight with the son of one of Harry’s investors, who made fun of Harry for being the son of a psychopath.
Harry kicks Peter out, but soon runs after him to let him know what a good friend he is. They ditch the party to go get pizza and all is well.
This brief sitcom provides one laugh, but is otherwise disposable.
“The Spartacus Gambit”
WRITER: Marc Guggenheim
ART: Marcos Martin
COLORS: Javier Rodriguez
This story takes place “several weeks from now,” when, for reasons unclear, Spider-Man stands trial with his arm in a sling and Matt Murdock as his counsel. Matthew Dowd, the lawyer representing the construction worker with a lawsuit against Spider-Man, interrupts the proceedings, filing a motion to unmask the webhead because his secret identity has stymied their litigation. Only federal agents are allowed to unmask unregistered heroes without probable cause, which Murdock demonstrates there isn’t by rounding up a bunch of heroes dressed like Spider-Man to prove that a number of individuals could have injured the worker. The judge dismisses the civil lawyer’s motion but orders Spider-Man held without bail until the criminal trial.
Why would Spider-Man suddenly allow himself to be tried in court after years of evading the law? I’m sure there’ll be an answer eventually, but I can’t enjoy a story without context. The last page’s caption promises revelations in issue #582, for which I suspect this vignette’s only purpose is to advertise. The only significant event here is the civil suit’s dismissal, which is either an extremely unsatisfying resolution to a long-running subplot or, if this is still headed somewhere, an unexciting road bump.
On the bright side, Guggenheim writes pretty clever dialog, and a lot of it. This “talking heads” story gives Marcos Martin little opportunity to flex his considerable storytelling muscles. That leaves us with a bland-looking, fairly well written but probably inconsequential peak at January’s story.
2.5 webheads out of five. I’m rating this the only way it’s available: as a package. With a few more pages, the Hammerhead story might have made a decent regular issue, but it isn’t enough to carry a 48 page special. None of this warrants an extra issue when there are already three each month.
REVIEWED BY: CrazyChris