THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #578 http://heavyink.com/images/covers/SEP08/MSEP082317.JPG

“Unscheduled Stop Pt. 1”
WRITER: Mark Waid
ARTIST: Marcos Martin
COLORS: Javier Rodriguez
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna

Mark and Marcos! Can there be a greater team? Spidey and Shocker! Can there be a greater pair-up? And what about J. Jonah Jame-

I’d better not spoil the curve ball conclusion! Join me as I review this spectacular issue of our favorite hero, and as I make an “unscheduled stop” to discuss why Peter Parker is so unique, and why millions of people love him and consider him the iconic comic book hero.

PLOT:
When it rains, it pours. That much is true for Peter Parker. But for New York and its people, today is the most dreary, rainy day the citizens have seen in a long time. But, after cracking open a fortune cookie and reading his fortune, it is professed that Peter will have luck on his side. Just then, out of nowhere, a subway fare pass blows through the wind into Peter’s rain soaked hand that so desperately needs carfare.

And, yes, things get better. Peter is crammed into a congested cart on the rails with a beautiful model, who happens to barely have much clothes under her trench coat, as she squishes herself against Peter. See, I told you. Suddenly Peter’s Spider-sense goes berserk, and the train crashes, trapping the citizens underground. Spidey learns that this incident is none other than a gang attack set in motion in an attempt to spark a mistrial and prevent a jury from reaching the court. Behind the targeted attacks is the crude Karnelli, an infamous underworld mogul.
Spidey realizes his old nemesis, Shocker, is behind the quake that buried them underground, and manages to stop the vibrating-villian…for now. However, one of the passengers reveals his identity to Spider-man, exposing his relationship to a particular pain in Spidey’s arachno-butt.

LIKES: The story was very well written as well as the art being phenomenal. I loved Peter Parker’s characterization, reminiscent of the Lee and Ditko/Romita era.

DISLIKES: …………there wasn’t much I didn’t care for.

THOUGHTS:
Peter Parker has always been portrayed as the blundering nerd who always received the short end of the stick, that was until he married the girl of his dreams, and that plot mechanization was able to push forward. However, Brand New Day has brought readers back to that point in Peter’s life, erasing his marriage to M.J. and ending a, what I consider, vital and key part to Peter’s maturation as a comic book character as well as a human being. That’s right, a human being. Notice I haven’t called him by Spider-man or mentioned the conflicting elements that have affected Peter as a hero. That is because, for this review, I want to discuss Peter Parker as a person, a normal, distinguished being who has problems with girls, money, etc., LIFE IN GENERAL.
I have to be honest and tell you that I loved this issue. I thought it was extremely well written, in a manner that was easy to follow, and intellectual nonetheless. I tend to visualize comics as such because I find that many comics today lack the sophistication and uniqueness to stand out as an artistic medium or epic tale that has meaning. See, that is what Peter Parker’s life is all about. Meaning. Metaphors. Connecting with viewers or readers. Responsibility.
I know that you, the respectable fan and reader, may or may not agree with my opinion this or any other previous round, but you cannot deny Spider-man’s or rather Peter’s popularity as a an iconic character made known by his ability to connect with readers on realistic and convincing terms. Why?
1.
Waid opens the story with the archetypical Peter Parker sequence. The first panel reads “today will be your lucky day” and we cut to seeing Spider-man perched on a roof top soaked and wet as rain pours on him. How can this be Peter’s lucky day? For Peter, this fortune is meaningless at first. He is used to getting the carpet yanked out from under his feet, so deep down, though he always retains that notable and courageous optimism that makes him a hero, he realizes that life is unfair, and that he can only do the best he can through his powers and the outlet created through his never-ending responsibility. And speaking of responsibility, that pops another key factor onto the table: will Peter’s life ever pay off? Will whatever governing intelligence that establishes fate and order within the world ever give Peter a chance to breathe?

2. Something subtle happens. Peter needs money for transportation, and out of nowhere, a Metro card for the subway blows into his hands. We cutaway to the fortune slip again. Is it the luck of an Asian cookie/treat that is allowing our hero to benefit from life’s glories, or is it just a coincidence?

3. Finally, Peter, on a congested cart, is squished between passengers. This includes a beautiful, stunning woman who claims to be a model. And she takes interest in Peter. She reveals she isn’t wearing much under her coat as the train pushes Peter in and out of her bosom. If that doesn’t get his Spider-sense going, I don’t know what will!

But here is the big disillusionment. Here is the big wool that Waid has pulled over us. Yeah, Peter mumbles nervously as he stares deeply into her eyes, classic Peter Parker moment, but this is where the rising action cuts away Peter’s luck, and moves the story into the plot- line and action. His Spider-sense buzzes ferociously, and he runs from the girl, who thinks then he is some loser. Typical Parker luck. Pete has these women waiting for him, whether he realizes it or not, but he can never seem to catch them. At this point, we should know this is too good to be true. Peter is and always will be the only comic book hero who just can’t seem to have luck. He is the only hero that realizes and accepts his utter unprosperity, though deep down I believe he questions his demises. This concept goes back to Lee and Ditko’s attempts to create a hero who would be perceived as human, but would be a little less far-fetched and a little more conceivable to viewers.
It goes back to Ditko’s belief in Objectivism, his whole idea of what Spider-man should be and why he left the project. Ditko wanted Peter to be less than heroic. Ditko believed that this hero should be portrayed as a teenager who has learned the values of nobility and courage at an early age. He believed that with Uncle Ben’s passing, Peter would be cast into a void that no other could ever step into, and that no matter how hard Peter would try, he still wouldn’t be happy, even though he should equally receive happiness through his deeds.

And what about the scene reminiscent of Amazing Spider-man 33? The panels where Spider-man must hold the weight of the collapsed tunnel so it doesn’t crush the passengers. This is a metaphor representing Peter’s life. Probably not many can appreciate this subtle implication, but this is what I have just been discussing in a nut shell. Peter must constantly hold the weight of the world on his shoulders, always balancing school, Aunt May, Hero-time, or girls. But does the pressure ever ease? Does Peter ever get a chance to let go of that weight, set it down, and go take a nap? No, he doesn’t. Instead his responsibilities take a toll on his body, I believe, scarring him internally and emotionally.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I loved this issue. It seems subtle, but upon analyzing the book, readers can begin to see Brand New Day finally accomplishing its objective, or rather that of Quesada’s: bringing Spider-man back to the old hero he once was and reestablishing that classic tone and pace reminiscent of the old era at the dawn and middle of Spider-man’s life.
To top that off, Martin’s art was stunning. His sense of movement through repetition of panels is genius and rarely seen, let alone successfully pulled off. I believe his work helped to bring Spidey back down to that pace reminiscent of the early Amazing Spider-man 100s.

RATING: 5 out of 5. I really enjoyed it. The Peter Parker in this tale is the one and only, reestablishing his characterization to an almost Lee/Ditko version.

COVER: I give the cover a 3 out of 5. It wasn’t my cup of tea. It lacked details and harnessed to much negative space.

16 Responses to “THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #578”

  1. #1 stillanerd says:

    While I thought this issue was just okay and not really all that great or bad either way (although there were some terrific Marcos Martin panels) your suggestion that Waid is using all too familiar elements that readers have seen too often in Spider-Man paying homage to the Lee/Ditko era and a character study of Peter Parker in general is an apt observation. Although, it is a bit ironic that, after Tom Breevort made such a big deal in his Manifesto printed in the Swing Shift special about how they needed to get away from scenes showing Spidey holding a huge weight on his shoulder to prevent the ceiling collapsing in. Also, to add a bit to your thesis, notice that the model Peter runs into and who takes an interest in is also a redhead. Considering how Peter, in light of the Brand New Day set-up, has been broken up with Mary Jane “months ago” and runs into another hot redheaded fashion model, it seems more than mere coincidence and a sign that Waid is definitely teasing the readers in light of Peter and MJ’s current status.

  2. #2 tickbite says:

    I was looking forward to your review. And let me say, I agree one hundred percent! I have not enjoyed a Spider-Man comic since Brand New Day started as much as I have this. And the art is simply awesome. I must say: I loved it. (Based on the preview art, I’m really looking forward to #581, too.)

  3. #3 bjohns says:

    Thanks tickbite. I am glad you enjoyed it and yeah, Martin’s work is fantastic. I love his multiple panel shots of movement and action.

  4. #4 Combustible Pumpkins says:

    Great review, bjohns! Not only do I agree with your analysis of this issue, but you actually educated me about Ditko! I just picked this issue up today and read it and I’m absolutely thrilled about it. This IS how Spider-Man should be told and it seems Waid knows it by giving us THAT wink in the beginning of the story. Not only does this harken back to the Lee/Ditko days, but it also reminds me of the Roger Stern days, at least in regards to the overall story-telling pace of the issue. The full-page splasher of the Shocker holding up Spidey was really righteous as well, not only because of Martin’s style, but because we didn’t even have a clue that one of Spidey’s old villians was lurking nearby. Not only that Spidey uses science to undo Shocker’s advantage. The last page was a cherry on top too.

    Hopefully the Spidey brain-trust acknowledges this issue as the new standard! Afterall, it isn’t really about silly comic book plot twists, it’s the overall experience of leafing thru the book cover to cover. Thanks again for the good review.

  5. #5 Eltini says:

    Great review! And I haven’t read the book yet :D One point where I do not agree with you tho. I do not see where OMD has helped PP maturing. Brought him back around the Roger Stern era, probbly. Do I get the feeling that PP is more mature than during the JMS run ? Certainly not. Had he actually divorced, yes he would have changed. Everything is not black and white when it comes to BND… I miss MJ, I miss Aunt May knowing PP’s secret ID and hanging around the New Avengers (come on that was fun). Yet I enjoy the return of the typical Parker luck and simpler storylines wh have read for 11 months. BTW 33 months worth of stories where PP is single, has this ever happened before ? This single PP with lots of good looking women around reminds me of the Stern days once again and it is definitely fun.

  6. #6 bjohns says:

    I am glad everybody likes the review. I enjoyed writing it. Thing is, I have noticed a lot of readers who feel that the book was rather plain, unraveling a plot that seems familiar. However, the way I see it, Spider-man hasn’t been more original. Heck, take the Stracynski run. If anything, that run strayed from the Spidey norm, and established a rather unusual series of plot twists, if you think about it. Strazynski put another spin(disregard the pun) on the whole Spider-man origin story, essentially revealing Spider-man’s radioactive spider bite as a manifestation of Peter destiny to become the next in a long line of spider people. And, what about Peter and the Civil War? He totally disregarded his former complications for Tony Stark by revealing his identity. Technically speaking, since when had Peter given anyone a chance at becoming a role model/father figure as he did with Tony Stark? Peter never let anyone replace his Uncle Ben, always putting his uncle’s theory of power and responsibility first. The whole ideology that Peter started letting someone replace his hero strays from the familiarity that many say was what plagued Spidey for a long time.

    Brand New Day established the familiar tone and pace reminiscent of the old Lee/Ditko, even Stern days as many bloggers have reminded me, but only for the aspects of Spider-man. This issue, I feel, was the first to dwell on Peter’s characterization. Sure, he is single now, lives with his aunt, is trying to take pictures for his job, all familiar stuff, but where were the issues that allowed fans to see Peter’s personality and archetypical character up close?

  7. #7 Patrick Brusnahan says:

    Great review
    Once again you analysed why it was good, instead of just saying it was
    Really made me think

    I wish my reviews went into this level of depth LOL

  8. #8 Combustible Pumpkins says:

    Just to be clear BND hasn’t brought back the Stern era in the least bit. BND was (it’s over, right?) a nod to Smilin’ Stan which was ok, but certainly not worthy of these hard-cover releases that are surprisingly on the shelves. Good points about JMS too. Loved his first story arc, but after that, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t get into the wordy sappy dialogues. But apparently millions of people did, or something because it seemed like the guy would never leave the book!!!

    If it were up to JMS and his fans he’d own the rights to this character by now and we’d have thirty more year of spoon-fed human tragedy which would lead us to PP in a wheelchair or something and we’d be stuck with Spidey-kids and lame PP flashbacks filling in whatever blanks were left, leaving absolutely NOTHING to the fans imaginations with Thor flying around in the distance repairing everything or something.

    umm… yeah, not everyone’s opinion, but it felt good to write that nonetheless.

  9. #9 persian-spider says:

    great review!
    this is indeed one of the best spidey comics I have read recently and defenitly the best brand New day has offered so far. the reason is that Mark waid pays no attention to the BND trappings. I mean he makes no mention of the mayoral election, the drab new supporting characters like lili hollister, the convoluted mess that is Harry Osborn and he even uses a classic villain instead of creepy losers like freak and menace!

  10. #10 persian-spider says:

    by the way, Marvel unveiled its solicitaions for February 2009 last week
    still there are no decent spider-man Tradepaparbacks or hardcovers collecting old spidey stories
    guess marvel really really wants us fanboys to foregt about the gold old days of spidey lore
    you know, it has always baffled me that Marvel has never reprinted for example Amazing Spider-man #200 or has never reprinted Roger stern’s compelte Run on Amazing
    but I am sure the crappy Secret Invasion: Spider-Man will be soon collected in a deluxe pestige format!

  11. #11 Combustible Pumpkins says:

    Dude, I would totally buy Stern’s complete run. All those classic stories with Juggernaut, Will-O-Wisp, and the original Hobgoblin were epic. JRJR’s simple style back then totally drew me in too.

    One more thing before I conclude my latest session of Crawl Space stalkin’! To some, this issue may have lacked luster, but it this sort of consistent story telling, issue to issue, that builds momentum to the eventual hard-hitting classics that makes you want to buy two copies, never touching one, and maybe even buying the hard covers.

  12. #12 Spider-Dad says:

    5 out of 5? Really? I found this story to half as good as you mention. Has Peter’s life become so low that a simple $2 fare card makes him run through the station knocking over someone, (dropping their lunch which will have it land on someone, nice), barging through a couple and sliding down the bannister. This scene shows behavior more of an inconsiderate a**hole than someone with manners or even mildly heroic. The only thing that saved this scene was Aunt May was not there scolding him. Are you sure his Spider-sense was tingling due to the imminent train crash or the psycho girl who reveals she is almost naked under her raincoat. Who reveals their attire in a subway? As someone that has ridden the subway for the better part of 15 years, you try to stay away from the nuts, regardless of looks. Lastly, when do lawyers from opposing counsel on a case travel together? Especially on a subway? No chance.

    I did like Martins’ art better this go-around and Spider-Man actually taking charge and trying to limit the panic with the police and crowd was nice to see. Good fight scene with Shocker and an interesting development with JJJ senior. But saying it was genius in storytelling, I find that hard to agree with…

    You state: “Does Peter ever get a chance to let go of that weight, set it down, and go take a nap?” Nope. In the ever repeating storylines of ASM under BND, you can guarantee that this type of story will be repeated forever…

  13. #13 bjohns says:

    Well, yeah, Spider-Dad, I stated that because that is who Peter Parker is. That is an element of Peter’s characterization that is so tangible but allows him to be the iconic character he is. Isn’t that why the Spider-man movies have done so well, because people get to see a film about a superhero, but are able to connect and understand who he is because his problems are humane and so real? What made you think that the girl was a psycho though? I didn’t get the slightest implication that she was. And the whole thing with her clothes was kind of plot set-up to show that Peter was having some interesting luck that had to be cut short. She thought he was a loser since he ran away.

  14. #14 Spider-Dad says:

    Bjohns, I agree on what elements of Peter’s character are important, but I ask you this, when does a character (franchise) cease to be iconic and become merely repetitive? In BND, it is touted as new and better, Not only has Peter returned to “single” status, but also he could be described as a 25 year old loser who is having Spider-Man bog down every facet of his life. The popularity of the Spider-Man movies has more to do with the popularity of action\superhero movies and people think it is cool. It got good reviews from critics because of the human element, but I seriously doubt the character portion transferred to a large mass audience.

    As far as the girl being a pyscho? If you have spent even half the time I have over the years on subways, “normal” people don’t keep the door open when the car is jammed. Secondly, when it is jammed like that, not only can Peter hear her, but so can the other 10 people in the 3 foot radius, so her “reveal” is kind of nutty when put in context of the situation. I realize that she was just a plot device to show that “Parker luck”, but again, this type of device is becoming repetitive…or is it iconic?

  15. #15 BD says:

    It seems we created a new word with this review.

    http://wordlust.blogspot.com/2009/01/arachno-butt.html

  16. #16 Валентин says:

    Я конечно в этом не особо разбираюсь, но после вашего поста стал гораздо больше понимать. Спасибочки :)