THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #581
Have you ever had one of those reading experiences where you’re trucking along and everything seems to be firing on all eight cylinders and all is right with the world and then that one thought pops into your head that renders a lot of that enjoyment moot?
Well, that’s what happened to me with this week’s issue of Amazing Spider-Man.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #581
“Mind on Fire Part One: The Trouble With Harry”
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: Mike McKone
Inker: Andy Lanning
The mysterious Spider Tracer killer strikes again, this time luring Spider-Man to the scene and ending with the Wall Crawler needing to evade the authorities once again. The next day Peter joins Harry on a trip to New Jersey so that Harry can see his ex-wife Liz Allen and their son Normie. On the way Harry explains how his death was faked and what part his father played in getting him to Europe. Once they reach Liz’s house her step-brother, the Molten Man, flips out over Harry’s presence and does some serious damage to the place before finally confronting his ex-step-brother-in-law and Liz.
Based upon first impressions I was ready to give this issue a four and write about all the things I liked about it and truth to be told there was a lot to like. Sure I’m getting a little bored with the whole Spider Tracer Killer…thing, but that has to do with the fact that as a sub-plot it is a taking way too long to play out and the danger with that sort of storytelling is that if you play out a sub-plot too long the audience may not give a rip when everything is said and done. I mean this isn’t “Who is the Hobgoblin?” which is an example of a long running plot that was enjoyable, at least to me. This is, “Who is killing people and making Spider-Man look bad?” Is there a chance I’m wrong here? Sure and I really hope so, but overall this has been one of the less enjoyable aspects from the last year of Spider-Man.
Not as bad as Freak, but very little is.
I’d take the Hypno Hustler over Freak every day of the week and twice on Sundays.
I’m just saying.
Anyway, where Slott excels as a writer of Spider-Man is that he manages to convey to the reader what it is like to be Peter Parker. A lot of Spider writers do this but a select few get it right for me and in this issue Slott was among their ranks. Peter’s personal problems are the hallmark of the character, so when a situation comes up where, say, his best friend’s girlfriend has put some moves on him and he tries to defuse the situation and ends up getting shot down for his trouble, I like it because as much as Spider-Man is an action piece it is also soap opera. It may not be on between one and four in the afternoon and it may not have its own channel, but it is soap opera.
And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I also enjoyed the interaction between Peter and Harry. Slott did an excellent job here. I really felt that these two were friends; people that had been through much and were getting a chance to spend a little quality time together. I’m big on character so these scenes resonated with me and I couldn’t find much to pick apart with them.
It was during this scene that the major gripe I had on that previously mentioned first impression happened. I thought the revelation of how Harry came back from the dead was a little anti-climactic. Sure it made sense. When your Dad is the Green Goblin and he faked his own death it’s not too much of stretch to imagine the son getting the same treatment. Still it felt a little flat. The fact that Mysterio was involved was kind of cool though, but still. I don’t want to make a firm judgment call on this because something could come further down the pike and make me go, “Oh! Okay. I get it now.” For the moment, I don’t hate it but at the same time I’m not married to it.
So I finished the issue and enjoyed it and like the scenes with Liz Allen because I’m big on seeing old characters that have a lot of history resurface and found Normie’s private collection of Spider-Man heads to be extremely creepy and thought I had a good handle on how to write this review.
Then while I was at work today it hit me.
Liz Allen…has the Molten Man…in her house…with her son living there
Are you freaking kidding me?
I don’t care how rich Harry Osborne is. I don’t care that Raxton is family. In a world where super-beings have to freaking register with the government how can a former super-villain who takes the term “special needs” and kicks it up a notch just be hanging out in the freaking suburbs?
I don’t buy that.
I can’t buy that.
It takes a perfectly good story and very nearly ruins it. That is a terrible way to bring a villain into a story because even in a world of thunder gods and radioactive spiders this sort of thing is the straw that broke the willing suspension of disbelief’s back. It also made me completely rethink this issue and how I felt about it, which I didn’t want to happen because I am one of those fans that actually wants, nay needs to enjoy the books I read. At the same time when something is that glaring and when it just gnaws at my brain like this I can’t just let it go. This may not be a higher calling but I have to be honest about how I feel.
And Molten Man in the ‘burbs just doesn’t scan with me.
The Final Analysis
Despite some excellent artwork by Mike McKone and Andy Lanning (especially when it came to the Molten Man’s appearance) and generally liking the scenes between Peter and Harry I have to give this issue a three out of five. The whole Molten Man in Liz Allen’s house thing was a bridge too far for me and while I am not making a final judgment on the story as a whole because it isn’t over yet I have some problems with it going in. There is always the chance that the rest of the story will just blow me away and make me forget my initial misgivings, but for the moment I am not overly impressed.
3 out of 5 webheads.