I am doing this review a little differently than the ones I have written in the past. I usually stick to the format that my fellow reviewers and predecessors have used but this book is rather large and has a good number of stories in it, so I am going to split the review up into segments, forgo the usual plot synopsis (which I barely do anyway) and just talk about each story before wrapping things up.
All right, Webheads. Let’s get the anniversary party started.
The Wedding (As there is no other story title given)
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciler: John Romita Junior
Inker: Klaus Janson
Anniversary stories are a tricky thing. Readers have come to expect a big event and Amazing Spider-Man has certainly lived up to that over the past few decades. From growing extra appendages to confronting the burglar that killed Uncle Ben to gaining a new arch enemy to the death of Aunt May to what amounted to be an extended acid trip Spider-Man has never been wont for a good story when it comes to the numbers hitting another set of one hundred. At the same time you also want to have a call back of some sort to previous stories and character moments that we know and love. Put these two parts together in the right manner and you get a heck of a “party”.
In both of those respects the main story of this issue was most excellent indeed. The story was big and loud and rich in character and had enough call backs that the only thing missing was the spider that bit Peter, Uncle Ben and the previously mentioned burglar making a cameo appearance.
I realize I may be in the minority here but I have never been a huge fan of Doctor Octopus. It’s not that I dislike Otto and it’s not that I haven’t enjoyed the stories I have read where he is the main villain. I have boatloads of respect for him and his place in the history of Spider-Man. Despite this I wasn’t all that excited upon learning that he was the main villain for this story. It made sense to me but because I have never really connected to the character my desire to read this issue wasn’t exactly set to eleven.
Turns out that was the wrong mindset to be in. Slott gave us a new (or at least new to me) take on Otto that I really liked. Part of me thought it a bit clichéd to have the big bad guy doing something big and loud because he realizes he is dying but Slott made it work. The intro with Otto flashing back to his previous injuries was a good way to bring newer readers up to speed while at the same time reminding those that had been around a while who he was and the “abuse” he had suffered. This set up Otto’s motivation in an entertaining way and that entertainment carried throughout the story. Here was a dying man that wanted to make his final mark and did so in the typical comic book villain way of making a mess of things and bringing the super-heroes out in droves. I was confused as to why he didn’t consider Spider-Man a threat because, well, he’s been one of the major thorns in Otto’s side, but other than that I liked how Otto’s end of the piece played out, especially his underestimating Spider-Man’s intellect, which may have been over played but worked nonetheless.
Even though Otto was the antagonist of the story Slott never lost sight of the fact that the wedding of Jonah Senior and May was just as important as the fight with the super villain. The build up to the wedding was great and filled with the right amount of dramatic tension to keep me interested. I mean I was about ninety-eight percent sure those “kids” were going to get hitched but there were moments where I was lost in the story enough to have the slightest bit of doubt, which I appreciated. I think it is easy to get to the point where you read a story and all you see is the construction; how the writer set up this plot and where they laid down this bit of foreshadowing and here’s the moment where the guy and gal finally connect, even if the end result is tragedy. Sometimes…actually most of the time but it only happens sometimes, I just want to get lost in a story and I was able to do that with this one.
There was element that took me out of the story, albeit temporarily. After saving a pedestrian Spider-Man informs the would-be street pizza that everybody gets one. Now I did laugh at that line when I saw it because I like Family Guy and it helps that when I took a picture of a guy dressed as Spider-Man at DragonCon last year the supposed Spider-Man said the very same thing to me after I thanked him for allowing me to take the picture. Amusing as that was I didn’t think, “That was a real funny Spider-Man line,” I thought, “Hey that was on Family Guy.”
Other than that I was very engaged by what was going on and that had a lot to do with the characters. This was one of those rare stories where I didn’t have a problem with any of the characterization. Peter was Peter throughout, May dropped the, “My nephew is nice but he’s kind of flighty thing,” Jonah Senior continues to be the nicest guy with a target on his back because he is a nice guy in a Spider-Man book, Norah and Carlie were used to good effect. I especially liked Michelle even though she was barely in the story. I am curious about why she is just sitting there in an oversized Jets jersey while talking to Peter but I have never had a female roommate outside of my wife so maybe they’re just comfortable with each other. I did like the dynamic between the two characters though. Seeing the other heroes was something of a treat as well and the overall theme of who Peter should and should not tell added another layer to the overall story.
John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson had a lot to do with why I liked this story so much because they really nailed the art. From start to finish I was happy with the visuals both in terms of the big action scenes to the smaller, character driven moments. Then again I am a fan of these two working together, especially the Daredevil scene because to me Romita Jr. and Janson are some of the better DD artists.
You know, I really liked this story. It had everything an anniversary story should and was a satisfying end to the Jameson/Parker engagement even though that engagement could be measured in days not weeks or months. It was fun and funny and the Mary Jane thing was a good way to have this story lead into the next big arc that is coming up with her.
I do have to wonder what Anna Watson was thinking of, though. “Hey, my best friend is getting married today and all of the focus should be on her. So let me invite my niece, who is not only a world famous super model and actress but was also involved with my friend’s nephew. That couldn’t possibly go bad.” It really doesn’t help that she looks like she’s amused by the whole thing.
So really Anna is a shrew and this proves that quite nicely.
4.5 out of 5 Webheads.
Writer: Stan Lee
Penciler: Marcos Martin
Inker: Marcos Martin
This wasn’t a bad story. In fact it was kind of amusing and considering it came from one of Spider-Man’s fathers I can’t bring myself to write anything truly negative about it. The point of this chapter was to have a story written by Stan Lee and he showed a good amount of humor in going through Spider-Man’s history with Dr. Gray Madder.
Gray Madder. Yup, this was written by Stan.
Anyway, this part of the issue had some good moments even though Dr. Madder looks like Bart Hamilton (and according the Kevin Cushing so do I) and I thought this was going to be a Green Goblin retrospective when I began reading. In the end the story serves its purpose and had an amusing ending.
3 out of 5 Webheads
My Brother’s Son
Writer: Mark Waid
Penciler: Colleen Doran
Inker: Colleen Doran
I was genuinely moved by this story. Between Mark Waid’s writing and Colleen Doran’s art I was really sucked into the emotional core of the piece. It had a simple premise but it hit me pretty hard. Usually when someone writes a story from Ben’s perspective I roll my eyes and think that it’s going to be another overly melodramatic filler piece but Waid and Doran just nailed this one. Ben really comes alive here. He obviously loves his nephew and tries so hard to remind him that his Dad would be proud not thinking that all the boy needs to hear it that Ben is proud of him too. It’s simple and yet it works so well.
5 out of 5 Webheads.
Writer: Bob Gale
Penciler: Mario Alberti
Inker: Mario Alberti
I realize that Gale’s intention was to write a small, human interest piece showing how little kids see Spider-Man in the context of the Marvel Universe but this was such a boring story to get through. It really was. This is nothing against Bob Gale, who I think is a competent writer. It’s just this story feels like the oversized issue filler piece that it is.
2 out of 5 Webheads.
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Penciler: Mitch Brettweiser
Inker: Mitch Brettweiser
You know, if there wasn’t that scene in the main feature of this book where May goes to Ben’s grave I think this story would have had more impact. But here we have May asking for a blessing when it already happened. It was a sweet story. I appreciate where Guggenheim was coming from but it suffers from being repetitive.
3 out of 5 Webheads.
Fight at the Museum
Writer: Zeb Wells
Penciler: Derec Donovan
Inker: Derec Donovan
I’m kind of wondering what the point of this story was. If I had to hazard a guess I would say that Zeb Wells is telling us there are silly aspects to Spider-Man’s past but at the end of the day he’s a hero and Wells does this by having a bunch of kids make fun of the Spidermobile while Peter tries to defend it and at the end the mother of one of the kids gives her son a hard time because Spider-Man saved his father. It’s not a bad concept to hang a plot around but what really took me out of the story was the fact that the tour guide at the museum is basically Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. In the end this was a fluff piece though and I can’t be too hard on it.
2 out of 5 Webheads.
Writer: Joe Kelly
This was a preview story and because of that it is difficult to really pick apart. At the same time it is difficult to like as well. Over the past few years I have become less and less interested in vague previews of the future because all it really does is get the readers buzzing with seemingly thousands of different theories about what is coming. Some people like that sort of thing and more power to them really because I am not one to tell another fan how to enjoy their fandom. For me though I find them annoying. I don’t need Madame Web having freaky visions and then getting killed to get me excited or interested in what is to come.
1 out of 5 Webheads
Normally I would count up the individual grades of each story and get an average for my final grade but I am not going to do that with this issue. Let’s face it; the main focus of this issue was the Doc Ock story and everything else was just gravy, though some of that gravy was full of lumps or was the wrong type of gravy such as having biscuits and gravy with brown gravy instead of that awesome white stuff. The feature presentation was good enough that I could coast through the rest of the issue with few real problems. On their own most of them were rather unnecessary but taken as a whole I really can’t bring the bile to them.
I did like the mock covers though, especially the Bendis one. Of course I know the joke behind that so that’s what made it funny but the covers in general showed the creators having fun, like the Loeb cover with the sons of Luke Cage and Spider-Man.
In the end, though this book was well worth the four dollar and ninety nine cent cover price. That is only a dollar more than a lot of the other books Marvel is producing and was a fat book to go through. It reminded me of the annuals from the late eighties and early nineties which would take what seemed like hours to read and while they may not have had the best stories it was certainly a good deal for the money. My only real disappointment in this particular 600 issue was the lack of a cover gallery in the back. Captain America and The Incredible Hulk both had one and from I understand the Thor book had one as well. I was looking forward to seeing one here as well but alas it was not to be.
Oh well. That’s a petty thing to be upset about so I won’t complain about it anymore.
Happy anniversary, Spidey. Here’s hoping I am still writing these reviews when the book hits 700.
3.5 out of 5 webheads.