Writer: Fred Van Lente
Penciler: Barry Kitson
Inker: Rick Ketcham, Barry Kitson and Joe Rubenstein
Story Title: Red Headed Stranger: The Ancient Gallery
Peter freed. Search for a Chameleon. Attack of the Spider Slayers. Unexpected help. Peter has a girlfriend.
This was a very brisk issue. I almost want to write that the pacing was a little too quick for my tastes and given the story as a whole the ending seemed to just fly by. The first chapter seemed to be paced about right in terms of setting up the story and the second part really took it’s time to get into the Chameleon’s head and show us Van Lente’s new take on the character. It made for two very enjoyable issues and this third one ended things on a high note but I sort of wanted it to last just a bit longer.
There was a lot to like about this issue. We got an honest to goodness re-cap scene that ostensibly served to show us how Peter got out of the acid bath but to me it seemed very old school by bringing the audience up to speed on what has been going on for the past two issues. I almost expected to see a few panels visually recapping the last two issues as well but alas this was not to be.
Sigh. Well, I guess I can’t have everything.
Beyond that I enjoyed the fight with the new Spider Slayers. We were treated to some more old school Spider-Man material with Jonah’s face being on the chest plates of the Slayers. Not only was it a cool nod to the past but it also made for an interesting narrative device. Splitting the dialogue between the various chest plates was a neat effect and created a slightly disorienting effect. It was a nice way for Van Lente and the art team to engage the reader on another level. The dialogue was solid in this scene as well. More than anything I liked the fact that the cops recognized that Peter was telling the truth and backed him up at the end. This made for a nice character moment for Deputy Mayor Haskell, who finally put Jonah in his place at least for the moment. I don’t believe for a minute that things are going to be rosy for Peter because that sort of conflict (or angst one might say, though some disagree) is the backbone of Spider-Man as a concept but it made for a satisfying conclusion.
My main problem with this issue and this arc as a whole is how little Mary Jane had to do with it. The hype for the past four issues centered around the fact that Mary Jane was returning. There seemed to be a promise that this was going to bring that part of Brand New Day forward. Instead we get a eight or nine pages total with the character in the past four issues. Frankly this part of the storyline could have been dropped altogether and nothing would have been lost. The scene at the end of this issue was nice though and pretty much made it clear that Mary Jane knows Peter is Spider-Man, which most of us had guessed was the case. The issue of whether or not they remember being married is still up in the air.
Overall I liked Red Headed Stranger quite a bit. Issue 601 wasn’t all that good but at the same time it didn’t have a whole heck of a lot to do with the story itself. The last three issues have been really strong with my main and usually only problem being that Mary Jane didn’t play a larger role. Still we were treated to a new take on an old villain and for some reason I am really sucked into Peter and Michelle’s relationship, such as it is. I like Michelle. I think she is a fun character though I hope more is done with her in the future. More than anything the books seems to be still have a forward momentum, which is all I really want from the title. I may not have the attachment to Spider-Man that I do for other characters but at the same time I like the character and want to enjoy the stories I review.
And thankfully that was an easy thing to do for the last three issues.
3.5 out of 5 webheads.