“Something Can Stop the Juggernaut!”

Writer: Roger Stern

Penciler: Lee Weeks

Inker: Lee Weeks

Colorist: Dean White

Cover Art: Lee Weeks & Dean White

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

The Amazing Spider-Man #s 229-230 are widely regarded as one of the best Spider-Man stories ever told.  That seminal story – “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut!” – can frequently be found on many Top-10 lists of Spider-Man arcs, including mine.  The writer of that story, Roger Stern, has paid another visit to the web-head and the Brand New Day universe to pen a quasi-sequel to that classic story.  Instead of John Romita Jr., the penciler of those classic issues, he brings along another previous collaborator in Lee Weeks.

The Plot

Something stops the Juggernaut (DUH).  Peter and Carlie grow closer.  Spider-Man investigates Juggernaut’s defeat.  The “something” shows up to finish the job.

The Good

I have to begin with what I found to be the strongest element of the issue – the gorgeous artwork by Lee Weeks.  On pretty much every message board I’ve ever posted on, the topic of “Most Underrated Artist” inevitably comes up, and I always mention Lee Weeks as being one of those criminally ignored talents.  This issue is a prime showcase for Weeks to give us a master class in how to draw Spider-Man, from the spindly muscularity to the unique contortionist act that wall-crawling can become.  His Peter Parker has a classic look, like an aged version of John Romita’s rendition.  This is the kind of issue that every aspiring artist should keep around his desk to look at for inspiration and for an example of how to do it right.

The script does a good job of building up intrigue.  Spider-Man is aware that there are multiple “suspects” in the Marvel Universe that are capable of roughing up Juggy, and Stern does a good job of making sure that we as readers understand that.  He also manages to briefly recap their previous encounters, which serves as a nice primer to set up the aforementioned intrigue.  All in all, the issue is a consistent a page-turner.

I should also mention the ending.  While I won’t reveal the identity of the assailant here, I have to admit that it came as a shock to me.  That was about as left-field a revelation as you can have without the reader thinking that it’s silly.  It raises a large number of questions that should be addressed in the subsequent issues, but this is one of those cases in which I’m confident it will be done.  I have to tip my cap to Uncle Rog on this one.

The Bad

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, it was relatively common practice to build up a small bank of “stock” stories to use as fill-ins if the regular creative team fell behind schedule.  Many of these stock stories never saw the light of day, but they would sometimes be put into use to keep the respective title on the stands for that month.  This issue has several quirks that seem to scream “stock” to me.

For one, it doesn’t seem to fit neatly into the current flow of the title.  Sure, there are mentions of Peter losing his job and his subsequent fall from grace, but that’s only done through dialogue.  The scene in the park in which a policeman tries to hold Peter back stands out the most, as it seems to have been awkwardly re-dialogued to fit his current status quo.  Without the text, it looks like the standard “keeping the photographer back from the crime scene” moment, but it’s played into something else.  The lack of Gauntlet branding or tie-in also cements this story as an out-of-place addition to the lineup.  And it certainly doesn’t help that Weeks’ signature on the cover seems to indicate that he drew it in 2008.

Another problem I had was with the first Peter-Carlie scene.  Peter’s narration heavy-handedly tries to coerce the reader into liking Carlie as a match for Peter.  It’s a pet peeve of mine as a comic fan when writers inject the company line into a character’s mouth (or, in this case, thoughts) in order to justify elements of their stories.  The inevitable pairing of Peter and Carlie as a couple should come naturally, rather than having the Webheads force the characters into position.  Give us a reason to like something instead of telling us to like it.

The Ugly

Once again, Spider-Man makes a bunch of calls for help, and no one is available.  It’s a conceit older than I am, but it’s one that is especially jarring when you consider the current status quo of the character.  I mean, you would think that, by now, he would have people close to him that he could rely on for help.  Perhaps a team of costumed avengers, if you will …

The Neutral?

There’s one more thing I should point out before I wrap this up.  When I read the preview last week, that opening sequence immediately brought back memories of a comic book from my youth.  You see, I used to be a big fan of the X-Men titles, especially The Uncanny X-Men

If you’ve ever read The Uncanny X-Men #322, you know what I mean.  In the story, written by Scott Lobdell and drawn by Tom Grummett, Juggernaut plummets out of the sky like a shooting comet.  A small group of X-Men that are out on the town for a day are drawn to the smoking trail and crater, where they find the Juggernaut.

It’s nearly identical to the setup of this issue, and I really can’t tell if this is a good thing or a bad thing (mainly because The Uncanny X-Men #322 is actually pretty good).  Even the cover blurb is nearly the same!  It plays out differently – they fight the confused Juggernaut until he calms down and tells them what happened – but it’s close enough to be slightly unsettling.  Anybody who has this issue should pull it out of the longbox and take a look.  (By the way, that issue is pretty significant in Marvel history, because it contains the first mention of Onslaught, a character that would soon cast a shadow over much of the Marvel Universe nearly a year later, culminating in the Heroes Reborn saga.)

The Bottom Line

Despite my problems with some of the storytelling, this issue is pretty good.  It helps when you follow a few lousy stories in a row, but this is the kind of story that reminds me why I’m reading this book.  The writing is above-average and is assisted by the best art we’ve seen in the title in months, so it gets a solid 4 out of 5 webheads.