Brand New Day Retrospective, Part 6: “It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times …”

While some will hopelessly cling to the idea that Brand New Day has been completely amazing or completely awful, like all things the truth lies somewhere in the middle.  How far to the ends, though, is where the argument lies.  Either way, Brand New Day has had its highs and lows, and in this installment, we discuss our high and low points of the revamp.  Just for bonus points, we also discuss our favorite and least favorite writers and artists as well.

The best issue

Kevin Cushing: #583, starring Betty Brant, by Mark Waid and Barry Kitson.  This was a great character piece, it was beautifully drawn, and it was truly the only issue of the Brand New Day era to actually achieve the mission statement of stories that couldn’t be told with a married Peter Parker.  A+ (Note: not counting the back-up.)

Zach Joiner: Alright, time to quit with the bitchfest.  You ask me: What did you like ‘Dude?  Seriously, do you like anything that you see?  The answers lie in something that is a lost art in the world of modern day storytelling and that is the ONE/DONE.

It’s forever known as the ‘Obama Issue.’  Quite frankly, it’s a horrible thing, because this is known more for the damned cover than the actual story.  The cover was for the Back-Up.  On top of that, the Romita Cover, was such a horrendous attempt at humor it barely even related to the story!  So don’t judge by those 6 covers.  (The Baracks and Romitas) This story is by far the best.  Why?  Because the spotlight is firmly on Betty Brant and the story is well off for it.  Waid’s first arc, the Shocker arc, was pretty decent, but this is where I saw the Mark Waid that I have heard so much about shine.  Waid weaves a story concerning Betty’s birthday, and firmly focuses on Peter and her.  It’s not the Romantic side, it’s the friendship that has developed.  It’s continuity without having to rely on continuity.  Brant goes through the week thinking that Peter’s throwing this huge surprise party.  She is counting on Peter to do it, but is surprised that Peter is the only one who shows, with Chinese and a DVD.  Peter explains that due to her actions (that of staying at the DB), she let everyone down.  He being the responsible friend, helps her celebrate and does the right thing.  The rest of the issue is okay, with the Obama 5 page backup.

Speaking of Back-ups, the best of them is the Flash Issue.  We finally get a sense that Flash is accepting his fate, that being of his own legs getting amputated during the Iraq War.  His 5 steps of grief done in reverse was interesting, and should’ve been a full issue.  Greg Wiseman did a great job on this one.

We see so many of the times where War is depicted in a negative way.  But at the Core of the Original Flash Story, we see the true heroism of the men and women fighting for freedom around the world, and how Spider-Man inspired Flash to keep going.  It was well done by Guggenhiem.

CrazyChris: My favorite Brand New Day story is the blizzard arc by Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo.  For one, it focused more on Spider-Man than Peter Parker, so the Brain Trust’s pathetic version of Pete’s personal life and the “Parker luck” didn’t stand in the superhero action’s way.  Also, the humor seemed funnier and less forced than in other arcs.  Chris Bachalo’s art, normally abstract and difficult to decipher, suited the story because a blizzard of such intensity would make the world seem abstract and difficult to decipher.  Finally, Spidey’s interaction with the homeless man, Verne, captured the heart of Spider-Man, to me.  Verne tried to take Spidey’s winter coat, and Spider-Man snatched it back, but Spidey then realized that Verne needed it more and looked ashamed at himself for having such a self-interested impulse.  Spider-Man has human frailties that cause him to act, well, human, but he ultimately does the right thing.  The important thing, what most Brand New Day writers forget, is that “ultimately” should never take long to come around.

Jon Wilson: I have a difficult time with these kinds of questions.  I think one of my favorite moments was Peter unmasking to the New Avengers, but that wasn’t even in The Amazing Spider-Man, so I don’t know.

Gerard Delatour II: To me, the best issue of Brand New Day is an obvious no-brainer: The Amazing Spider-Man #583.  The writing by Mark Waid is sharp, the relationship between Peter and Betty is superb, the artwork by Barry Kitson is beautiful, and it has the most heartwarming moment of the entire reboot.  Ironically, this is the best-selling comic book of 2009, but for the wrong reason entirely – the Obama cover(s).

Brad Douglas: New Ways to Die and American Son have been my favorite so far.  JRJR rocked the pencils and I love Norman vs Peter.  American Son was great because of Harry.  However the Flash Thompson story was awesome.

The worst issue

Kevin Cushing: Until recently I would have said the Hammerhead arc, but Shed finally beat it.  This story destroyed a character (who I didn’t like to begin with, but this was ridiculous), was highly inappropriate in many ways, looked God-awful, and was even scripted poorly.  It literally failed in every way possible.

CrazyChris: The worst story is the annual that revealed Jackpot’s identity and went on to abruptly kill her off.  The writers built up the mystery behind this character, and why she looked and acted like Mary Jane, as a major subplot early on in Brand New Day.  However, the writers chose to let this thread sit and stagnate for most of a year, and, when they did get around to resolving it, Jackpot turned out to be nobody we’d heard of.  What a crappy way to lead on your readers, Brain Trust!

Jon Wilson: I’ll be much more likely to forgive a mediocre story if the art isn’t terrible, so I’ll probably have to list the Wolverine snow demons story from 2008.

Gerard Delatour II: Despite the fact that Brand New Day has arguably gotten better as it has progressed, all of my candidates for worst issue have come within the past year.  It’s tough to choose between The Amazing Spider-Man issue 607 (the second part of the Black Cat reintroduction, featuring the infamous “Diablo insurance scam” plot), issue 611 (the Deadpool story), and issues 633-634 (parts 2 and 3 of “Shed”), but I have to give this one to The Amazing Spider-Man #611.  They’re all zeroes in my book, but issue 611 has the distinction of having the worst art of Brand New Day, which gives it the edge.  If you asked me for a worst arc, though, “Shed” would get the nod.

Brad Douglas: The damn Freak arc and the snow monster by Bachalo.  EWWW

The best and worst writers

Zach Joiner: Best Writers? In order: Guggenheim, Van Lente, Slott, Waid.
Worst Writer? Gale. Gale. Gale. Kelly.

CrazyChris: My least favorite writer of the bunch is Bob Gale because he can’t write competent dialogue and his Freak story resulted in a mess of poorly executed ideas and ideas that were just plain poor.  Second worst has to be Guggenheim because of his mishandled Jackpot mystery and the lame introduction of the little girl Kraven.  After that, none of the writers stand out as discernibly better or worse than the others.

Jon Wilson: I smile when I see Dan Slott’s, Mark Waid’s, or Marc Guggenheim’s name on the credits.  I feel like Dan Slott is to Spider-Man right now what Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat is to Doctor Who – his vision is leading the game, and everyone else is doing their own thing around and between Slott’s stories.  If the current rumors of his taking over the book on a bimonthly basis are true, and if he can produce on schedule, I won’t be complaining.

Gerard Delatour II: Writing-wise, I struggle to find one writer to gravitate towards due to the fact that they have all turned in at least one stinker.  However, Fred Van Lente jumps out at me because of his Chameleon and Sandman arcs – the former being a great one, and the latter being good enough to get a recommendation.  If we were including satellite titles, I would give this to J.M. DeMatteis, who has managed to write both the best Harry Osborn story and the best Aunt May/Jonah Sr. story of Brand New Day.  Unfortunately, those stories appeared in books that nobody read.  It’s almost tragic that those weren’t backups in the main title.  My worst writer is easily Zeb Wells.  With “Shed,” this guy has quickly managed to write himself onto my “most reviled author” list alongside Ron Zimmerman and Brian Reed.  (By the way, Brian Reed manages to escape this distinction because most of his BND work has been in the various miniseries.)

Brad Douglas: I think Bob Gale has been the weakest of the lot.  Joe Kelly and Mark Waid have been my two favorite writers so far.

The best and worst artists

Zach Joiner: Worst Artist: Canete.  Wow was this bad.
Best: I loved McNiven, Romita, and Weeks, but they had done Spidey before.  I will take Checchetto, and Rivera.

CrazyChris: My favorite artist is Lee Weeks from the “Something Can Stop the Juggernaut” arc.  His art reminds me of John Romita Junior before he went all super-stylized.  Instead of saying who my least favorite artist is, I’ll tell you about an okay-but-overrated artist: Marcos Martin.  I cannot deny his storytelling’s clarity and innovation, but his style looks distorted and unappealing.  I don’t care how ingeniously you use lines if every human face looks that ugly.

Jon Wilson: I’m sorry, but every time I open the cover and see Chris Bachallo’s art inside, I shudder.  The only time this wasn’t the case was the Dark Avengers annual.  I thought he did a nice job there.

Gerard Delatour II: Artistically, I have a lot more good things to say.  John Romita Jr., Barry Kitson, Lee Weeks, Paolo Rivera, Marcos Martin, and Michael Lark have all done great work on the title.  Paolo Siquiera and Marco Checchetto have opened my eyes as well.  It’s tough to choose, but I think JR JR’s output exceeds that of the others, which makes him my favorite.  The worst artist is easily Eric Canete.  Despite my aversion for Chris Bachalo, and in spite of the fact that Canete has only done one issue, Canete’s work was so bad that it actually burned a permanent image into my mind.  His Spidey looks like a cross between tissue paper and vomit, and I really couldn’t figure out what in the hell was happening half of the time.  My God.

Brad Douglas: That dude that did the Deadpool arc.  I’ve seen better art on my toilet paper.

Up next: The finale!

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