THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #640 Review


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AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #640

“One Moment in Time, Chapter Three: Something Borrowed”

Writer: Joe Quesada

Penciler: Paolo Rivera and Joe Quesada

Inker: Paolo Rivera and Danny Miki

Colorist: Paolo Rivera and Richard Isanove

“Spidey Sundays”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciler: Marcos Martin

Inker: Marcos Martin

Colorist: Muntsa Vicente

Cover Art: Paolo Rivera

Variant Cover #1: Joe Quesada, Danny Miki, and Richard Isanove

Variant Cover #2: Jelena Djurdjevic

Variant Cover #THERE ARE TOO MANY DAMN VARIANTS: Joe Quesada

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

Continuing the sequel to the worst Spider-Man story of all time, we’ve hit part three (of four) of “One Moment in Time.”  After a craptacular start and an above-average second entry, can they keep the quality upticks coming?

The Plot

After a brief frame page with Peter and Mary Jane in the present, we cut right to the aftermath of last issue’s finale.  The doctor explains to Peter that Aunt May was saved by the power of love (???) – that the love and hope of Peter and Mary Jane is what brought her back.  Overhearing the conversation, a crooked nurse informs the still-jailed Kingpin of Crime, Wilson Fisk, that May is recovering.  After a terse conversation, Fisk calls a hitman to proceed knocking people off based on a list.  At the hospital, Mary Jane receives a call from her Aunt Anna, who is scared about sounds she’s hearing behind the house.  Mary Jane comes over and finds Aunt Anna about to be killed by the hitman, so she saves Anna by smashing a pot over the guy’s head.  However, this just pisses the dude off, and he proceeds to chase Mary Jane to try to kill her, since she’s on the list.  Back at the hospital, Peter gets a call from Anna and learns from a nurse that Mary Jane went to Forest Hills.  After telling Tom Brevoort to watch May’s room (I’m not joking), Peter changes into Spider-Man and races off to save her.  Meanwhile, after a struggle, MJ is about to be killed by the hitman and is saved in the nick of time by Spidey.  Unmasking the goon, Spidey discovers that he is, in fact, Eddie Muerte, the thug that caused him to miss his wedding.  Realizing that these attacks will never stop so long as his identity is publicly known, Peter turns to Doctor Strange for help – asking for Strange to mindwipe the world into forgetting his identity.  Strange takes leave in his astral form to consult with Tony Stark and Reed Richards over the matter.

The Good

This is an almost entirely Rivera-drawn issue, and it’s a nice-looking book.  It’s not as great as the previous issue – which is likely due to the crushing deadlines that have caused delays in this arc – but it’s still solid work.  The colors tend to be a little too dark and flat, but that probably lends itself more to the setting and plot than anything else.  The artwork is again the strong point.

Once again, this is a Mary-Jane-centric issue.  While this has its drawbacks, seeing a proactive MJ is almost always a benefit to a story.  She saves her Aunt Anna and very nearly dies for the effort, and there is a palpable sense of danger … to an extent (more on this in short order).

The script here focuses entirely on telling one story, which also has its pros and cons.  On the pro side, Quesada chose to include very few needless distractions and cuts to the present as in previous issues – without the frame story, this plays as a normal Spider-Man issue.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the singular focus is also what ruined the story.

We finally get some indication of what really happened in the new version of “Back in Black,” which I appreciate, but the story itself lacks punch.  We already know, since this is a flashback, that neither Anna nor Mary Jane could possibly be seriously harmed or killed in the story because we’ve seen them in the present continuity.  That makes the chase sequences a chore to read.  While they’re cleverly illustrated, full of interesting angles and fluidly moving characters, the entire idea is just boring.  On the surface, there is a sense of danger to the story, but once you think about it logically, that sense disappears completely.

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Is this supposed to remind us of The Burglar? Well, you failed.

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The plot with the Kingpin is a good idea, but it just creates more confusion.  For starters, there is no solid place to put this story in continuity.  While it seems to take place after “Back in Black,” the fact that Wilson Fisk is (a) completely unharmed, and (b) still messing with Spider-Man’s personal life seems to indicate that he never took that epic beating from The Amazing Spider-Man #542.  Second, we see that Fisk turns to Eddie Muerte to kill Peter’s family.  This is a pretty pointless twist.  Why did it have to be Eddie?  There’s no in-story reason why this needs to be the case, other than to create a cheap shock moment.  Even on that level, it fails, because Quesada and Rivera tipped their hand by having Eddie’s “assassin suit” feature a luchador mask.  I knew the moment the assassin appeared that it was Eddie, so the reveal was a dud.  This ties together the plot of the first issue of the arc, since we now know that it was the Kingpin to whom the gangster was referring in the restaurant scene, but the entire subplot was an unnecessary element.

Peter turns to Doctor Strange for help eliminating the world’s knowledge of his identity.  Once again, we get a magical retcon to cover up the mistakes and lousy writing of several years ago.  I hate that they felt the need to introduce the explanation in this fashion because it just comes across as contrived.  Doctor Strange can’t heal Aunt May of a simple gunshot wound (she’s saved by the power of love, apparently, which is a real load of bullshit), but he can heal Mary Jane of internal injuries and execute a perpetual, worldwide mindwipe?  Give me a break!  (This also creates an issue with repeatability.  When Mark Waid wanted to tell a story in his great Fantastic Four run that involved Ben Grimm being killed and returning from death, a large focus behind-the-scenes was making sure that the mechanism of his return was a “non-repeatable phenomenon,” as Waid put it.  If Ben could be returned from the dead, they had to make sure it could be done in a way that the characters couldn’t fall back on every time somebody died.  Here, I didn’t get the sense that the mindwipe will be a non-repeatable phenomenon.  We’ll have to wait and see what Quesada has up his sleeve in the next issue.)

Since the limp chase and subsequent realization by Peter – one that any logical person would have considered long before unmasking publicly, owing itself entirely to how poorly Peter was written during the Civil War era by Straczynski, Millar, and others, under the watch of Quesada himself – make up most of the issue, the majority of it comes across as a pointless read.  I hate having my time wasted by comic book issues, and this one is definitely a waste of time outside of the last several pages.  This really shouldn’t have been a full issue, and this installment reveals that the structure of the arc is fundamentally flawed, to the point that it may be irredeemable.

There are several small moments that also made me roll my eyes, including an pretentious, drawn-out appearance by a dude that is clearly Tom Brevoort, Mary Jane taking a backhand that very nearly comes across as editorial wish fulfillment, and use of that incorrect Fitzgerald name again, but these are insignificant compared to the problems with the plot.

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At least he's not being condescending.

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The Ugly

Although his artwork is only limited to one and three-quarters pages, Quesada managed to fit in a panel so mind-bogglingly awful that it makes me wonder how it ever got past the inker, let alone the inker, colorist, and editor …

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Look at those legs and try to tell me that Mary Jane is drawn correctly. I DARE you.

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The Bottom Line

After being pleasantly surprised by the previous issue, this installment wiped away all the goodwill.  It’s slow, nearly pointless drivel that manages to waste both the reader’s time and money.  This isn’t the worst Spider-Man story ever, as some people on this site and elsewhere have claimed (come on, it isn’t even the worst Spider-Man story THIS YEAR), but it’s still not worth reading.  1.5 out of 5 webheads.