“Big Time”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Humberto Ramos

Inker: Carlos Cuevas

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

“The Girl’s All Right With Me …”

Writer: Paul Tobin

Penciler: Clayton Henry

Inker: Clayton Henry

Colorist: Chris Sotomayor

Cover Art: Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado

Variant Cover #1: J. Scott Campbell and Edgar Delgado

Variant Cover #2: Stefano Caselli and Edgar Delgado

Variant Cover #3: Marcos Martin

Variant Cover #4: J. Scott Campbell

Variant Cover #5: No-goddamn-body

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

I’ve got a splitting headache, so this is going to have to be another scanless review.  Besides, do you really want to look at Humberto Ramos’ art when you don’t have to?

The Plot

Spider-Man leads the Avengers into battle against octobot constructs created by (who else?) Doctor Octopus.  Mayor Jameson is stalked by a mysterious metallic-suited character and begins to patch things up with his estranged wife Marla.  Doctor Octopus leads several villains – possibly a new incarnation of the Sinister Six – in a scheme to plant devices in Andru Air Force Base in New Jersey (a nice little homage).  Spider-Man uses his smarts to overcome the octobots’ self-destruct functionality.  The next day, Peter makes some cash doing grunt work at Front Line and Jameson gives Joe Robertson the rights to the Daily Bugle name, which he purchased back from the DB’s shareholders.  Michele Gonzales leaves to go back to Chicago, leaving Peter without an apartment.  Peter visits many of his friends looking for a place to stay, but for various reasons he comes up empty.  The Venom symbiote is separated forcefully from Mac Gargan at The Raft.  Marla Jameson helps introduce Peter to Max Modell, the head of Horizon Labs.  Saving the lab after an accident, Peter gets hired into their exclusive “think tank” as the seventh member.  Finally, the Kingpin and Montana bring in the Hobgoblin to do a job for him.

The Good

This issue addresses a lot of the problems of Brand New Day immediately.  Spider-Man is shown as an important part of the Avengers, there is plenty of movement with the supporting cast, and Peter’s job situation is addressed and (at least for now) resolved.  Slott uses the expanded pagecount to give us a fairly fleshed-out Spidey adventure and a focus on his civilian identity in the same issue, which can be a tough balance to strike.  That’s a big plus, too, because a lot of pieces are moved around the chessboard in this issue.  Michele is now out of the book – though, if Vin remains a presence, she may not be gone permanently.  Marla Jameson is suddenly a significant character, and she is really the prime mover of the issue.  New characters are introduced into the already busy periphery via Peter’s new job.

Somehow, I ended up with a bigger impression of Marla Jameson after reading this issue than anything else that occurred within its pages.  She gets more face time here than in all of Brand New Day combined.  Heck, I can’t immediately recall another story that I’ve ever read in which she plays a more significant role, other than a few early spider-slayer bits.  Slott effectively uses her scientific background and new relationship to Peter as an explanation of her actions here, and it’s a refreshing use of the character.  It would be great to see her play a more active role in the series.  (I wonder how this fits in with continuity, because I could swear that they got divorced.  I’ll leave the sleuthing to somebody with a better memory than mine, though.)

Speaking of the new job, that’s one area that seems to have received the most thought.  Though I’ll get into the drawbacks later, Slott utilizes the underdeveloped scientific side of the character for the new job setup.  Peter is now part of an elite group at Horizon Labs, a job that doesn’t require him to keep a regular schedule.  For the time being, that means that he can be Spider-Man without it interfering too harshly with his job.  It remains to be seen if he will still be able to produce as needed when the time comes, but we’ll see.

As I mentioned earlier, Spider-Man uses his head quite a bit in this issue.  From strategies against the octobots to disarming the self-destruct protocols to saving the people at the lab, Peter has to use his noggin to get through all of the obstacles in this issue.  It’s a refreshing change to see Peter not acting like a slack-jawed idiot, as he has been for most of the last several years.  The solution to the octobot problem is actually pretty darn clever, too.

The Bad

Unfortunately, this issue is fraught with problems.  First and foremost is the artwork by Humberto Ramos.  You can count me in the large group of people that are not fans of his art, from previous runs on Peter Parker: Spider-Man and Spectacular Spider-Man to his non-Spidey work.  Everything just looks so … misshapen.  Contrast Ramos’ artwork with that of Max Fiumara from the previous issue, which I praised in my review.  Fiumara and Ramos have similarly exaggerated styles, but the fluidity of Fiumara’s linework makes it much more appealing to look at.  Everything that Ramos draws is overly angular and disproportionate.

While I like the idea of giving Peter a scientifically-based job, Slott chose to retread a familiar plot to set it all up.  Pop quiz: how many of you remember TriCorp Research Foundation?  Okay, I’m sure most of you have at least heard of it, considering that you’re reading a Spider-Man fan site.  Do you remember how Peter ended up being employed there?  Peter used his quick thinking to help defeat the Scorpion and save the researchers, which convinced Doctor Twaki that he deserved a job there.  In this issue, Peter uses his quick thinking to stop the wayward experiment and save the researchers, which convinced Max Modell that he deserved a job there.  It’s the same exact story.  I could excuse Slott if this was an obscure story from thirty years ago, but the issue in question is only about ten years old, and it happened in a very high-profile reboot of the character.

Likewise, we’re beaten over the head with the “Spider-Man is smart” theme throughout the issue.  Yes, Spider-Man doesn’t use his mind often enough.  However, a better writer would have used a little more subtlety in the approach, rather than using every empty moment to remind us of a fact that we’re watching as it happens.

The entire Avengers scene is a mess.  I like that we’re seeing more of the Avengers in this book, because it’s hardly been mentioned up until The Origin of Species.  However, Slott’s grasp of the Avengers seems to be questionable at best.  Wolverine calls him “Parker” openly, Thor is a gullible heavy, and Spider-Man himself acts like a juvenile idiot around them.  Couple that with the fact that Ramos draws them so poorly (especially Captain America and Wolverine) and it seems like these Avengers just dropped in from an alternate dimension or something.  Oh yeah, and that fart joke was the lowest rung of entertainment possible.

One thing that I’ll mention briefly is the mini-montage of Peter visiting his friends for help.  I get that Peter has a history, but the idea that not a single one of them would want to help him in his time of need is absolutely appalling.  These people are his friends?  Really?  And that page with Mary Jane … well, I’ll just go ahead and paraphrase George Berryman: the reality slaps just keep on coming.

Oh, and by the way … if Jay is supposed to be J. Jonah Jameson Sr., then our classic Jonah is J. Jonah Jameson Jr., right?  If that’s the case, why do they call Jonah’s son John Jameson Jr. in this issue?  Wouldn’t that make him John Jameson III?  Unless the “J.” stands for “Jay” with the older one and “John” with the younger one … but then he wouldn’t be J. Jonah Jameson Sr., he’d just be Jay Jameson.  I … just … this is making my head hurt more.

The Ugly

There’s an Arana-Girl backup in this issue, and she’s on two of the covers.  I’m going to go ahead and say this without mincing words: I’m openly rooting for the new Spider-Girl to fail.  Therefore, I didn’t bother to read the backup story, and I will never read that backup story.  Is this a terrible thing to say?  Yup.  But it’s how I really feel about the situation.

Make Mine Mayday!

The Bottom Line

This is like a mediocre television pilot that leaves enough of a glimmer of hope to draw you back for the second episode.  I’ll give credit to Slott for trying to turn around a lot of the problems of Brand New Day right away, but much of the execution is lacking.  And, if you’re hopping back on the book expecting something radically different from Brand New Day, prepare to be disappointed.  However, for the first time in a long time, I’m cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead.  2.5 out of 5 webheads.

One More Thing …

This didn’t really fit anywhere else, but I wanted to mention it briefly since it came up in a conversation I had yesterday.  While it may seem odd for J. Jonah Jameson to own the name and rights to a major newspaper while in office as mayor of New York City, it’s not without precedent.  Our current mayor, Mike Bloomberg, is actually the owner of Bloomberg LP, a financial news and data company.  As such, he also owns an international television network (Bloomberg News) and a local radio station (WBBR, Bloomberg Radio) here in New York City.  It’s not completely insane that Jameson could purchase the Bugle, either, because Bloomberg LP bought Business Week within the last couple of years.

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