THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #649 Review


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #649

“Kill To Be You”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Humberto Ramos

Inker: Carlos Cuevas

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

Cover Art: Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

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The Plot

A flashback shows the Hobgoblin cutting a swath through a South American dictatorship.  Cut to modern times, in which Hobby makes a return to the New York City crime scene.  Retrieving some equipment from a bunker belonging to Norman Osborn, the Hobgoblin comes across former (heroic) Green Goblin Phil Urich.  After a brief encounter, Urich kills the Hobgoblin.  Spider-Man and the Black Cat save Norah from some Goblin Cultists.  Peter has a scare regarding Carlie and his secret identity.  The Daily Bugle returns, and we learn that Phil has resumed Goblin-ing to impress Norah.  Aunt May escorts Peter to his first day of work.  Steve Rogers convinces Mayor Jameson to give Spider-Man the key to the city.  Mac Gargan continues to suffer after being forcibly removed from the symbiote.  Peter gets his lab set up and has an unproductive day at work.  The new Hobgoblin attacks and incapacitates Spider-Man.

The Good

Following the scheme from last issue, Dan Slott manages to juggle multiple storylines and character plots without causing the entire thing to crack under its own weight.  We have the Phil/Hobgoblin plotline, Peter’s new job, the rise of the Goblin Cult, the rebirth of the Daily Bugle, a Mac Gargan plotline, and more.  Tons of characters show up, including the underused Mayor Jameson and the rarely-seen Black Cat.  All the while, Slott manages to give them all enough to do that it doesn’t feel like they’re showing up solely for face time – for the most part, they all contribute to what’s occurring in the story.

Unlike the last time, this Hobgoblin mystery was handled quickly and effectively.  Regardless of whether or not you like the way it played out (and boy, do I dislike it … see “The Ugly”), Slott stuck to his guns and dealt with the issue quickly.  Avoiding the mistakes made with Jackpot and Menace, we get a fast reveal and a moderately convincing reason why Phil has put on the Hobgoblin mask, given the circumstances.  Knowing the identity of the Hobgoblin this early in the story may actually make it a better one, because as readers we can understand the motivations and state of the character better than we would if he remained a blank slate.

Considering the attention paid to the changes in Peter’s job situation and Front Line / The Daily Bugle, both are handled in a fairly mundane manner.  Sure, both are called out at some point to remind us – including one wallbanger moment that I will mention later – but unlike what the hype led us to believe, neither are the focus of the story.  It’s a departure from what became the norm in the last couple of years of having every minute change waved in our faces for the purpose of showing us how groundbreaking and new everything in Brand New Day was supposed to be (when in reality, most of it rehashed older, better stories).  I like it better this way, because it allows the story to develop more organically.  This is especially important given how many storylines are being followed at once – reader fatigue could quickly become an issue if every plotline was treated with undue importance.

Knowing what lies ahead in the near future or not, the pieces are coming together nicely.  Slott is using these issues effectively to set up elements that will play out over the course of his run.  There are enough interesting, open-ended subplots to continue to draw me into the book, regardless of the quality of the story at hand.  In particular, I want to see where this Mac Gargan subplot is headed.  (While it’s obvious from preview material that there will be a new Venom, it’s not immediately obvious which character will don the symbiote.)

The Bad

You all know by now that I’m a big fan of Tom DeFalco’s Spider-Girl (and not the current imposter), and one of the best supporting characters in that book was Phil Urich.  Using his experience as a former heroic Green Goblin, Phil guided Mayday in her early career.  It only made sense, considering that the 1990s Green Goblin series written by DeFalco and starring Phil Urich was essentially the blueprint upon which Spider-Girl was based.  Phil has always been a good kid dealing with weighty problems.  The Phil Urich we see here, however, is a complete departure for the character – to the point that it isn’t even remotely the same guy.  Not only does he act in a wildly different manner, but he also bears no physical resemblance to the Phil that we’ve seen elsewhere.  I’m peripherally aware that this is following up on developments in the recently-cancelled Loners, but (a) it was probably done in conjunction with Slott’s plans, and (b) it probably didn’t make sense to the three people reading the book anyway.  This isn’t character derailment, this is a character head-on train collision.

Outside of this poor characterization, Slott’s script contains plenty of juvenile humor and head-scratching gaffes.  Following up on the fart joke from last issue, we get jokes about pornography, BDSM, and the size of Randy Robertson’s junk.  That’s right folks, The Amazing Spider-Man has now fallen to the level of dick and fart jokes.  It’s sickening.  At the same time, one moment in particular stood out for me – after two pages of buildup, Aunt May drops Peter off at his new workplace and beams with pride that Peter has finally gotten work in the scientific field.  Cue the record scratch!  This is NOT the first time that Peter has gotten work as a scientist.  Remember TriCorp?  (Slott should – he ripped off the first TriCorp story last issue.)  Or Peter’s work as a graduate assistant – both times?  This is the “promise” from The Amazing Spider-Man #1 that Slott teased several times while hyping up his run (go ahead and check if you don’t believe me … it’s the first panel of page three).  Once again, another “groundbreaking” and “new” development of this era is a rehash of something done before.  I’m also not keen on Slott’s solution for the problem of storing Peter’s Spidey equipment (which he moves not  because of cleaning ladies in the hotel, but because Carlie Cooper suddenly possesses superhuman levels of perception), which introduces a host of logistical problems that should be addressed in the coming issues.

Under the pencil of Humberto Ramos, this book has a very hit-or-miss quality.  As usual, his faces are a mess.  The same character will have a pointed chin in one panel, a box chin in the next panel, and a round chin in the following panel.  Action scenes are confusing and full of awkwardly disproportionate anatomy.  Camera choices stray too far too one end of the spectrum or another with regards to the level of zoom.  It’s just a mess, not only of illustration but also of construction.

The Ugly

Do I really need to introduce this one?

After years of fan requests – an actual case of “because you demanded it,” for a change – the Hobgoblin was brought back only to be killed immediately.  Yes, they left themselves some wiggle room in case they don’t have the balls to stick by their story, but the effect is what it is.  As far as we know, Roderick Kingsley is pretty damn dead.

No character’s return has been more anticipated than the Hobgoblin.  Any fan of the comic growing up in the 80s – which admittedly is before my time – grew up with the Hobgoblin as “their” goblin.  Others, like myself, that have gone back and read the stories after the fact fell in love with the character.  Kingsley was the sane goblin, the one with a calculating mind and ruthlessness to match.  In my opinion, he was the perfect villain.  There has been a lot of chatter on message boards across the internet that this was an intentional insult to the fans, and that’s not an argument that I’m willing to directly address in this space.  Regardless of whether or not it was an intentional slap (and boy, does Steve Wacker’s obnoxious baiting make it seem like it is), this is another case of a writer lazily establishing the menace of his character by having him/her easily take out an established character in a way that makes little to no sense.  This is a trope that I’ve complained about before, and this is one of its worst applications to date.

The Bottom Line

This is another mediocre issue.  The book isn’t bad per se, but it sure isn’t good either.  There’s enough here to maintain hope, but the execution of the story is sapping that hope quickly.  2.5 out of 5 webheads. 

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