THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #651 Review


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #651

“Big Time, Part 4”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Humberto Ramos

Inker: Carlos Cuevas and Joseph Damon

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

“The Sting That Never Goes Away”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Stefano Caselli

Inker: Stefano Caselli

Colorist: Edgar Delgado

Cover Art: Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado

Variant Cover Art: Mark Brooks

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

The Plot

Spider-Man and the Black Cat infiltrate the Fisk Building with the aid of Spidey’s new stealth costume.  After cutting the cameras in the lower levels, Felicia abandons Spider-Man at the first sign of trouble to go loot Fisk’s office, leaving Spidey alone to fight the Hobgoblin.  Using the abilities of his new costume, Spidey manages to hold his own against the Hobgoblin until the reverbium begins to react, causing the building to vibrate and begin to crumble.  Meanwhile, the Black Cat is captured by Fisk, but the building’s condition worsens.  Spidey saves the Black Cat and Hobgoblin saves the Kingpin, but Montana appears to fall to his death.  The Hobgoblin officially becomes Fisk’s right-hand man and seeks out the Tinkerer for some weapons upgrades.  Phil Urich provides more footage to The Daily Bugle, scoring a “date” with Norah and a paycheck bonus.  Peter gets a new apartment in Tribeca and goes to a fancy dinner with Carlie, May, and Jonah Sr., basking in his newfound success.

In the backup story “The Sting That Never Goes Away,” Mac Gargan receives a new Scorpion suit from Alistair Smythe.  After a brief walkthrough of Gargan’s powers and some motivation (namely, they both have a grudge against Jameson and want to see him suffer), Smythe unveils his other lab experiments, other insect-based supervillains that have been upgraded similarly to Gargan.

The Good

After setting up a big finale in the last issue, this installment delivers on the promise.  There’s a battle between Spider-Man and the Hobgoblin (and ninjas!), and legitimate peril due to the collapsing building.  There are consequences, power shifts, and even the possible death of a longstanding Stan Lee / Steve Ditko villain (although the Disney-esque circumstances of his death leave a very large amount of wiggle room to bring him back).  Elements introduced earlier in the arc such as reverbium, the new costume, etc. are all utilized to some degree in the final battle, which effectively closes the loop on these story points and allows them to be put to rest for now (for the most part … more on this later).

Slott continually drove home the idea of Peter as the scientist in this arc – to the point of annoyance, in fact – but this issue showed the payoff to that development.  Spider-Man’s battle with the Hobgoblin was essentially a tech-fest focusing on the abilities of his new costume.  He overcomes the Hobgoblin’s technology by shielding himself from the sonic scream and destroying the flaming sword, and he uses his new gadgets to buy some time by neutralizing the reverbium.  (Again, though, there are drawbacks to be discussed shortly.  A pattern is starting to develop here …)

Although I don’t care for Ramos’ art, I need to take a moment to give special recognition to the coloring of Edgar Delgado.  Everything from the subtle glow of Spider-Man’s costume to the intensity of the flame is rendered beautifully.  Hobgoblin’s sword literally leaps off of the page thanks to Delgado’s balance of cool and warm coloring – flip through the pages and get a brief glimpse of each, and you should notice what I mean.  Great, great work by an undoubtedly overworked colorist.

Overall, it was a fast-paced, action-packed finale to the arc – a classically-structured Act Three like you would find in an action movie.  That’s a plus in my book.

The Bad

However, the majority of this issue irritated me for a number of reasons.  I’ll try to discuss as many of them as I can.

For starters, the final battle between Spider-Man and the Hobgoblin ends on an unsatisfying conclusion – Spider-Man doesn’t beat the Hobgoblin.  Rather, the Hobgoblin flies away to escape the crumbling of the building.  In fact, it’s later implied that the Black Cat’s bad luck powers actually influenced this outcome, so it’s debatable that Spider-Man even had any impact at all.  Hell, Black Cat takes up more space on the cover, and she’s in the center.  Maybe this was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for a Black Cat series?

Speaking of the Black Cat, I really didn’t care for her in this arc.  Once again, she abandons Spidey for personal gain, and once again, Spider-Man is left being the sucker.  Then, they throw in some rope-around-the-neck action for the S&M freaks out there, and she immediately devolves into a damsel in distress.  Not only did they set the character back by 25 years by making her like this to begin with, but they also manage to send women in comics back to the Silver Age by turning a strong chick that can handle herself into the helpless damsel that needs to be saved.  It’s like the early Fantastic Four issues all over again!  Seriously, you could make a game out of it by removing the dialogue in half of the Black Cat panels and daring people to come up with dirty captions.  Here are two you can practice on, kids!

Despite the fact that they keep telling us how brilliant Spider-Man is, none of it is actually shown on the page.  For example, Spider-Man keeps wondering why nobody can hear him after HE ACTIVELY USES HIS SUIT TO DISTORT THE PROPAGATION OF SOUND WAVES AND PREVENT PEOPLE FROM HEARING EACH OTHER.  That’s like turning off the lights in your living room and then wondering why you can’t see anything.  He’s also completely thrown for a loop immediately after the fight begins because the Hobgoblin’s scream is at a slightly higher frequency than before.  Why didn’t he build some sort of frequency modulation into the suit?  It seems a little silly to not have some flexibility built into the suit’s primary function, doesn’t it?  Plus, when you consider the obvious Black Cat double-cross that everybody saw coming, you have to wonder what Spider-Man was thinking half the time.

Peter basks in his newfound success at the end of the issue, but I really wonder why.  Let’s review.  (1) He fought the Hobgoblin to a standstill, but the Hobgoblin escaped.  That’s a pretty large, unresolved problem.  (2) The Kingpin is still in power.  In fact, he’s arguably more powerful now that he has the Hobgoblin as his right-hand man.  (3) He directly contributed to the destruction of the Fisk Building.  Without a central location to operate out of, the Kingpin is suddenly more protected than ever, because he can operate in secrecy at an unknown location.  (4) He just bought an apartment in Tribeca.  If he’s only been working for a week, how can he afford this?  Remember, he was literally penniless as recently as five issues ago – moving into the city’s most expensive neighborhood probably isn’t a good idea when you’ve just started a new job.  (Incidentally, it’s also one of the whitest neighborhoods in the city.  I guess when they say that Peter Parker is the “everyman,” they really mean “every WHITE man.”)  (5) All of his Spider-Man stuff is locked in Horizon Labs.  If somebody snags Carlie Cooper and takes her to the middle of Times Square to murder her ass (please, make it happen), what’s he going to do?  He’d have to take the subway to Horizon Labs, fish out his equipment, and then web-swing over to Times Square and hope that Carlie’s head is still connected to her body.  Remember: he has no Spider-Man paraphernalia in his apartment at all.  Yup, he’s hit the big time all right!

I should briefly mention the backup story.  It wasn’t bad per se, but why are these subplots being segregated from the main story?  A good writer should be able to integrate the ongoing subplots into the main narrative instead of shunting them off into a corner like this.  Also, did we really need to bring back some of these characters?  If my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me, that last splash page shows such legendary, classic characters as The Thousand and the Charlotte Witter Spider-Woman.  Because you demanded it!

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the Tron joke and the Tron cover.  I guess it’s a small world after all!

The Ugly

Um … what?  Did you guys just try to cover your asses by comparing Big Time’s use of porn jokes to the social implications of the classic Stan Lee / Gil Kane drug trilogy?  Wait a second, I need to slam my head on my desk.

**WHAM**

There’s a pretty big difference between a significant social issue like drug abuse – one that Stan Lee was specifically asked by The Office of Health Education and Welfare to address in the pages of his comic books – and casual pornography jokes.  One is a revolutionary, important moment in the history of comics, one that shined a new light on a major problem plaguing the American population.  The other is porn.  But I guess I’m wrong … Peter and his aunt joking about porn is as groundbreaking as the drug trilogy, apparently.  Thank God we have people like Steve Wacker and Dan Slott blazing the trail for including pornography in comics.

In no way is this a cock-up.  They wouldn’t want to dick around like that, forcing lies in our faces.  I might think that it’s just junk, but they’re spraying our faces with thick, juicy truth.  We’re all a bunch of boobs, swaying back and forth on the topic.  The real thrust of the scenario is that, as readers, we need a good blast every once in a while to wake us up.  We’re not getting shafted here – rather, we’re getting what we badly need, and we should just take it.

The Bottom Line

I’m already growing increasingly irritated by Slott’s run, not because it’s terrible, but because it’s so thoroughly frustrating to see all this potential regularly squandered by bad execution.  This is another “not terrible, but certainly not good” issue, the likes of which won’t be winning me over anytime soon.  2 out of 5 webheads.