THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #654 Review


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #654

“Revenge of the Spider-Slayer, Part Three: Self-Inflicted Wounds”

Plotter: Dan Slott

Scripter: Fred Van Lente

Penciler: Stefano Caselli

Inker: Stefano Caselli

Colorist: Marte Garcia

“Rebirth”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Paolo Siqueira and Ronan Cliquet de Oliveira

Inker: Paolo Siqueira, Roland Paris, and Greg Adams

Colorist: Fabio D’Auria

Cover Art: Stefano Caselli and Edgar Delgado

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

Dan Slott’s second arc as solo writer concludes here!  You know, except that he isn’t the only writer.  Um … ON TO THE REVIEW!

The Plot

Picking up from last issue, John Jameson arrives on the space station (with a hidden octobot in tow), but he’s stranded there due to damage to his shuttle.  Max Modell confronts Peter over his connection to Spider-Man, but Max mistakenly believes that Peter is actually only supplying Spidey with equipment.  Max helps Peter build a device to short out the communication of Smythe’s drones, but the device has to be detonated remotely because it could also cancel Spider-Man’s warning sense.  The Avengers continue to hold off the spider-slayers at the spa and Daily Bugle offices, while Jonah and company are racing from Andru Air Force Base to Manhattan.  Phil continues to be a dick and uses the confusion to trap Randy underneath a beam.  Spider-Man locates Smythe’s “mothership” over the Flatiron Building, which leads to a battle with the Scorpion.  Meanwhile, Marla Jameson whips up a device to screw with the slayers at the spa, while Robbie has Power Woman and Ms. Marvel take him away from the Bugle (since the slayers were after him).  Scorpion damages Spider-Man’s detonator, so Spidey has to activate the device manually.  The shockwave from the emitter wipes out his spider-sense, but it also takes out Smythe’s drones and leads to an easy victory over Gargan.  Everyone converges together in the streets, and the day appears to be saved, but Smythe has not been affected by the device and attacks.  Spider-Man is incapacitated due to his lack of spider-sense, and Smythe tries to kill Jonah.  Marla lunges in the way and is killed instead.  Spider-Man quickly defeats Smythe in the aftermath, while Jonah has a moment of anguish.

In the backup story, Flash Thompson is bonded to the alien symbiote for the first time and is trained in the use of his powers as the new Venom.  We meet his handlers, get the basics of his “tour of duty,” and learn about the dangers of the program.

The Good

If there’s one consistent plus for this arc, it’s the artwork.  Once again, Caselli does a fantastic job in the main feature.  He balances the light moments and the dark moments well, giving a ton of variation across his pages.  Considering the wide range of emotional states in this issue, he does a good job with the faces here.  Similarly, the backup story also looks pretty solid.  Though I don’t think that the styles of the two pencilers meld together particularly well, the backup still has a solid look to it that’s easy to appreciate.

Though I didn’t care for the story, I have to give Slott (and Van Lente, to a lesser extent) credit for packing the issue with movement.  There are a lot of scenes and a lot of action, and it’s a fairly dense read overall.  Compared to a lot of books on the stands, I can’t help but feel like Slott and Co. are making much more of an effort to pack in as much as possible.  Just look at the panel count on some of these pages – it’s almost shocking to see how much they’re cramming in there.

Plus, I really appreciate that the backup story completely spilled the beans on everything that we need to know about the new Venom, because frankly I wasn’t planning on picking up that silly “point one” issue next week.  (Wait … what’s that, Brad?  I have to review that issue?  FFFFFUUUUU–)

The Bad

I LOVED the first part of this arc, and I was really looking forward to seeing it all play out.  Now that it has, I am sorely disappointed at how illogical and just plain stupid this arc ended up being.

I already bemoaned how weak and ineffective Spider-Man has become in his own series in my review of the previous issue, and this issue cranks it up to eleven (or, for Don, OVER NINE THOUSAAAAAND!!!).  Max Modell helps Peter build the device and actually does most of the work.  Marla Jameson saves herself at the spa by working out a device to damage the spider-slayers.  Scorpion smashes the remote detonator and forces Spider-Man to activate the device manually, damaging his spider-sense.  Spider-Man gets his ass handed to him by a piece of shrapnel that even I would have seen coming.  All of these things, individually, would be annoying.  Piling them one on top of the other makes Spider-Man seem like a blubbering idiot.  Again, I have to ask the question: he is supposed to be the hero of this book, right?

The Max Modell scene made me want to scream.  Honestly, I was expecting something like this to happen, but that doesn’t make it any better.  The execution of it was simply maddening: Max comes to the conclusion that it’s impossible for one man to be both brilliant and super-powered, and thus Peter couldn’t be Spider-Man.  That’s just plain dumb.  Is it the work of the mindwipe?  If that’s the case, it once again calls into question just how the goddamn mindwipe works, which after several years has still never been explained.  This just sucks the drama out of the secret identity entirely, because it seems like NOBODY can ever discover his identity without being told.  Additionally, Max must live a pretty sheltered life if he’s never heard of Reed Richards, Tony Stark, Hank Pym, Robert “Bruce” Banner, Victor Von Doom …

The Daily Bugle sequences made me want to pull my hair out.  First of all, Phil is the most suspicious motherf***er on the planet.  He constantly shows up with high-quality video of all sorts of stuff he shouldn’t, he’s always making evil-looking scowling faces, and the dude just seems like he’s always up to something.  Yet, nobody ever suspects that something is wrong.  But that’s a minor point compared to what happens with Robbie and Randy.  Randy is pinned under a column and can’t move his legs, and Robbie has an epiphany that the slayers are after him.  He goes to Power Woman and Ms. Marvel and tells them to whisk him away from the building, which they do immediately.  So … what happened to Randy?  It was clearly established that he was stuck pretty solidly.  Why didn’t Robbie tell Ms. Marvel (who wasn’t doing anything, since Power Woman could carry Robbie by herself) to lift the column off of Randy?  In fact, we don’t see or hear anything about Randy for the rest of the issue.

Speaking of Ms. Marvel, WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THIS PANEL?!

Of course, none of this nonsense can top …

The Ugly

… the complete clusterf*** that is the finale.

Spider-Man arrives at the scene with all the major players already gathered.  Smythe’s ship explodes several feet away as Smythe jumps through the hull, sending a SINGLE PIECE OF SHRAPNEL flying that, of course, hits Spider-Man squarely in the forehead and concusses him.  It’s not an immediate concussion, mind you – it’s the “only hurts the hero at the precise moment he needs to be active” kind of concussion that affects neither his ability to give some expository dialogue (which he does, immediately after getting hit) nor his ability to leap into action moments after somebody gets killed (which he also does).  Really, Spider-Man is only incapacitated for the brief moments it takes for Marla to meet her fate.  This is dumber than a bag of doorknobs, but I guess it was necessary to lead into the dramatic, major death:

Oh right, nevermind.  They only killed off a very minor character that nobody gives a damn about.

Seriously … MARLA JAMESON?  The absolute, number one reason that this issue – and the arc as a whole, really – fails is that we as readers have no emotional investment in this scene whatsoever, because the character that is killed barely registers on the radar.  The entire arc builds to this one scene, and it completely and utterly fails on a dramatic level.  Of all the characters that they could have killed off to create some kind of lasting ripple, they picked one that has barely appeared at all outside of her initial stories, save for her overly played-up appearances in the last few issues.

I’m not saying that it’s impossible to have a character that is only around briefly be killed off with a major emotional impact.  Uncle Ben only appears briefly before he’s murdered in Amazing Fantasy #15, and it’s one of the most lasting deaths in comics.  Look at a movie like The Lion King.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Mufasa fell to his typically sanitized Disney death.  We cared because we connected to the character in the brief time that he was present in the story.  My favorite part of the movie Iron Man is when Tony comes across the dying Dr. Yinsen.  The character was barely in the movie, yet his death carried a lot of emotional impact because of how well the character was written and especially because of the strong, sensitive performance by Shaun Toub as Yinsen.  I can even admit that I cried in the theater when Uncle Ben died in the first Spider-Man film, even though (as a fan of the comics) I knew it was coming.  This issue?  I AIN’T SHEDDING A TEAR OVER THIS BULLSHIT.

The Bottom Line

Slott completely wasted the interesting premise and strong opening chapter with this crappy installment – by far the worst issue of his run to date.  1 out of 5 webheads. 

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