THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #656 Review


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #656

“No One Dies, Part Two: Resolve”

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: Marcos Martin

Inker: Marcos Martin

Colorist: Muntsa Vicente

Cover Art: Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente

Variant Cover Art: Joe Quesada, Danny Miki, and Richard Isanove

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

I’m back!

Well, okay, I wasn’t really gone at all.  Things got rough in the last month or so, and I had to skip out on the last one (issue 655) because I fell too far behind for it to be worthwhile.  So for all those people asking: no, Brad hasn’t “fired” me … yet.

The Plot

Following from last issue’s teaser, a new villain called Massacre has a group of hostages held captive in a bank.  Unlike most hostage situations, however, Massacre has killed hostages and threatens to kill more.  Spider-Man arrives and tries to help, laying a spider-tracer on Massacre, but he is shot in the ensuing chaos because of his lack of spider-sense.  Because he doesn’t have his spider-sense, his tracer also proves to be completely useless, so loses Massacre in the sewers.  After visiting the Night Nurse for some help with the gunshot wound and coming across Paladin, Spidey is inspired to create a new armored costume.  Mayor Jameson holds a press conference to discuss the killings at the bank, and later, he decides that enough is enough with the murder rate in New York City.  At Horizon Labs, Peter has an antagonistic run-in with his colleagues before one of them takes him to one of the labs to check out a new piece of equipment being worked on – an application to identify criminals based on photographs from crime scenes.  Peter learns Massacre’s backstory and whereabouts, and he quickly dashes out.  At his former workplace, Massacre has taken more hostages, and Spider-Man soon arrives in his (butt-ugly) new costume.  Using magnetic webbing to protect the people from Massacre’s detonator, Spidey quickly defeats Massacre.  The villain steps outside of the building unarmed, but the police chief (acting under Jameson’s orders) commands his men to kill Massacre.  Spider-Man protects Massacre, leading to getting his ears blown up by Jameson (figuratively, of course).

The Good

There was nothing particularly outstanding about this issue (and boy, were there some bad aspects!), but several things about it made me smile.

For starters, the “inspiration” for the new armored costume actually made sense in the context of the story.  Paladin – who, for those that may not be familiar with the character, is a notorious jerk – hits Spider-Man with an insult that’s a little too close to the bone, sending Spidey into a rage, and when Spidey notices Paladin’s armor, the inspiration hits.  This is a moment that hits both a character beat (namely, Spider-Man’s current mental state) and a key plot point at once.  More moments like this would make the book a hell of a lot easier to read, in my opinion, because it’s one of the rare occasions in which we’re allowed to see something without having to have it explained or told to us as well.

Jonah’s character arc here begins superbly.  He’s wracked with sadness and guilt, but as mayor of New York City, he isn’t allowed to be away for long – and in this issue, he’s already back to work.  His wife’s death still haunts him, and he has to address the citizens about the murders at the bank.  Both the artwork and the script present Jonah as a broken shell of a man in these scenes, and it plays well.  This is about as real as Jonah has ever been, and while I much prefer Jonah to be the cartoonish madman that we all know and love, I have to tip my cap to Slott and Martin for taking the character in this direction at this moment.  Later, however, is another story …

I appreciate that we get a brief moment with the other TriCorp Horizon Labs employees.  With the book currently packed with supporting cast members, this relatively faceless portion of the cast has slipped far, far to the back of the room.  At this point, we know little to nothing about them, and it’s hard to muster up any kind of attention whenever they appear.  Here, however, we get a brief moment to understand what makes these people tick.  In particular, I can openly admit that I subscribe to the same train of thought that they do – that trivial nonsense is a great distraction from the crapsack world we live in.  (Anybody that knows me personally understands exactly what I mean.)  That’s a good character insight to the Horizon crew that I hope is followed up on later.

The Bad

Unfortunately, the issue was also jam-packed with stupidity, from both a character standpoint and a plot standpoint.

Right off the bat, we’re beaten to death with the concept that Peter has lost his spider-sense.  It’s mentioned REPEATEDLY in the opening scene, with everything from webslinging, dodging, and using his spider-tracers affected.  A writer with more skill would have spread these ideas out over the course of the issue, or perhaps even multiple issues, to avoid coming across as heavy-handed.  Unfortunately, Slott’s script has all the subtlety of a wrecking ball, so we’re inundated with this immediately and constantly – and naturally, Spider-Man then has to explain it to the audience while it’s happening.  I swear, somebody thinks that the audience is composed entirely of slobbering morons.  (By the way, Spider-Man has used external devices to track his spider-tracers before.  Considering that the problem was solely a matter of frequency modulation, it should be a matter of mere minutes for the “Big Time, super-genius” Peter Parker to put together a new tracker … right?)

As I said earlier, I liked Jonah’s characterization at the outset.  Unfortunately, that quickly went south when Jonah suddenly decides to throw out all adherence to due process and order his police chief to kill accused murderers on sight and execute Alistair Smythe.  Let me repeat: the mayor of New York City issues a direct order to the police to murder a criminal regardless of the circumstances and to execute somebody without a trial in a state in which the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional.  Now, granted, it’s not like New York City has never had a mayor that repeatedly urinated on the Constitution in order to create a near-dictatorial police state bent solely to his elitist, wildly divergent will.

However, everyone’s willingness to go along with this plan is mind-boggling.  (The only character who even thinks twice is Captain Watanabe, and she is in no position to do anything about it because the chief relieved her of duty to take over the scene.)  I may be willing to accept the idea that Jonah would wildly exceed his authority and order a hit on somebody using the NYPD (you know, if I was high), but to have high-ranking officers then simply agree to do it and actually carry out those orders is horrifying.  And I’m not making this up – the chief actually gives the order to shoot and kill Massacre even after he emerges with serious injuries and the police identify that he is completely unarmed.  In fact, Chief Pratchett is apparently so eager and bloodthirsty that he orders Massacre shot on more than one occasion.  WHAT?!

The Massacre character himself doesn’t really do much for me.  This isn’t “The Bad” so much as “The Eh,” but it’s worth mentioning that outside of a trip to exposition hell in which his origin is spit at us by the talking head of Dr. Ashley Kafka (who, by the way, is suddenly middle-aged and chubby again), Massacre barely makes an impression.  The design of the character is silly, but not lousy enough to really draw ire.  Perhaps, if they put that character away for a while and use him differently in a couple of years, he could be worthwhile.  His origin is certainly interesting enough to warrant a second look.

The Ugly

The biggest, number one problem with the issue, however, is how moronic Peter acts throughout the story.  He forgets that his spider-tracers are tracked by his spider-sense, he injects himself into an entirely volatile hostage situation in an obvious fashion (which negates any element of surprise that he could have used), and, worst of all, he actually manages to convince himself of the idiotic premise that he is capable of preventing any and all murder in the entirety of New York City.  There are many, many reasons why this is foolish.  Here’s a sampling!

(1) New York City has over eight million residents spread out over five boroughs.  The five boroughs are all connected by bridges, tunnels, and ferries because they are all located on islands (except for the Bronx, which is located on a peninsula … but I digress).  The point is, there’s no way in hell Spider-Man could possibly cover that area.  As it is, his webslinging pretty much limits him to select areas of Manhattan only – he needs to actually hitch rides on buses or trains just to get from borough to borough.  How the hell will he prevent murder on Staten Island, which can only be reached from Manhattan by a ferry?  Is he going to swim?  Does Staten Island not count?

(2) The sheer number of murders committed in New York City would overwhelm Spider-Man almost immediately.  There have been over 500 murders a year here in all but two years since 1963.  That’s more than one murder a day.  Even if he focused solely on murder, which would make him a shitty superhero as is, he would need to prevent more than a murder a day, every day, in order to stop them all.  And remember, as I pointed out in item 1, that’s a huge area to cover.  He might have to stop a murder on the southern tip of Staten Island and the northern border of the Bronx within minutes of each other.  How are you going to do that, Spidey?

(3) The crazy thing about murder is that it’s pretty unpredictable.  People can get murdered in an instantaneous moment of insanity or in ways that nobody sees coming.  Somebody once got shot and killed in front of my building by a dude riding a bicycle.  Yes, a drive-by bicycle murder actually happened.  (The recoil from the gun pushed the killer off of the bicycle, and he escaped on foot.  In a sequence that we still laugh about to this day, the guy actually returned to the scene of the crime later that day and took his bicycle back right under the nose of the NYPD.  Now THAT is some incompetence right there.)  Anyway, the point is, there’s no way for somebody to learn about a crime and then travel to the location and prevent it before it happens.  There’s just no way.

(4) The randomness with which Spider-Man encounters crime would negate any possibility of preventing 95% of the murders in New York.  Remember, Spidey is just one guy.  He would literally need to come across a murder in progress in order to prevent it, which is a very remote possibility as is.  Plus, considering that he now has no spider-sense, he would actually have to SEE is with his own two eyes in order to stop it.  Sure, he could probably stop things like the events of this issue due to the lengths of time involved, but a botched robbery that turns into a murder would be impossible to find just swinging around town.

I could go on, but you’re probably already sick of this.

The Bottom Line

This story is dumb, dumb, dumb.  DUMB.  1.5 out of 5 webheads.

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