AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #661 – REVIEW


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN # 661


  • Writer: Christos Gage
  • Penciler: Reilly Brown
  • Inker: Victor Olazaba
  • Story Title: “The Substitute” Part One

 

 

The Substitute. This is a story in which Peter goes undercover at a Miami high school because his teacher girlfriend is injured by a student and he needs to find out why. He ends up uncovering gang activity and has to fight Winston from Ghostbusters and…

Wait.

That’s the plot to a decent action movie from the nineties starring Tom Berenger. This is a story about Spider-Man having to substitute at Avengers Academy.

That’s a really bizarre mix-up.

Oh well…read on.

Plot

After fighting a giant gorilla type creature that is supposedly from the Microverse Spider-Man spends a day filling in as an instructor at Avengers Academy. He’s a bit freaked out at first despite wanting to get back in the saddle of teaching and things get off to a rocky start. Spider-Man takes the class on patrol where they eventually run into the Psycho-Man who starts messing with their emotions. Spider-Man overcomes his self-doubt and smashes the Psycho-Man’s Fear/Doubt/Hate control box, which seemed like a good idea at the time but it turns out the powers are now within the Psycho-Man. Psycho-Man uses those powers to bring out the hate in the kids from the Academy and they advance on Spider-Man who makes a sly reference to the show Quantum Leap.

 

The Commentary

At the end of the issue Spider-Man says, “Oh boy.” This was the Quantum Leap reference that I mentioned. “Oh boy,” was Sam Beckett’s catch phrase after he would leap into a person at the end of an episode and find himself in a sticky situation and that scene would be replayed at the beginning of the next episode. I really liked Quantum Leap. It was one of the best shows of the nineties.

Anyhoo…

This was kind of an odd issue for me because even though Spider-Man is once again sharing comic book real estate with heroes from not one but both teams he is a member of I really didn’t mind. I can’t fully explain why it didn’t bug me in this issue where it has been bugging the crap out of me in the previous issues but that’s how things played out.

Well maybe I do know why. For the past four issues Spider-Man has been hanging out with the Future Foundation and while there were some good moments tucked away in those stories they really didn’t feel like issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Sure you had the supporting characters pop up here and there and the villains from the last story turned out to be the Sinister Six but the heart of what I consider a good Spider-Man story was missing. It felt more like Spider-Man was guest starring in his own book.

The story Christos Gage started in this issue was the opposite of that. This was very much a Spider-Man tale because on the surface this was a story about Peter trying to make up for having to leave his teaching gig after revealing his secret identity but really it was about a character trying to overcome his doubts and insecurities. I like when something I read works on several levels. I get more out of it that way. Beyond that it highlights one of the key aspects of Peter’s personality. Here is a guy that is plagued by self-confidence issues and some of the best Spider-Man stories come from him digging deep within himself and finding the internal strength and desire to win the day. Gage captured this part of the Spider-Man character perfectly.

I also really liked that while this issue was funny it wasn’t the type of funny that was shoved down our throats. All of the humor from the issue came out of the characters and the situations Peter was put in and Gage had his timing down in this respect. You could feel how uncomfortable Peter was in the classroom. I especially liked the moment where Striker points out how Peter could have kept the money he made from his early entertainer days. That made me chuckle and lead to a great silent comedy beat before Spider-Man suggested they go on patrol. The whole situation wasn’t going well and I really felt that from the writing and the art.

Gage also highlighted the differences between the kids at the Academy and Spider-Man. They don’t really have secret identities and the Avengers don’t go on patrol. This organically led into the reminder that Peter has lost his spider-sense but it didn’t beat us over the head with it. Gage put it out there and moved on with the story. The Psycho-Man’s introduction into the story was great as well. Gage went from patrol to the kids saving a woman to Spider-Man wondering why these guys were more violent than they usually are to the Psycho-Man and never lost the whole teaching angle of the story. It was flawless and led to a great moment where Spider-Man finally overcomes the doubt Psycho-Man is accentuating to seemingly win the day. This led to the twist at the end that the power is now within the Psycho-Man and we get a neat cliffhanger ending.

I dug it.

A lot.

 

Parting Thoughts

The art in this issue was fantastic as well. Reilly Brown and Victor Olazaba have a sleek style that I like and Spider-Man (and everyone else for that matter) looked fantastic. The action and the humor were both handled well. This was part one of what I think will be a fun story and was a welcome change from the last four issues of this series. I am not bashing Slott or saying that Gage is a better writer or anything like that. It was just a nice change of pace.

The Just Another Day back-up story was neat as well. Normally I am not a fan of the silent story but this one worked for me and had a great ending. This was also a nice change of pace from the Marvel Team-Up thing that they’ve been doing lately.

 

4 out of 5 webheads.

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