Amazing Spider-Man #626 - 'The Sting' - Van Lente and Gaydos
Story - I'm an unabashed fan of Brand New Day Spider-Man, I just think it makes for good Spidey, and I feel that the book has been on a fantastic up-swinging run since about #600, I can only think of 1 or 2 bad issues in the last 6 months, which is pretty decent going. The Gauntlet meta-arc especially has been a great read, the classic Spider-Man villains have been given a new lick of paint, and Peter is really being put through the runner.
This issue is a bit of a breather from the Gauntlet, as the Kraven's are only tangentially involved, and the Scorpion that shows up isn't particularly classic, but it was still a decent issue of ASM, particularly for how it focuses and works with character. One of the few problems I've had with the book has been the character of Michele Gonzales, Peter's roommate, she hasn't really been developed, and has just come across as kind of a crazy bitch, waving a shotgun in Peter Parker's face one minute, falling in love with him the next. But in this issue, Van Lente fleshes her out a bit, makes her less unstable, and more of an actual character. Spider-Man is as much a personal soap opera for Peter Parker as it is about Spider-Man punching people, and it's good to take a break from the brutal gauntlet to develop some supporting cast.
Not that this issue doesn't have punching in it, Peter comes up against some random hoods (employed by The Hood!), as well as Bushwacker, Tombstone and the new Scorpion, a sort of ambiguous anti-hero. I don't know much about this new Scorpion, I read her appearances in Avengers: The Initiative, and that's pretty much it, but she seems interesting, and it seems Spider-Man has put her more towards a hero's path (despite the last page). And I liked how Fred Van Lente wove in disparate bits of Marvel continuity like SPIN tech or the Hood being the new Kingpin, I like seeing the Hood show up outside the Avengers books, it makes the character stronger.
This issue also doesn't skimp on some humour, Van Lente is probably one of the few writer's whose superhero work is actually funny. In Incredible Hercules and on Spider-Man, it actually elicits a chuckle from me, it's good to laugh.
So, this isn't the best issue of Amazing Spider-Man this year, but it's still decent, we take a break from a big story, and finally get around to developing a supporting character, add to that some good jokes, some good continuity work, and we've got a solid chapter in the ongoing tapestry that is Spider-Man. Let's just hope Roger Stern and Lee Weeks can keep up the pace when the Juggernaut comes roaring into town.
Art - When you close your eyes and think "Spider-Man", a style like Michael Gaydos' may not be the first one to spring to mind. But I've always maintained that Spider-Man is the superhero most able to accommodate a variety of art styles, and Gaydos makes it work. I think it helps that this issue isn't about superhero action, but character, and when there is action, Peter is skulking around, and often not in costume. If Spider-Man was Alias, it might be like this issue. But with more ass-fucking.
Best Line - 'Because this looks like a job for ... Anonymous White Guy!'