Dan Slott's emotional bridge issue reads like a television clip show which references un-aired episodes. While some readers may pass on the swing down memory lane, others will appreciate the interactions which make the FF/Spidey relationship so unique.
Credits & Solicit Info:
The Amazing Spider-Man #657 - "Torch Song"
A "THREE" TIE-IN! Following up on the shocking ending to February's issue of FANTASTIC FOUR, SPIDER-MAN visits the FF for a very private wake—just for family.
Writer: Dan Slott
Artists: Marcos Martin, Ty Templeton, Nuno Plati and Stefano Caselli
Cover: Marcos Martin
Release Date: 3/30/2011
$3.99 for 30 Spidey Pgs
The Amazing Spider-Man #657 is not a comic book for everyone. As mentioned in the teaser, the issue serves as an emotional bridge to what has happened with Peter's long time friend, Johnny Storm. This issue also examines the connection the Fantastic Four has had with Peter, thus, explaining decisions made in last weeks FF #1.
There are many things Slott does well with this issue; however, being experienced in the comic book blogosphere, I can often tell what people will dislike about a comic book. So with that...
What You May Not Care ForThe first thing that I could see turning some readers off would be the "clip show" style of storytelling. The comic is reminiscent of those old TGIF episodes, or Simpsons episodes, where a family or group of friends is talking about some crazy times they've had and then the show cuts to clips of older episodes. When the clips finish, the scene switches back to real-time and a character says, "Yeah, those were some crazy times." The only difference between the clip shows and The Amazing Spider-Man #657 is that the flash-backs (in Amazing #657) were not originally from an older printed comic book. They were new mini adventures which Slott created (we will get back to this point momentarily).
With the use of multiple adventures to fill the issue the issue also comes off as another one of those anniversary or special addition comic books which gives you very little important new content and plenty of "check out this little tale our up-and-coming writer and artist put together." An example of this would be this weeks Captain America #616 (an extra dollar and not much to do with the current ongoing title). Readers often feel cheated by this format because they are invested in current story-lines and not some other story being thrown into the mix. The reader is then left waiting another week to get back to what they enjoyed or were interested in. In the case of the Amazing Spider-Man, the issues come out every two weeks. If one isn't up to snuff, a reader only has to wait a short while (in comic terms) for their next fix.
The last devise Slott uses in The Amazing Spider-Man #657, that many readers had a problem with in Johnathan Hickman's FF #1, is the holographic message left by Johnny. Was it realistic or not that a holographic message of this nature was created? That seems to be a major topic for discussion. While some will not accept any reason given (yet they will accept a man who stretches, a man made of rock and an invisible woman), I believe Slott handles the reasoning well with the use of a couple of dialog balloons from Reed: The whole team has recorded messages in case anything happens to them. The FF does get into a lot of dangerous situations...seems legit to me!
And with that transitional critique...
What You May Care ForThis is the story that had to be told in The Amazing Spider-Man. A transitional story had to be told to get web-heads from Peter dealing with the loss of the triple J's wife, and the guilt that that brought, to Peter being a FF team member. If after the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man Pete was all of a sudden on the team, the Amazing Spider-Man fans would wonder why the team acceptance wasn't in their book. FF #1 got the new costume. Amazing fans got the emotional acceptance.
Going back to the "clip show" stories which Slott created, I thought they added to the FF/Spidey family-like connection and also acted as upbeat moments which broke up the depressed tone of the real-time story: the "Flame On!" and underpants panels are particularly funny. And again, these stories had to be told so that readers could understand that while Spider-Man had a very strong connection with Johnny, he also had a very strong connection with each of the other members. For a team based on family, the addition to the team had to be like family and perfectly gell with each individual. It's the only way the team could work. The "clip show" stories helped justify the Spidey addition.
Helping Dan Slott carry the main tone of the comic book was artist Marcos Martin. His work continues to impress me with every Spider-Man issue he completes. A favorite moment of mine is his credits panel, as seen above. The image is very clean, subtle and telling. Though the family has just lost a member and continues to grieve themselves, they comfort their friend who has shared their loss and is also hurting. Grief is not something that there is only a certain amount of. No one has a monopoly on it and the FF family understands that. Great panel.
I would recommend checking out The Amazing Spider-Man #656's credits page. Martin handled that page like a master. He told a story, displayed the credits and created beautiful imagery. Check that issue out today!
Overall, the issue was pretty good. It didn't have the same emotional kick as some other recent issues such as Slott's Amazing Spider-Man #655 and the last 2 issues of the Fantastic Four (not FF #1...which I also enjoyed); however, with the help of Marcos Martin, the Amazing Spider-Man #657 did what it was meant to do: define the FF/Spidey relationship and understand why Spidey accepted a spot on the new FF team. Nice job Slott!
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Review by: Dom G