By Eli Katz
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: John Romita, Jr. Last week I wrote that it was time for grumbling fanboys to get over their contempt for the magic mindwipe and to start buying Amazing Spider-Man again. This week — after reading the first part of Spidey's big summer story, "New Ways to Die" — I renew my plea.
This book is great. It's as simple as that.
Usually, the first issue of any storyline has more setup than action. And certainly ASM #568 establishes several complex conspiracies that will probably, in the course of this six-part blockbuster, overlap. But Dan Slott is able to introduce a huge cast of characters in such an efficient and fast paced way that the issue never feels bogged down by setup.
Here's what happens in a nutshell: Norman Osborn asks Randall Crowne, a crooked politician, to get the Thunderbolts established in New York, where they can hunt down a list of unregistered superheroes, including Spider-Man. In return for this favor, Crowne expects Osborn to help him neutralize some particularly annoying political rivals. One of these rivals is billionaire philanthropist Martin Li, who just so happens to be the Chinatown crime boss, Mr. Negative. Li seems to be cooking up a scheme himself as he cures Eddie Brock and other homeless men of their terminal illnesses.
While these behind-the-scenes machinations occur, Spidey spars with Menace — a lame villain who's ridiculously similar to the Green Goblin in both look and powers. These similarities do not elude Spidey, or Slott, who gives Spidey some very funny battle jokes.
"Let's be honest," Spidey says to Menace, after kicking him in the head, "you're just another Goblin, aren't you? And that's getting kinda old. I mean, c'mon. I've already fought four Green Goblins, Two Hobgoblins, Three Fembot Goblins, Gray Goblin, Demogoblin, Future Goblin, Fried Goblin, Shrimp Goblin, Goblin on Toast," and so on.
With these lines, Slott and Marvel seem to be acknowledging, finally, that many of the "Brand New Day" villains have been a bust. And this acknowledgement is made all the more striking with the appearance of Norman Osborn and Venom in this issue. So, yeah, some of the new villains are still kicking around, but Spidey's old-time foes are back with a vengeance.
But what makes ASM #568 extra special is that John Romita, Jr. and Klaus Janson have teamed up to do a terrific job on the art. These two first collaborated on a Spidey story almost 25 years ago, with ASM #250. To have these guys back on this book now, even just for the "New Ways to Die" arc, is a signal from Marvel that it's done experimenting with ASM. From now on, it looks as though the stories will celebrate and connect with Spidey history.
Honestly, if you're a long-time Spidey fan who left this book after "One More Day," it's time to let bygones be bygones and to check this new story out. It's thrilling, it's clever, and it has a huge supporting cast that's integral to the plot. In short, "New Ways to Die" has all the elements of a classic Spidey story.
Plus, the cliffhanger at the end of this issue is stunning. Thank God part 2 comes out next week!
Posted originally: 2008-08-21 12:46:02