Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #600 Review

Written by Bob Gale, Marc Guggenheim, Joe Kelly, Stan Lee, Dan Slott & Mark Waid
Art by Mario Alberti, Marcos Martin & John Romita JR.

As I said in the previews earlier this week, I've only taken a few dips in the Brand New Day pool and always come away disappointed or, more accurately, ambivalent. The writing and art was typically good, but it just never felt like my Spider-Man anymore and the winks and nods to the deal with the devil conclusion to One More Day were just plain off putting in most cases.

However, I have never outright hated or regretted picking up any of the post-OMD arcs I've gotten so far (Brand New Day, Peter Parker, Paparazzi!, New Ways to Die and one or two others I believe) and, as a longtime Spidey fan, I keep looking for a reason to come back to the franchise that got me started on reading comics. With interest in the upcoming Bendis/Quesada back-ups, as well as the Mary Jane focus of the next few issues, I'm taking another dip in the pool with Amazing Spider-Man #600.

So, how was it? Surprisingly good. This is a 104 page monster for $4.99 and with no reprints, making it one of the cheapest "graphic novel" I've ever purchased. It's also got an all star cast of creators, from Dan Slott and Stan Lee to John Romita Jr and Marcos Martin.

I think the biggest shock of this issue was that I haven't read a Brand New Day comic in months, have no idea what's going on in the book other than there's a wedding scheduled for Aunt May and Jonah's father to take place this issue and I was able to pick this up, read it and enjoy it without missing a beat. More comics should be this accessible to readers.

The main story was dealt with the return of Dr Octopus, who's body is breaking down on him after years of super-villainy. This has forced him to up his game a little and he's now sporting eight mechanical arms, as well as an army of mentally controlled 'mini-octopi' robots. Sadly, his return fell a bit flat to me. He lacked any real depth and was basically a mustache twirling Silver Age villain. While we got references to his early Master Planner days, he never felt like he had any plan and was just being a villain for the sake of being a villain here. It's not a game breaker, but, as the villain of the story, it would have been nice to see a little motivation or some semblance of a plan from the good doctor.

The basic plot is Doc Ock uses some mentally controlled robots to take over all electronics in New York. The plan, I think, was to make everything work properly and make life better for people, but, from the get go, it's all attacking Spider-Man or lashing out at those that wronged him in the past, like cancelling all of Aunt May's wedding plans electronically. I'm still not really sure what his ultimate goal was here other than to take over the city somehow.

Of course, this doesn't go unnoticed and everyone, including the Fantastic Four and New Avengers, show up to help Spidey at one point or another, which I actually enjoyed seeing. It's rare, these days, to just see heroes being heroes and helping one another in the Marvel Universe. Welcome sight for once. The Human Torch aids Peter for most of the issue and their interactions were great.

Eventually, Doc Ock is defeated and we move on to the actual point of this issue - the wedding of Aunt May and Jameson Sr. I liked how everyone from the supporting cast is on hand for the wedding and the final reveal of Mary Jane rushing in late for the wedding to catch the bouquet was a great return for her that caught me off guard since they were talking about Harry not being there just prior to that. Seems so predictable, especially with her return scheduled for next month, but still caught me by surprise.

The rest of the issue was devoted to back-up stories. Stan Lee and Marcos Martin did an entertaining 'pysch' evalution of Spider-Man, going over the numerous changes and permutations of the character throughout the years. Nothing substantial, but a nice extra. The other back-ups fell a little short of the bar though. One, by Zeb Wells, was almost identical to an Aunt May at Uncle Ben's grave scene by Slott in the main story, but no where near as good and lacked the same impact (or maybe robbed of it due to already reading it earlier). Not sure why they included it if they knew what the main story entailed. The other was about some kids wondering why Spider-Man doesn't reveal his identity and they go over the reasoning, how loved ones would get hurt and so on and then proceed to discuss why it would suck to be him even with a secret identity. Not the fun loving story about hero worship I was expecting when it started.

The final extra for the book were the 'covers that would never see print' section, which was a series of covers that we're rejected for whatever reason. Fun little extras that I would have liked to have seen more of. The one I liked the most was a Spider-Man/Batman team-up written by Bendis that had Batman covered over and notes saying don't even dare print this from editorial.

All in all, I enjoyed this issue and was glad I bought. For this price, you get a full story, plus a myriad of extras, with no impediments to enjoying it from excessive continuity and a welcome lack of One More Day winks and nods at readers.

Verdict - Check It. If you're looking for a complete story in one issue or were looking to give Spider-Man or the Brand New Day era a look, this is a perfect jumping on point and an issue that, while not perfect, is still a fun ride.

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