Thursday, August 6, 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #601 Review

As it was a light reading week, I decided to take the chance to do another image filled review. This time, as you can tell from the banner, I'll be taking a look at Amazing Spider-Man #601, which marks the return of Mary Jane to the Spider-Man books and is the first chapter in Red-Headed Stranger. There are lots of images and spoilers from the issue, more so than usual reviews by me, so read on at your own risk!

Written by Mark Waid
Art by Mario Alberti

What? Don't look at me like that! When they put a cover like that on the book, they're asking for the kind of interpreation like in that banner above. Joking and chauvinism aside, that cover is actually a pretty good indicator for the type of story found within these pages. It's what I would call a standard Brand New Day story. There were some things I really liked about the issue, but other nagging things that are part and parcel for the new (is it new this long after the fact?) status quo that will never sit right with me and hinder my enjoyment of the book. There was one thing, though, that really had me calling my mom and demanding a grilled cheese sandwich and you'll know about it after this image....

"I'm gonna get-get-get-get you drunk, get you love drunk, off this hump!"

Rule #1 of writing Spider-Man - PETER. PARKER. DOES. NOT. DRINK. PERIOD. EXCLAIMATION POINT. LOUD NOISES. Sorry, got caught up in the moment there. While I'm knowingly over emphasising the severity of this situation, I honestly think, in all my years of reading Spider-Man (I've read just about every issue of Amazing, Spec, Web, Sensational, etc) that I've never seen Spider-Man drink alcohol in any large quantities and has said on numerous occasions that he just plain doesn't drink, which flies in the face of this complete drunken, one night stand, blackout filled issue.

We even discussed this a bit on Twitter prior to my posting this review and I even posted this image for some in-comic proof that he simply doesn't want to drink because of his huge sense of responsibility and how he doesn't trust himself not to do something stupid, like seriously injure or kill someone, with his spider powers.

"Blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol!"

However, I'm not expecting Peter to never drink a drop of alcohol ever. This was his aunt's wedding and I can easily see him having some champagne in celebration. Add in an ex-girlfriend and he may have an extra bit of liquid courage, as depicted here, but that's not what happened. Peter drinks 11+ glasses of champagne, gets completely shitfaced to the point he's visibly slurred and stumpling around, has black outs, can't remember what he did the night before and wakes up in bed with a woman he's spoken to a handful of times and who only came to the wedding with him for free food.

I'd like to note that I have no problem with Peter hooking up for some anonymous sex like with his roommate that he barely knows here. That's far better than the "Peter Parker is a 30 year old virgin living in his aunt's basement" mentality Marvel was shooting for as the reason for One More Day in the first place. My only real concern, and I've made a mountain out of a mole hill here, is the drinking copious amounts of alcohol, when he's made it abundantly clear by ordering milk and shirley temples at bars as well as outright saying it in comics that he doesn't drink due to his enormous sense of responsibility and fear of doing something wrong if he lost control with his spider powers, is one thing that really annoyed me after reading this issue.

Is it game breaking, quit reading comics forever, end of the world stuff? God no, but just one of those things that we comic geeks tend to obsess over. I doubt most will even care about this nor will it register as a blip on people's radar, but it bugged me similar to Batman picking up a gun to kill Darkseid after years of his no gun rule.

No, this site doesn't exist. Yet. More on this soon. Edit - It does now.

*eatsGrilledCheeseSandwich* Ah, much better. Thanks, Mom! Where were we? Oh, yes. The actual story for this issue. After waking up next to a woman in bed and not remembering what happened the night before, Spidey quickly found himself kicked out of the apartment for some pretty funny, in a Seth Rogen humour kind of way, comments, Peter found himself swinging around trying to find new lodging and figure out what the hell happened last night, including the missing details as to where he was supposed to meet up with Mary Jane later that evening...

Translation - People from Boston have an IQ of 44.

...which led to him trying to crash as his aunt's place since she and JJ Sr were off on their honeymoon. Unfortunately for Peter, the place was filled with Aunt May's family, the Reillys, who are all from Boston and suffer from either speech impediments or there was a mix up at the printers. I know I had to re-read some panels multiple times because my head would start to hurt trying to decipher it. I know they would not willingly make fun of people from Boston like this, as New Yorker's can be pigeon holed into a fairly bad accent as well, so I'm hoping this is some printer mishap.

That's some pretty water.

After realizing he was unable to understand a word his relatives were saying, Peter opts to look for loding at Harry Osborn's (sold his place/evicted by Norman/unavailable), then Betty Brant (no room for him at the inn) and finally, just as he had given up, he gets distracted with some Spider-Man business, which leads him to a fire he helps stop. It's fairly pedestrian, but helps jog Peter's memory as to where he was supposed to meet Mary Jane that night.

Does MJ know Peter is Spidey or is she referring to him off chasing photos of Spider-Man?

However, Peter was the victim of his own drunken stupor. By taking so long to talk to MJ at the wedding, he kept her up all night and she ended up sleeping 15 hours straight, which put her well past their meeting time. I liked how this was a role reversal of Peter always standing up the women, specifically MJ, in his life.

The most interesting point came when MJ woke up, realized she was late and then pondered what Peter was up to. As pictured above, she turned on the television and saw news of Spider-Man saving people in a blaze from earlier in the issue. She comments that he obviously kept busy after seeing this, prompting most to believe she actually knows he is Spider-Man.

Personally, I think it's more Marvel pulling our legs and she's actaully referring to Peter's photography job and how he's always chasing Spider-Man around for photos and not some indication of her knowing he's Spider-Man. I can't judge this yet, but, based on how they've played this up until now, I can't see this as being anything other than another cop out and am not setting myself up for more disappointment by believing she actually knows who he is.

"Everybody gets one."

The last thing I wanted to discuss was the backup story by Brian Bendis and Joe Quesada. I really enjoyed it and it was the highlight of the issue for me. Most times when I say that, it's sarcastic and implying the main story was so bad, even the backup was better, but not so in this case. It was a genuinely good backup that saw Bendis doing what he does best (at least when it's not a whole team of super-heroes) - dialogue.

If Marvel wants me to keep picking up Brand New Day, just put Bendis on it and I'll buy the shit out of that book. It is one character he just plain gets and his style of humour really fits the every man appeal of Peter Parker.

And one final thing, Joe Quesada was fantastic here. It's leaps and bounds above his One More Day Spider-Man and even the covers for Amazing Spider-Man #600. I'm not sure what changed, whether it was the inking or colouring, but this was some fantastic work on his part. Best I've seen from him in a long time.

Verdict - Check It. Aside from my nerdraging over a little thing like Spider-Man drinking alcohol, the issue was the atypical Brand New Day story. It looks and feels like a Spider-Man story, has the creative talent behind it and will definitely appeal to fans of the status quo, but, as a long time reader, I still can't get into this and it just doesn't feel like the book is 'for me' any more. The backup, however, was great. Really made my day and helped justify the purchase for me, despite enjoying the main story on a fundamental level.

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Andrenn said...

Great review Kirk. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this issue. Sure it wasn't great but I came into this issue thinking I'd hate it and want to kill it with fire. My expectations couldn't have been lower and for that I came into this issue and was pleasantly surprised by how good it was.

Sure it was nowhere near good enough to make me add Spider-man to the pull list and read him on a daily basis but I may check out the Black Cat story and I'd be dense to skip out on Joe Kelly writing Deadpool later this year.

Also gotta say I do like that cover, even if I can't take my eyes off that Spider-man symbol.

Daringd said...

The art hurt my eyes...I also (I still have an issue about the Sin's Past arc) If Peter can have Premarital sex sex with some girl. Why the hell couldn't Gwen Stacy's kids been his? Besides that it was a okay issue.

Anonymous said...

Why does Quesada draw Spider-mans eyes so darn small. It actually makes me a little angry. Sad.

Matt Ampersand said...

@Anonymous: Quesada is not the only one that does that. Gabrielle Dell'Otto (Secret War)does it too.

Also, I read a wonderful article about the whole Boston speech, of how bad it was, written by someone from Boston. It was about Annual they released not that long ago.

And like you said, this is coming from a character from New York, who could be as easily typecasted for their accent.

brandon said...

so is that it? are we done with MJ for the arc and/or foreseeable future? If so, this issue was really, really lame.

nice review. the drinking makes little-to-no sense.

Klep said...

Yeah, drunkenness and random hookups have never been a part of Peter's character. I don't mind him having premarital sex in principle, but he's never seemed like the kind of guy who would just have a one-night stand. Of course, he's also never gotten completely bombed before.

@brandon - I don't believe this is it for MJ for the immidiate future. If I recall correctly, they intend to do some mini-arc that involves her all through this month. Which isn't to say, of course, that they're bringing her back in a more permanent fashion. They clearly enjoy twisting the knife too much for that.

about me! said...

Like almost every arc since BND started, I love the art. Be it Mario Alberti or Marcos Martin, I would usually buy a comic just for their art, but I can't get into the story. There isn't a single thing I like about the new status quo. If MJ remembers pre OMD, that may be the dealbreaker for me to come back to Spider-man.

Kirk Warren said...

"Why does Quesada draw Spider-mans eyes so darn small. It actually makes me a little angry. Sad."

It's more to show emotion. Bit exaggerated, but it works. That's actually the only extreme one in the backup. rest are fairly 'normal' sized.

Matt Ampersand said...

Kirk, did you change the top banner image for this post? 'Cause right now there's double MJ-boobage.

Kirk Warren said...

@Matt - ya, imageshack ate the original, so I just copied it up to the top for now. Ill reupload the old one later to fix it.

Sebastian said...

Aw, you guys.

Nathan Aaron said...

OH MY WORD PLEASE NO BENDIS on Amazing Spiderman. No matter what I think of this title, Bendis would kill the thing. When he writes well, he writes well (Daredevil!) When he writes bad (uh, most everything as of late since Daredeveil. LOL) he writes bad. IMHO.

I DO think Mary Jane knows Peter is Spiderman. I'm NOT sure how, but if you remember the first story arc where she came back (during the Paper Doll villain storyline) she watches Spiderman from the panic room, on tv, and states something to the idea that makes us think she totally knows who is under the costume. It was really subtle, whatever she says (I totally forget) but I think she knows. Maybe this has something to do with whatever she whispered in Mephisto's ear at the end of OMD. Though it does sorta break the Marvel statement at the beginning of BND that "NO ONE knows Peter is Spiderman." Time will tell, I guess!

Slaphappy Slim said...

This is the second review I've seen referencing the supposed "fact" that Spidey never drinks. Except that I've seen him drink more than once over the years--though not quite to this extent. Just saying.

Anonymous said...

i just wanted to drop a line and offer the oppinion that yes i do think mary jane knows pete is spiderman....for the simple fact that in the one more day arch she whispers something to mophesto before things are all switched around. i believe that since mophesto wanted to feed off their pain from being seperated that mary jane offered to remember everything in order for peter to have another chance. just a theory but i think thats whats is nice to see mj again. hopefully they wont rush into putting them back together right away....but eventually i hope

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