Mr. Spider-Man Goes To Town.

I thought about calling this post "Spider-Man Hits The Big Time, or "It's a Big Time For Webheads, or, even, "Big Time = Big Fun". None of those really rang true, and here's why:

Spider-Man has been big time since Amazing Fantasy #15 hit in 1962. Saying that this is Spidey's big time, that he's hit it big, that now's his moment- well, hasn't it been his moment for almost fifty years? Hasn't Peter Parker been slinging webs and helping offbeat kids get by since JFK was President? Hasn't he been to space? Hasn't he been in the Avengers? Hasn't he worked with the Fantastic Four and fought Galactus and been Marvel's flagship character since then?

Let's just say that I think calling it the "Big Time" era might be a little disingenuous. Still- although the branding might be misguided, the change in status quo must come as welcome to certain corners of Spidey fandom. The Brand New Day era, despite producing some great stories (including a Fred Van Lente written issue featuring the Spot that was one of my favorite comics of 2009), wasn't very well received, mostly because of the poorly conceived story which preceded it also wasn't very received. Getting rid of the brand, then, was probably a huge boon for Marvel marketing and taking solo writing reigns was certainly a boon for writer Dan Slott.

Slott, who had been one of the rotating team of "webheads" responsible for delivering the book on time thrice monthly during Brand New Day, has been given sole writing duties on the book (now bimonthly but at 40 or so pages an issue) for the forseeable future. Given all this, and because I have found Slott to be a singularly entertaining writer of comics, I figured I'd give this new status quo a shot, buy myself the first few issues, see how it stacked up.

Near as I can tell, it stacked up alright. I'm new to the Spidey game (much newer to it then Gorga, at any rate), so I wasn't particularly attached to either the pre- or post-Brand New Day status quos, but my understanding is that poor Peter Parker has really been having a tough time of late, so it's good to see one of the good guys, well, making good. Still, the first part of #648 didn't quite ring true. The character's voices didn't seem quite right- a little stilted, a little overplayed- and this was particularly true of Spidey, who Slott writes, albeit briefly, as just too sloppy and sentimental for my taste. Once we get past the seemingly obligatory team-up (which features a clever, if overwritten, climax), things get a little bit better. Peter's voice is a little stronger, his personality a little more assertive and the pieces just sort of fit together better. It feels like the start of a Spider-Man story rather than a half rate Avengers yarn. There's even a fantastic bit at the end where author and artist Humberto Ramos work together perfectly, and the result is clever use of the comics medium to display precisely what Peter is thinking. Still, Slott goes out of his way to prove Peter's a schmuck (he can't pay his rent! He's been run out of the photojournalism biz!) and then way the other way to remind he's not (Doc Ock, Aunt May and the Human Torch all use the word 'genius' to describe our dear hero).

By the time we hit the second issue, #649, though, Slott's hitting his stride a little bit more. The rise of a new goblin, Pete's first day at his new job, the team-up with Black Cat- it all works. And it all works well. Slott's Spidey may not quite be what we expect, may be a little different from the Peter Parker we've seen around these parts recently, but that's just what we need right now, at the beginning of a new era. Although the characterization is at times ham handed, the author does deftly and subtly make some interesting moves, particularly in suggesting that Peter is a reactive rather than proactive thinker, that he's a situational genius and not one that can work in a vacuum. It's a brilliant thought- let's see where he takes it.

Ramos works great for this story, too, which helps turn the pages even when Slott doesn't hit his mark. His work is both kinetic and blocky, a synthesis of two styles that I love which are rarely integrated very well. The thick black lines are complemtented by brilliantly cartoony and just-this-side-of garish colors that really bring out parts of the storytelling, parts that might go unnoticed otherwise.

So, how is the new status quo so far? Pretty good, by my reckoning, but not quite good enough. I've got faith in its creative team and it is quite a lot of fun, so I'll hang on for a few more issues to see how it goes, but unless they step it up (and, to be honest, I'm expecting they will) we may need to wait a little longer for Spidey to really hit it Big.


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