REVIEW: Amazing Spider-Man #555-557

amazing-spider-man-_555-001.jpgWriter: Zeb Wells

Artist: Chris Bachalo

Inker: Tim Townsend

Publisher: Marvel Comics

First thing’s first. I’m not going to even try commenting on, or understanding, the Brand New Day fiasco. I’m not going to argue its merits, or add to that huge pile of words pointing out its stupidity. I’m not.

So, luckily, these issues have very little to do with that whole thing. The title’s on the cover, but it’s a wholly self-contained little story about Spidey playing in the snow, working in the new status quo and building up the Peter subplots. Your average Spider-Man story then, right?

amazing-spider-man-_557-001.jpgBut what’s important about the arc (and, I reckon, about every story that takes the simple find-bad-guy-fight formula and makes something better) is tone. Having the wrong, or unoriginal, or just no particular voice to bring to superhero comics, is what drags down so many stories. It’s well-trodden ground (see my review of Judd Winick’s Titans), but here Wells has found, I reckon, a perfect balance for Spidey.

It’s light and funny (the relationship with Vern the tramp is brilliant) but never strays too far into ‘wacky’. It has an edge of darkness (I think this might have the highest body-count I’ve ever seen in a Spider-man comic) and larger consequence without ever turning into an issue of Batman. There’s sentiment and it ends, sorry to spoil, on a happy note that’s so nearly cheesy it’s actually just lovely.

And Wells pulls a couple of neat tricks: the noir-esque narrated introduction, a new sound effect for Wolverine’s claws, and a Big Bad that can punch through the barriers of time and comic panels. (Which is so unbelievably Grant Morrison, I can’t believe I’ve never seen it done before.)

The art is kind of ethereal, a perfect match for the setting. The inks, and colour (or lack thereof) makes the snow become a real oppressive presence. Snow is metaphorically (and literally!) as much an enemy here as any supervillain. Bachalo’s work finds a balance too, not too sketchy, not too blocky, nicely realistic, pleasingly cartoonish. His Pete looks a little younger than usual, though maybe that’s in keeping with the reboot (I said I wouldn’t mention it, I know!)

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…So, yeah, this arc is a definite argument for Marvel’s approach to Amazing Spider-Man at the moment. Small stories that aren’t trying to be too big, or event-y (there’s enough of that in the Marvel U right now). This is a story involving a subplot of Peter searching for a roommate (“with hilarious consequences!”, I can just imagine the ‘Marvel’s New Odd Couple’ advertising). I read an interview today with Terry Moore, which compared superhero comics to sitcoms and, while those thoughts are probably going to be saved and translated into a future rant, I think that applies pretty well to these issues. Spider-man as Friends, not 24.

8/10

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