Spider-Man: For Better or For Worse? This Week's Reading List: Amazing Spider-Man 56-61
BTW, sorry for the late post, but my whole family is currently sick with random viruses, and this weekend was a bit on the looney side.
Also, on the podcast front, the general lack of interest from everyone in the world sort of nixes that idea. That's okay--less work for me.
Okey-dokey, here we go, folks. An ignominious end to the Doc Ock storyline leads into a pointless guest appearance by Ka-Zar, a fight against the new-and-improved Spider-Slayer, and finally a three-parter featuring a mystery villain called “The Brainwasher” who happens to be a large bald man whose muscle looks like fat. More importantly, we're introduced to one of the great Spidey supporting characters of all-time, George Stacy, and Peter and Gwen really start to become a couple.
The first two stories here are hogwash, pure and simple. The “Spider-Man Gets Amnesia” story is one of the dumber things I've read so far in the Spidey saga, and I find it hard to believe that there will again be such an anti-climactic end to such a great beginning. With the radioactivity in his blood disrupted by the “Nullifier,” the machine that stops both scissors, radioactive decay, and gunpowder from working, Spider-Man spends an entire issue thinking the same thought over and over: “I know what I'm doing is wrong, but I must trust the arch-criminal who's telling me to fight the Cold War US Army!” Please. Then, when Spider-Man realizes the deep stupidity of such a thought at the last minute, and Doc Ock is taken away, Who-Am-I-Man is attacked by Ka-Zar because a) Mr. Zar just happened to be in town, and b) J Jonah Jameson, whom Mr. Zar immediately distrusts, tells Mr. Zar to “get Spider-Man!” So Tarzan and Who-Am-I-Man fight, and WAI-Man falls in the water. More comic-book science: Water apparently reverses the effect of disrupting radioactive decay, and so WAI-Man realizes who he is--Spider-Man! Good lord, just reading the basic events there makes me want to cry. What saves the whole story from being completely useless is that we are treated to the reactions of Spidey's supporting cast, which could possibly make for more interesting stories later. It certainly ramps up the tension, as Harry breaks into Peter's room and finds a Spider-Tracer (although he misses the web-fluid and extra costumes somehow). We're also introduced to George Stacy during all of this, and I have to say that I really like him. I like the fact that this book can actually have a person over fifty who isn't boring, criminally insane, senile, or Jameson. (Okay, Joe Robertson also fits that, but he hasn't had much to do yet, having only appeared five issues before Captain Stacy.) It's also interesting reading his appearances and knowing that, of all the people who are close to Peter on a daily basis, it's George Stacy who figures out he's Spider-Man. I honestly wonder if he already knows or strongly suspects by the end of the Doc Ock caper. His little Stone-Age PowerPoint on Spider-Man is a weird thing to show to Peter on their very first meeting, I'd say. Spider-Slayer attacks. Jameson isn't homicidal. Smythe is. Spidey gets the machine to OD on spider-pheromones or something equally stupid. When there's a giant, rampaging robot on the streets of Manhattan, why in the world don't a couple Avengers show up? The Brainwasher story is relatively run-of-the-mill, and it also features much of Stan Lee's Mary Jane Watson talking, so it can be hard to read. (Secret: The Brainwasher is the Kingpin trying on a new name.) What makes the book increasingly hard to read, though, is Romita's sudden reliance on Don Heck as a finishing penciller. The book's art takes a dramatic downturn in quality. The layouts are more workmanlike, often relying on a simple four-panel structure, and the detail work becomes instantly terrible, although that may be Mickey Demeo's fault. The smooth, confident web-lines that Romita made sure we had now often do not connect properly, and the whole book now looks sketchy and unprofessional. In addition, we are “treated” to the first of many misunderstandings between Peter and Gwen when Peter has to defend himself against a brainwashed George Stacy and Gwen assumes (without questioning) that Peter, who she thinks may be “the one,” just decided to beat on an old man. Ugh. It's clear to me that, without the more expert characterization Ditko provided, Lee and Romita are falling back on the easy melodrama of the romance comics Marvel once published. Still, it's Gwen, and I'm still in love with her on Peter's behalf, so I'll read it. Besides, at this point in the story, she's not a whacko slut suddenly jumping the bones of her beloved's best-friend's father. But I'm not bitter. Anyway, let's check my Spidey-Standards against this week's reading list: 1) Spider-Man stories were better then than they are now. Meh. Not really. What these stories do well is present a one-issue main story that feeds into the next. I can see why a kid would drop his $0.12 on the counter once a month for this, no question. 2) Spider-Man's supporting cast is essential to good Spidey stories. Well, I like Doc Ock, I like the Kingpin, but I can't stand silly, silly stories. All I've got to look forward to in each issue is poorly drawn melodrama featuring my favorite supporting cast members, so Yes. 3) Peter Parker is not just a secret identity. Is a secret ID still important when he can't remember it? Well, the Parker persona adds a huge layer of interest to the Brainwasher story once his girlfriend's dad is BW'd, so yeah, I guess so. All right, that's it for this week. Up next week will be Amazing Spider-Man 62-65 and Spectacular Spider-Man (Magazine) 1! Until Spidey forgets where he put all his Spider-Tracers, Make Mine Marvel! Eric