Amazing Spider-Man, I’ve grown accustomed to your pace. Three times every month we’ve been getting a consistently intelligent, witty, action-packed book that’s classic Spider-Man for the 21st century. Which makes it a bit of a bugger when the calendar arranges a fortnight’s break between issues of a particularly fine storyline.
For that’s what Red-Headed Stranger is, one of the strongest Spidey sagas in years, replete with heroics, villainy, mystery, romance and complications for Peter Parker. The only weak part of the issue was the explanation of how our hero escaped the Chameleon’s apparently full-to-the-brim room of acid, but I’ll forgive, as the rest of the issue is of such high quality. Fred Van Lente seems a natural Spidey-scribe, peppering Peter’s prose with rousing repartee that stops short of being self-conscious comedy (click to enlarge). And he writes a great Mary Jane Watson, who looks to be sticking around after her stint on the West Coast.
I was ready to adversely criticise the book for having J Jonah Jameson tell his mayoral Spider Slayers to actually slay Spidey, but the moment plays out so logically that my dissent dissolved. And towards the end of the book there’s a sly twist on Peter’s domestic woes which is hilarious.
Not a moan, but a ‘why bother?’: each scene is time-stamped, which is hardly necessary for the straightforward linear narrative we have here. The single flashback is pretty obviously signalled. And a question: this episode is titled ‘The ancient gallery’ which Googling tells me could be a reference to popular beat combo the Doors. Can anyone explain the relevance, or provide an alternative reading?
Penciller Barry Kitson impresses with his storytelling choices, filling the pages with dynamic tension and humour. And when you see the way his Peter and MJ look at one another you’ll never doubt they’re meant for one another, devil be damned.