And that’s it, the experiment of publishing Amazing Spider-Man three times a month ends here, behind an impressive cover by Marko Djurdjevic that’s a hangover from the storyline that ended last issue. Oh well. So do we go out with a bang? Let’s see what this 72pp issue has to offer …
- ‘Another Door’ is nicely thought-out. Overdrive, the first – and possibly most flaccid – villain of the Brand New Day era shows up again, still nicking and transforming cars. And a party is held for Harry Osborn, again, this is where we came in. Overdrive is more entertaining than usual, as he dredges up the Seventies Spider-Mobile to embarrass and annoy our hero. Writer Fred Van Lente uses the old ‘the outfit’s in the wash’ bit to get Peter into a happily ridiculous ensemble, while Max Fiumara brings an interesting nervous energy to the action. I’m less keen on Fiumara’s work for the going away party that follows – Harry is off into hiding with his new baby – as the faces get more extreme, nipped-in, in a way that doesn’t appeal to me. Harry, in particular, suffers, looking like an emaciated Quentin Crisp, and Peter looks like an empty crisp bag that’s been shrunk in the oven. The art, coloured by Morry Hollowell, is certainly interesting to look at, though – and baby Stan as Dr Octopus is the cutest thing ever. The little bits of chat we see between the likes of Aunt May and Uncle Jay, Michelle, Carlie and Mary Jane are terrific, and the story resolves one subplot, while beginning a darker one …
|Harry, Peter and baby Stan by Fiumara and Hollowell|
- … which is immediately stomped on in ‘Honor Thy Father’, as one party guest finds that threatening Harry wasn’t the best idea ever. Harry doesn’t quite get biblical, ‘merely’ ballistic, and certainly puts his message across. Zeb Wells writes a tough little tale, perfectly complemented by the muscular artwork of Michael Del Mundo
- Next up comes ‘Stand-Off’ in which Mayor J Jonah Jameson passes a stupid bylaw that inconveniences the public while pandering to the greedier municipal workers. Spidey ensures that sense is restored in a cracking story by Bob Gale and Karl Kesel. I’ve long admired the latter’s inking and writing, it’s great to see him on pencils too … the man is terribly underrated.
- ‘Norah’s Last Night in NYC’ shows Spidey trying to dissuade harridan reporter Norah Winters from giving up on the Big Apple. Joe Kelly provides a heartwarming script while JM Ken Niimura brings an … interesting … indie sensibility to proceedings, though a professional letterer would have been nice. I rather like his way with civilians, but if I hadn’t been told I was looking at Peter Parker, I’d never have known – think ten-year-old girl with ski slope for a nose. Still, it’s a change, and quite sweet … but his Spidey is too peculiar even for me, being drawn with a quivering line that makes it look as if the character is trying to leave the page.
- Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta contribute ‘J Jonah Jameson: The Musical’, a spoof inspired by the real-life Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark show, advertised on a taxi in this very issue. It’s harmless.
- ‘American Hero’ revisits Flash Thompson, showing that despite losing his legs in Iraq, he’s as tough as ever, more than holding his own against muggers. Mark Guggenheim, who wrote an acclaimed Flash story awhile back, revisits the theme of inspiration, while Graham Nolan and Mark Pennington’s pleasant artwork cowers beneath a storm of word balloons. It’s a decent piece, very patriotic and a nice capper to Flash’s subplot, but doesn’t really tell us anything new.
- ‘You again’ is an amusing, smart offering that reveals how a woman who popped up in the first Brand New Day issue has been living between the panels of events all along, culminating in this issue’s main story. It’s a delightful souffle of a strip by writers Fred Van Lente and Dan Slott, and artist Adam Archer.
|Spidey and Norah by Niimura|
Apart from the stories, there’s a lettercol with a twist, a gallery of tiny covers and a mini-preview of upcoming stories, both here and in allied books. It all makes for the feeling that some effort has gone into this comic. While I didn’t enjoy every aspect of the book, cumulatively the features capture much of the magic of the past three years – the diversity of creators, the eclecticism of approach. While the Mephisto business that preceded this experiment was nonsense, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Brand New Day was a tremendous creative success. I’ll miss it, and all the creatives – especially editors Stephen Wacker and Tom Brennan – have done Spidey proud.