Amazing Spider-Man 513 – “Sins Past, part five”
By J. Michael Straczynski and Mike Deodato, Jr.
The Story: Armed with the knowledge of their origins, Peter confronts Gabriel and Sarah.
The Good: One thing you can’t deny: JMS has a handle on just how much of a bastard Norman Osborn is. The brute subtlety of his manipulations shines through in a flashback sequence, and it’s both sickening and gripping. It’s the kind of thing very few writers can pull off well, but darned if he doesn’t do it.
As a fitting counterpoint, he also pulls out the core nobility of Peter Parker. Faced with what were quite frankly some brutal revelations last issue, he could have gone a lot of ways, but he chooses the noblest path. This story may be wreaking havoc with Spidey’s past, but unlike other storylines which shall remain nameless, it’s not changing much about his present. The hero remains consistent even in the face of adversity that would destroy other men. It’s a point worth making.
There’s a scene in this issue which, given the overall nature of the arc, should surprise absolutely no one. It’s kind of a gimme, but it works.
I’ve got no qualms whatsoever about Mike Deodato’s art. His Spider-Man is suitably heroic, but still lithe and graceful, as befits the character. His lines and figures bring an expressiveness to the characters that’s vital to making the story work, and it’s one I’m not entirely sure John Romita, Jr. could pull off as well. No slight to JRjr., but Deodato fits this arc much better.
The Bad: I’m still torn on how I feel about… well, you know. It. On the one hand, it’s leading to a very well-crafted story that’s pushing buttons on the character that are worth pushing. On the other hand, it really, really screws around with the history and mythos of this title, in a way I’m not sure the original storytellers would have intended. Continuity is a very fine line, and it’s being redrawn an awful lot lately. It also doesn’t help that I’ve been screwed by this book before. Bottom line, I’m giving this team all the leeway I can, but it’s very, very hard, and I wouldn’t be doing it for someone without JMS’s track record.
We got a “Kahn!” moment last issue, and we get a Charlton Heston one at the denouement of this one. I’m not particularly fond of either.
The Quote: “I… WON’T… FAIL HER… AGAIN!”
The Final Word: My reservations about the plot notwithstanding, this issue is of the usual high quality I expect from this team.
The Grade: B+
Excalibur 6 – “Who’s Better, Who’s Best!”
By Chris Claremont, Aaron Lopresti, and Greg Adams
Cover by Andy Park
The Story: Xavier’s crew is all but taken out by Stripmine and his gang, with only Freakshow running free, and the figure behind the attacks is closing in on his prey.
The Good: This is a weird note to start off on, but I like the trolls. I specifically like that they appear to be honest-to-Odin trolls, and not just some weird deformed cannon fodder. I especially like it because it provides Marvel with a way around the latest Thor arc, which, quite frankly, did more harm to the character than good.
Aaron Lopresti does a great job on the fight scene between Freakshow and the trolls. It lends itself to his fantasy-oriented strengths, and looks just plain gorgeous.
When I got spoiled as to the identity of the character making his triumphant return this issue, I was apprehensive. However, Claremont drops some subtle hints that turn it in an unexpected direction, which is enough to keep me hooked, at least for now.
After a good deal of tension is created regarding how well and truly screwed Xavier and his crew are, it’s relieved by an irritating deus ex machina that, frankly, makes no sense. One of the first rules of adventure storytelling is “Don’t put your heroes into a trap you can’t get them out of.” In that regard, the story fails.
Lopresti’s figure work is muddled and unappealing. He was a lot better than this in Captain Marvel, so I don’t know what happened here, unless it’s the fault of the inker. Regardless, I expect better.
While Appraiser’s power is interesting, her personality is annoying.
The Quote: “Both of you, please! I’m Michael! Remember? Secret identity?”
The Final Word: It’s got plot and art problems, but there’s certainly worse ways to spend your money this week.
The Grade: B-
We 3 2
By Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
The Story: The animals battle everything the military throws at them, but can they handle their first human contact since the escape?
The Good: Can I cheat and say “everything?” No? *sigh* Ok, then.
Well, I’ll start with Quitely. Every panel and splash is just breathtaking. The battle scenes are gory as hell, but amazingly well-constructed, particularly the opening. I almost hesitate to use the word “magnificent” given the level of carnage, but that’s what it is.
There’s also a great deal of emotion, both in the script and the art. A moment comes near the end that I wasn’t expecting, but it completely blew me away with its effectiveness and aftermath. A lot of it has to do with the characterization of the animals. Morrison manages to fill them with empathy without anthropomorphizing them, and that’s no small feat. I believe these characters are real animals at the same time as I feel powerful human emotions for them.
There’s also a bit of gallows humor. It works both because it’s funny, and in underscores the tone of futility that makes the series so heartwrenching.
The Bad: I got nothin’.
The Quote: “Home is… run. No. More.”
The Final Word: A perfect execution of a great concept. If you buy only one comic book this week, and this isn’t it, you suck.
The Grade: A+