Amazing Spider-Man (V2) #30-35, 37-38 By Straczynski / Romita Jr.
JMS's run on Amazing Spider-Man has never been one that I am too fond of. I have been never been interested in his mystical reimagining of Spidey's origin, and I thought that his run sorely missed some classic Spider-Man villains. However, after thoroughly enjoying his current Thor relaunch, and his film The Changeling I have decided to re-read his run, and see if I can gain any more enjoyment from it, starting with his opening seven issues (discounting #36 which was a special 9/11 issue).
After reading the opening to his run my opinion is...much the same. His proposed new origin for Spider-Man is still overly convoluted and ill fitting for the character. It does raise some interesting points, but reading the issues with the benefit of hindsight I know that the plotline ultimatley doesn't go anywhere. Ezekiel however is an interesting character, and it's a shame that no other writers have really explored the character. I honestly can't remember how his storyline was resolved and so I am genuinely intrigued about where JMS is going with him. Morlun, for the purposes of this storyline was ok, not great. The fight scenes (excellently drawn by JrJr) are spectacular, and the idea of a villain with the sole purpose of destroying Spider-Man is a good one. JMS does well establishing a villain who had never appeared before as a genuine threat, if occasionally in a somewhat overzealous manner. Spider-Man's frequent utterances about how powerful he is just come across as JMS bigging up his creation. It was also good to see Peter using his all too frequently ignored scientific abilities to take him down.
Peter's new job at the school was also a welcome move, and a believable one for the character. Taking pictures of himself was starting to wear a little thin after 40 years. This was easily my favourite element that JMS introduced, and I genuinely felt that some of Peter's fellow Midtown High teachers and students had potential as characters, and were sadly underused. Ultimately this element of JMS's run has now been jettisoned by Brand New Day. Sigh.
Aunt May's characterisation is JMS's run has been lauded by many as a welcome move for the character. However to me it comes a little out of nowhere. A woman who for 40 years has been portrayed as well...A doddering old fool, is now suddenly a strong, witty woman. Obviously characterisation in comic books is liable to fluctuate, but this was perhaps a step too far. I'm not really going to comment on her learning Peter's secret identity, as however well done it was by JMS, it now means virtually nothing.
JrJr's art is also something I am going to skim over. When he pencils a book you know what you are going to get. Some people hate his style, I quite like it, and felt that it definitely enhanced the quality of these issues, the fight scenes in particular.
Overall, these issues are much as I remember them. A solid start to JMS's run, but plagued by the irritating totem storyline that never really went anywhere after this story. JMS definitely has a strong sense of what makes the Webhead tick, evident from the frequent, strongly written monologues that these issues are littered with, it's just a shame that this is undermined by story elements that do not belong in Spider-Man comic books. A mixed bag.