Monday, 19 December 2011

Why The Spider-Man Reboot Failed: Part Two - The Legend Reborn

The Amazing Spider-Man (Vol.2) #1  By Mackie / Byrne / Hanna 

The issue opens with the Human Torch investigating Spider-Man's disappearance. The Torch narrates the opening two pages, which serve as a fairly clunky way of getting new readers up to speed with the events of the past few months. Despite his severely workmanlike dialogue, The Human Torch's appearance is welcome, if a little random - he plays no significant part in the story and disappears from the title for a good few months. 

The story moves on to Peter Parker himself, enjoying a relaxing time at home with his newly returned Aunt. This scene is where the problems really set in. Peter's internal narration is constantly reminding us of how great his life is without the burden of being Spider-Man, which does not sit too well with his generally guilt ridden attitude. This isn't a major problem though -it is fairly obvious that he will be back in the webs before too long and it is actually fairly refreshing seeing Peter happy with his life for a change. My real issue with this scene is the way it deals with Aunt May. Peter's elderly aunt was a mainstay of the title for a numbers of years, but in all honesty was barely missed when she was deceased, and this issue does little to remind readers of what they were missing when she wasn't around. May's characterisation seems to have regressed entirely back to the Silver Age. She treats Peter like a child, dotes on him to the point of irritation and actually uses the phrase 'That horrible Spider-Man'. Years of character development appear to have been thrown out of the window for the sake of an unnecessary nostalgia trip. MJ shows up briefly and is revealed to have resumed her supermodel career, a fact touched on before the reboot. I don't have a problem with the development, and find it can actually make her a more interesting character. In this case she only appears very briefly though.

The issues villain is introduced shortly after, a revamped version of The Scorpion who seems to be causing trouble for the sake of it. His new design is solid, but somewhat lacking in inspiration and his motivations are pretty much non existent. The character tends to be at his most interesting when he is railing against his status as a 'freak', a facet that is barely touched on here. Betty Brant shows up taking pictures of the commotion, a welcome move on Mackie's part. It's always good to remind readers that Spider-Man has one of the healthiest supporting casts in comics, and its especially welcome seeing Betty being portrayed as strongly as ever. The 'new' Spider-Man is also introduced here, and gets 'his' clock cleaned by the Scorpion. It's easy to scoff at the character, but initially at least it was an intriguing enough idea, and one never really seen before in Spider-Man's history. Little is done to make the character immediately compelling but the mystery itself is fairly strong in its own right, underdeveloped as it may be. 

The action moves back to Peter Parker, who is across town at an interview for a seemingly lucrative position  at 'Tricorp' Industries. Once again, it's easy to scoff when you know where the plot will eventually end up, but initially it seems an intriguing move. It was hardly new, given that Peter had moved to Portland for a similar job just a couple of years ago, but it is more interesting than yet more Daily Bugle, beloved it as it is. Unfortunately Mackie fails to make the job, nor any of his potential co-workers interesting in the slightest. Great care has obviously been taken to make their appearances as diverse as possible, but they barely have a glimmer of personality between them. Anyway, The Scorpion appears and it emerges that he is after Peter.  After a brief tussle, the 'New Spider-Man' appears and a couple of pages of fisticuffs ensue, before Peter takes the villain down using his scientific acumen. Suffice it to say that Spider-Man exits, and Peter reveals to  Aunt May that he was given the job for 'thinking on his feet' in what is clearly intended as a heartwarming final page. 

The issue is not without its faults - as I have hopefully made clear. The Scorpion is hardly an exciting choice of villain and none of the new characters introduced are given much room to shine either. Mackie's dialogue ranges from adequate to horrible and Aunt May's characterisation is truly grim. Despite this, it isn't a complete failure as a debut issue. The identity of the new Spider-Man is relatively interesting, and makes up for the half baked mystery around the Scorpion's employers. Peter's job at Tricorp is hardly thrilling, but the promise seems to be there for interesting stories. John Byrne's artwork is very solid throughout. His action sequences could use a bit of work, but for the most part his pencils are vibrant, detailed and expressive throughout. Unfortunately the story is, on the whole, a little dull. The only thing genuinely 'new' or different about the series is the presence of a new Spider-Man, and honestly - I think most people would have preferred to see Peter wearing the webs. Not a disaster by any means, but a below par start for Mackie and   Byrne. 


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