Friday, 13 January 2012

Why Did The Spider-Man Reboot Fail? Part 13: Bright Lights, Bigger City

The Amazing Spider-Man #11 By Mackie / Byrne

Has anyone else noticed that I'm writing my thirteenth part on Friday 13th? No? Just me? Ok. Anyway.. You may have seen that I have skipped two issues of the Amazing Spider-Man. For those of you who don't know, Amazing Spider-Man #9-10 were a two part Doctor Octopus story with several fairly heavy links to Spider-Man: Chapter One - a recently (at the time) released mini-series by John Byrne that rewrote Spider-Man's early history. That series is no longer in continuity so I decided to skip the issues - no significant developments occur, unless you count a genuine Tricorp sighting. The issues aren't quite the worst that the reboot has to offer, but I would recommend that only completists bother hunting them down.

#11 begins with a few pages of essentially exposition, reminding us of the difficulties currently facing Peter Parker and Mary-Jane, and how their many differences have finally driven a wedge between the couple. There is a decent double page spread of Spider-Man and Mary-Jane (across town from each other) but it doesn't really tell us anything that we didn't already know. We move slightly into the future to Mary-Jane's dressing room, where Jill appears. Her and MJ talk and we get yet more reminders of how distant Peter and MJ has been. MJ's phone rings and she exits, clearly rattled due to the threatening phone calls she has been receiving.

Meanwhile, Peter swings off to the Daily Bugle and is greeted by an uncharacteristically cheery J Jonah Jameson, who it turns out wants Peter to get him an exclusive interview with his supermodel wife. Peter accepts the assignment as long as he is allowed to take photos, seeing it as a way to get closer to her. Jill and MJ re-enter her dressing room, only to find that her mirror is emblazoned with a creepy message from her stalker, reading 'YOU'LL NEVER BE ABLE TO GET AWAY FROM ME! IF I CAN'T HAVE YOU NOBODY WILL! YOUR HUSBAND IS GOING TO DIE'. Jeepers. Outside, Peter is trying to get in to see MJ, but security refuse to believe that he is her husband. She comes out, guards in tow and Peter's spider sense goes off. In a bid to protect from the unseen danger her he leaps at her and pushes her to the floor, only to be dragged away by a posse of armed guards. The source of his spider sense soon appears on the scene, busting out of an armored truck - it's classic X-Men villain The Blob. Peter gets changed and the two fight for a few pages, before Spidey defeats him by unloading a web cartridge onto him, trapping him in place. He swings off to find MJ, who is in a limousine with... you guessed it, Jill! A bomb goes off nearby them, and MJ correctly guesses that it's the work of her stalker, and is understandably terrified. She gets out of the limo and is immediately grabbed by Spider-Man, who swings her away.

The story is picked up on Peter Parker: Spider-Man #12, which I also won't be taking an in depth look at. Most of the story is mired in an Avengers crossover that will just confuse matters - I didn't mind covering the  Thor crossover as that was a fairly self contained story in its own right but this would just be a waste of time. The first few pages of the story are moderately important however - they see Peter revealing to MJ that he is still Spider-Man, much to her disgust, before they both learn that Arthur Stacy has gone missing.

After a few encouraging issues, this was a deeply disappointing story. Until now MJ's stalker was an interesting subplot, and although it remains a solid mystery, I thought that his methods this issue came across as a little over the top for my liking. The attempts to put distance between Peter and MJ are, once again, unwelcome and come across as forced and frankly unrealistic. This isn't such a problem when it is merely lingering in the background, but with this issue it took centre stage. The Blob isn't the best villain, but as purely a visual spectacle he is fairly interesting. The fight between him and Spider-Man was largely formulaic stuff, but I did think that Spidey's method of defeating him was nicely done.

However bad the stories have been since the reboot, I have always at least been able to say that they have boasted very nice art (with the slight exception of the two issues drawn by Bart Sears). With this issue however, that is not the case. Scott Hanna's usually capable inks are missing, leaving Byrne to ink his own work. It is noticeably rushed throughout, and a real step down from his previous work on the series. Byrne's distinctive style still shines through, but it is a far cry from his best work, with some questionable storytelling choices too.

Unfortunately nothing really went right for this issue. A promising subplot went a little off the rails, and it was plagued by the same problems that have been there for most of the reboot. Jill Stacy still refuses to go away, Peter and MJ are still on the outs, and even the artwork is not up to scratch anymore. A very disappointing effort from all concerned.


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