Friday, 6 January 2012

Why Did The Spider-Man Reboot Fail? Part 9: Answers? We Should Be So Lucky

Peter Parker: Spider-Man #6 By Mackie / Romita Jr / Hanna

The Kingpin was once - and has often been thought of since - as one of Spider-Man's most iconic foes. He debuted of course in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man, in the now classic #50, and was used as a primary antagonist in the popular 90's animated series. While now known more as an enemy of Daredevil's, his return to menacing Spider-Man was a fairly exciting step at the time.

Romita Jr returns on pencils, a more than welcome move. His style is well suited to the noirish undertones of this story, and look significantly more polished than Bart Sears' did.

Kingpin appears right off the bat, in the issue's opening page - disappointingly his only panel time in the issue.   While overseeing the routine killing of an inadequate underling, he gives Bullseye a vague set of instructions, telling the master assassin that 'people must die tonight'. A fairly generic scene, but done very well by Mackie and Romita. The pair have often been at their best when working on noir themed stories, and the scene seems to come easily to them.

We move to what is now becoming a routine scene featuring Spider-Man rescuing Senator Ward from some  green-garbed goons. The senator is still no more forthcoming than before about why he is being targeted by super-powered heavies, and brushes off Spider-Man's questions by implicating him in the attack. Spider-Man slings off, promising that they will talk again. He rejoins the scene as Peter Parker, and hooks up with Betty Brant, claiming to have taken some good photos of the action. Betty's response is strange - telling Peter that she has known him long enough to be aware that he isn't the heroic type. It seems unnecessarily harsh, and a lazy way of establishing the dichotomy between Peter Parker and Spider-Man. The pair see a dazed Flash Thompson who walks by them without a word (remember, he was the subject of a cryptic cliffhanger in a previous issue).

Mackie then treats us an increasingly tiresome domestic scene, featuring yet more marital troubles between Peter and MJ. It's fairly standard stuff - Peter lies about being Spider-Man, and MJ feigns ignorance about the threatening phone calls that she has been receiving. Both subplots are still as tiring as ever, and do not appear to be developing at all. What's more welcome is the presence of Arthur Stacy, always an interesting character. His links to Stewart Ward may actually make the shady senator an interesting character. After leaving, Arthur Stacy warns his daughter Jill to stay away from Ward, claiming that he is dangerous, while being spiririted away by a group of the senator's black suited, car driving goons. Peter is on hand to dry Jill's tears, before snagging the vehicle in question with a tracer.

Arthur meets with Ward, and the two trade cryptic statements about their respective pasts. Linking the two characters may be an interesting move, but it still reveals little to nothing about the Senator. Once again, the subplot appears to be treading water, despite seeming to establish Ward as a more definitive thread than before. As Arthur attempts to leave, Bullseye appears on the scene and starts slinging projectiles around at the Kingpins behest, before Spider-Man appears and the two trade a few punches. Bullseye is a logical opponent for Spider-Man and it seems odd that the two characters haven't tussled before this issue. In any case, it's an excellent fight scene with some good dialogue, potentially the best action seen since the reboot. As Spider-Man chases Bullseye off the scene, the assassin detonates a bomb (why didn't he do that in the first place), and the web slinger rescues Stacy and Ward. After returning to ground, Ward refuses once again to give any hints as to his past, while being dragged away by yet more dark suited goons. Arthur appears in poor shape, and murmurs to Spider-Man that he 'has to be stopped', an appropriate enough cliffhanger to end the issue on.

While this issue did carry many of the same faults as the rest of the reboot, it was a very enjoyable story. Not as much was done with the Kingpin as I would have liked, but his presence in the background did lend the plot some additional weight. Bullseye was probably the strongest villain seen yet in the reboot, even if he was lacking in a little depth, the fight scene between him and Spider-Man was excellent. The Senator Ward subplot continues to plod along, but Mackie has at least made an attempt to give the character a more tangible connection to Spider-Man's world, in the form of his relationship with Arthur Stacy. This issue did nothing to convince me that the reboots flaws are on their way to being corrected, but in its own right was an enjoyable, fast paced romp.


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