Friday, February 06, 2009

Menace Over Manhattan (Marvel)
Amazing Spider-man #585 When: April 2009
Why: Marc Guggenheim How: John Romita Jr

The Story So Far...
In a world where Peter Parker's secret identity has been restored; the web-swinging bachelor finds his alter-ego the prime suspect in a spate of serial killings. Connected to the murders by the presence of his custom homing devices -- spider-tracers -- Spidey becomes a wanted man like never before, all the while trying to fight to protect the city.

The New York mayoral race provides the stage for Spider-man to face-off against the latest in a long line of legacy inheritants of Green Goblin tech! Having troubled Spider-man for months, the self-described "Menace" takes the opportunity to challenge a mortally wounded Spider-man to a rematch by attacking a rally for candidate, Bill Hollister!

Suffering a gunshot wound to the shoulder, and extreme fatigue as result of his recent adventures, Spider-man enters the fray at a distinct disadvantage - something Menace is ready to take full advantage of!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Superhuman)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Spider-man 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Spider-man 3 (Street Wise)
Energy Power: Menace 4 (Arsenal)

- A bite from a radioactive spider should have killed highschool nerd, Peter Parker, but instead it would irradiate his own blood, granting him extraordinary powers.

After turning to a life of profit, Peter is inspired to use his gifts for the greater good when his decision to allow a burglar to escape leads to the murder of his adopted parent and uncle, Ben Parker.
Ben's sage-like advice, "with great power comes great responsibility", becomes a mantra for Parker as he becomes Spider-man!

Spider-man possesses the proportional strength, speed, and agility of a spider. Adding to his arsenal is a precognitive spider-sense that warns him of pending danger. Self-made mechanical webshooters round out Spidey's abilities, allowing him to ensnare opponents in a variety of modes; travel through the city by web-line; and form basic constructs based on the available quantities of his own formula of web-fluid.

- Upon his return to New York from a lengthy absence in Europe; Lily Hollister found in Harry Osborn a kindred spirit. The pair formed a close relationship, but when a suspicious Hollister began investigating the concern her boyfriend had relapsed into drug addiction, she discovered a secret far darker!
Within the hidden journals of Harry Osborn she discovered his history as the second Green Goblin. Seeing an opportunity to secure her father's role as mayor and win his adoration, she followed instructions to discover the hidden sanctum of Norman Osborn. There, she accidentally exposed herself to an experimental form of the serum responsible for empowering two generations of Osborns.

This new version of the serum embued Lily Hollister with the ability to transform at will into her alter-ego - Menace! Adding stolen equipment from the Green Goblin's arsenal to her own powers of superhuman strength, Hollister found an even greater tool in her pursuit of approval, beginning a campaign that included the misery of Osborn's former nemesis, Spider-man.

Math: Spider-man Ranking: Spider-man (#2)

What Went Down...
Fighting to remain conscious, Spider-man swings his way to the Hollister election rally, where he finds Menace in the process of bombarding crowds with pumpkin explosives from atop a stolen Goblin Glider! Spidey intervenes as best he can.

The flying tackle disrupts the smooth trajectory of Menace's glider, but fails to do any real damage, instead offering the villain proximity to land a few blows into Spidey's injured shoulder! Hanging on with his good arm, the web-slinger finds himself thrown through scaffolding on a nearby construction repair site.

The damage of his landing forces a dazed Spider-man to exert precious energy -- and web fluid -- to maintain the integrity of the planks and pipes suspended on the site. His efforts, though short term, provide the crowds below necessary time to escape harm. The same cannot be said for Spider-man, who plummets down with the wreckage of the imploding structure!

Emerging from the rubble, Spidey is greeted with an unforgiving straight jab!
Apparently plotting on the fly, Menace informs Spider-man he will have the company of the city's finest, rather than the grim reaper. With the villain looming over him, Parker makes an effort to swipe his foe with a backhand, but is too sluggish to connect. Drawing his wounded arm back in it's makeshift sling, he tries to fire off a round of webbing as a distraction, but again is too slow.

Menace pounds a fist deep into Spidey's wounded should, taking advantage of his stunned state to drive a couple of knees right into his face, before finishing the combination with a devestating super-human blow to the stomach!

Despite his whispered objections; Spidey is too exhausted, brusied, and bloodied to resist as Menace clutches him by the throat and lifts his body off the ground, squeezing until he goes completely limp. Unconscious, Spider-man is left to the arriving police, as Menace flies away with a sinister cackle.

The Hammer...
Given the relative imbalance between the success rates of heroes and villains; there's something very fun about initiating Menace into the ranks, with a win!

In 2008 we took a break from Spider-man in soft response to the decision to restructure the character's history in Brand New Day. The plot proved offensive not just for it's basic intentions, but also, execution, which saw Spider-man make a faustian pact with Marvel's noted devil deceiver, Mephisto, in order to save the life of his Aunt May.

Quite frankly, after forty-five years, I probably could've done with offing the old bat. Again. Once and for all. Dead.

Admittedly, notions of a "Spider-Boycott" were as much founded in criticism as they were an effort to pick-up stray hits from like minded readers. 2009 presents an opportunity to forgive, forget, and reinstate the character in conversation with a renewed perspective.

This issue isn't the first time I've sampled the post-BND world of Amazing. The temptation of classic Spider-man villains returning to the series, (New Ways to Die), was too much a lure to resist. While the single issue I got my hands on did not contain action sufficient to meet our site review requirements, it was an enjoyable read, as expected.

Now that the series appears to be finding it's footing in a post-BND landscape, I couldn't argue that the book isn't solid. There's something fitting about expecting Spidey's adventures to unfold three times a month, as if the comics were doing as well as they were during the nineties (ala; Maximum Carnage).
The content of issues benefits greatly from modern sensibilities, delivering that flowing excitement without the frustration of cross-title interruptions, or hiccups from multiple creative teams contributing to a single story. John Romita Jr, in the issue in reviewed, is as effective as he's ever been, delivering pencils that are sure to tittilate fans of his work, even if those offended by BND.

Top 25 Lethal Foes
#1 Venom
#2 Morbius
#3 Mephisto
#4 Doppelganger
#5 Mr. Hyde
#6 Eddie Brock
#7 Scorpion
#8 Sandman
#9 Tombstone
#10 Shriek
#11 Vulture
#12 Dr. Octopus
#13 Stilt-Man
#14 Kingpin
#15 Kraven
#16 Mysterio
#17 Green Goblin
#18 Carnage
#19 Shocker
#20 Chameleon
#21 Hydro-Man
#22 Hammerhead
#23 Boomerang
#24 Demogoblin
#25 Electro
2009 is said to be a more dedicated return to the villains that made reading Spider-man in the past so enjoyable. Cinema favourite, Dr. Octopus, is set to appear as the first in a string of prominent returns, following on from a gradual trend that seems to have provided encouraging boosts from dipping sale.

There's something about the atmosphere of the book, and that same promise, that brings back gushing memories of the series of the late eighties [ie; Spectacular Spider-man #142]. It is here I would just about cast my net to capture the definitive period in Spider-man's history -- a time when the Lee/Romita soap drama fused with modern superhero sensibilities to give us some of the most iconic moments in the character's history. A period where Peter Parker had grown in-fiction as a man, and developed further as a character. Of course, this is also a stinging reminder of how we've arrived at this historically inspired period of Amazing Spider-man.

That period can be well remembered for the excitement of the Spider-Marriage, which served as catalyst for classic, powerful dramatic tension, which has since been undermined.

The undeniable foreword of every issue will always be the frustrating circumstances which brought us here. Revisionist history like the revelation that Harry Osborn's death was faked by his father and Mysterio - to whisk him away into rehabilitation in Europe - would be so much more forgivable if it weren't attached to the awkward and lazy metafiction involved in Mephisto as a reality-altering deus ex machina.

There's nothing about this issue that couldn't have been achieved through a simple creative shake-up. The introduction of this new villain, while nothing we haven't really seen before, manages to be quite welcome. Curiously similar to the Ultimate vision of Norman Osborn's serum-enhanced Goblin; Menace explores a conceptual facet of the character that hasn't found it's way to the Spider-man books before. As it is on the page, it represents an evolution of the Goblin serum, and the manner through which it can be utilized. With rumors of Harry's consumption of said formula, I eagerly anticipate how his inevitable return to the dark side will impact the book in the coming months.

The familiar seems to act in polar opposite to everything promised by early pitches of Brand New Day, similar to the Ultimate comics again, in it's failure to maintain dedication to a confident new vision. Frankly, that literal representation of the classics is a strong positive in this instance. The collision of old, new, and friendly storytelling, actually represent the type of idea I might have suggested in response to the claim a complete new "Ultimate" beginning was necessary.
Qualms with both the Ultimate titles and BND might miscast me as a curmudgeon fearing change, but I hope my issues with context can be recognised upon closer inspection. Particularly as defending the presence of characters like Mary-Jane Parker actually hinge on defending change!

Fanciful superheroics that place our star in peril -- in a construction site battle, no less -- are timeless concepts that deserve the weight of consistent fiction.
Fortunately, as we divorce ourselves from the negative past, "consistent fiction" is exactly what seems to be being presented here. Multiple B-plots simmer away like modern-classics, promising hints of all the mayhem that's sure to come!

Have I missed Spider-man in 2008? Not particularly.
Will I now doggedly pursue the book in 2009? Probably not.

I will, however, feel much better about talking to you about Spider-man comics in the future. Room for improvement, but a pleasant read all the same. Hopefully some time during the year we'll get a chance to talk more about developments.

The Fight: 4.5 The Issue: 4

Shocked and amazed? Not entirely convinced this review wasn't written by a happy drunk? To get the full scoop you'll have to settle for picking the three-times weekly issues off stands! "Character Assassination" is still under way, but you can try your luck at pre-ordering the hardcover, settle for any number of the other collections featuring issues reviewed on the Infinite Wars! By using purchase links in our store, or anywhere else on the site, you help sponsor future entries, whilst getting the same great service and price you already would've. Be sure to stay tuned for the shipping lists for more info in the collected story. With great cashflow must come great purchases!

No comments: