Sunday, August 9, 2009

Random Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #600

It has been awhile since I have talked about non-D&D related comic books on this blog, and what better book to start back up with than Amazing Spider-Man #600?  I know this review is a little late (since it has been on the stands for two weeks now), but this was such a treat for Spider-Man fans I figured it was worth encouraging anyone who was on the fence to pick it up.

Great cover art by John Romita Jr.

The first thing I should mention is that Amazing Spider-Man #600 is huge.  At a time when many comic books charge $2.99 or $3.99 for a mere twenty-two pages of story, Amazing Spider-Man #600 cost $4.99 for over one hundred pages of story with no ads.  More importantly, unlike many of the oversized issues Marvel puts out, every story featured was brand new.  Bravo, Marvel!

Since there are multiple stories in this book, I am going to go over each of them individually.  While I am going to try to avoid revealing the major plot twists, there may be some minor spoilers revealed.  So proceed with caution.

Last Legs

The main story of the book, featuring Doctor Octopus as the villain.  Ostensibly, this story is about the marriage of Aunt May to J. Jonah Jameson Sr. (the estranged father of Spider-Man’s long time nemesis J. Jonah Jameson Jr).  However, the main plot revolves around Doctor Octopus, who has recently found out that he has a degenerative neurological condition brought on by his years of trading punches with superhuman foes.

Since he doesn’t have much time left, Doc Ock decided to make the most of it with one of his more ambitious plans.  In reality, the plan is not that different from Shear Strength, a recent episode of the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon.  Since I liked that episode, I won’t hold it against them.

The story is pretty good, but it did feel a bit padded at times.  It was packed with guest stars, including Daredevil, the New Avengers, and the Fantastic Four.  While it was nice to check in on them considering the city-wide destruction Doc Ock was causing, in reality only the Human Torch played any substantive role.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, everyone made it to the church on time.  The wedding went off without a hitch.  Well, maybe one hitch, since a certain redhead made an unexpected appearance at the end of the episode.

4 out of 5 spiders

Identity Crisis

Written by Stan Lee, this is an out of continuity piece that has Spider-Man being psychoanalyzed.  Spider-Man shows up unexpectedly at the office of Dr. Gray Madder (got to love those old-style Stan Lee names).  I will just say that the session gets very strange, even considering how strange Spider-Man’s life is to begin with. 

This was a fun story, if a bit of a fluff piece.  Still, I am glad that they gave Stan Lee some pages.

4 out of 5 spiders

My Brother’s Son

This was an Uncle Ben story.  A young Peter Parker is upset and both Uncle Ben and Aunt May are at a loss as to why.  It delves deeply into Uncle Ben’s psyche, mostly his concerns as to whether or not he is raising Peter the way his late brother Richard would want him to.  He loves Peter, but isn’t sure he always understands this smart but shy young boy who is nothing like him.  Perhaps most distressingly, he wonders if Peter ultimately resents him because he isn’t his real father.

I won’t reveal the resolution, but I honestly found it to be a very touching story.  Considering that this was only a five page backup, the emotional depth it reached was pretty impressive.

5 out of 5 spiders 

If I Was Spider-Man

Peter Parker is sitting in the park watching some kids play on the jungle gym.  They start talking about Spider-Man, specifically what they would do if they had his amazing powers.  Peter listens in and is alternatively amused and disappointed by what they have to say.

I will be honest.  This story did nothing for me.  It doesn’t help that it comes right after the Uncle Ben story.

1 out of 5 spiders

The Blessing

Aunt May is at the graveyard visiting Uncle Ben.  Since she is getting married again, she is worried that she is betraying her late husband.

The odd thing is that the main story shows a shorter version of this with Aunt May in the cemetery expressing the same sentiments.  While they are similar, there are enough differences that it is distracting.

Frankly, the shorter version of this is all we needed to see.

2 out of 5 spiders

Fight at the Museum

Peter Parker is covering a superhero exhibit at the museum when he comes face to face with his greatest shame: The Spider-Mobile.  Kids start making fun of the car, causing Peter to get defensive about it.

I will admit this one was stupid, but I enjoyed it.  Even if I was a bit thrown by Jeff Albertson making a cameo appearance on a Segway. 

3 out of 5 spiders

Violent Visions

The paraplegic psychic Madame Web is having disturbing visions of the future and incidentally giving teasers for the upcoming year of Amazing Spider-Man.  She is the violently attacked by a young blonde girl.  The end.

I could care less about Madame Web.

0 out of 5 spiders

Final Thoughts

Despite some clunkers at the end, I really enjoyed this issue.  Aunt May’s remarriage doesn’t really compare to Spider-Man confronting Uncle Ben’s killer (Amazing Spider-Man #200), the introduction of Venom (Amazing Spider-Man #300), or the (obviously not permanent) death of Aunt May (Amazing Spider-Man #400).  In the end though, we get several strong stories in one jam-packed issue.  That has got to be worth something in this day and age!