All Out Of Web Fluid?

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Amazing Spider-Man #29

Writer: Howard Mackie
Artists: Lee Weeks, Scott Hanna

Publisher: Marvel

Plot: Thicky and chunky like a good chowder ("THAT'S CHOW-DA you imbecile! I'll kill you!" - spot the reference and win a prize)

One issue to go. Soon the glory days will be here....JMS and Jenkins! Well, that's the buzz...the reality? Only time will tell, but if rumours are to be believed (and I don't advocate believing rumours, it's just more fun if you do however) JMS will be setting up some secret society of Spider-Men. Just think of it - in each age a Spider-Man appears, he rights wrongs, he upholds justice, he oppresses the strong and defends the weak, what happens when the last Spider-Man gets in touch in our Spider-Man and tells him all this? The Spider-Man Corps, perhaps? The Justice League of Spider-Men?

Wait, there's more. The question that really needs to be answered concerns that little bitty spider that bit Peter Parker all those years ago. Was it, as we've all believed until now, a total accident; the Spider got in the way of the radiation, it bit Peter before it died, the blood transference granted him Spider-Man powers? Or was the spider already powered up, a Super-Spider, the Amazing Spider-Spider if you like, and the radiation pumped it up too much, it had to release its powers, it had to transfer the legacy onwards, and Peter Parker just happened to be the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time (another reference to be spotted, and another prize)?

Guess what? There's even more. Paul Jenkins, rather a popular writer around these Silver Bullety type parts, has just dropped the Hulk as he's taken up a position at Top Cow as story editor, he's developing more titles for them, he's writing more for them than before - how will his work on Peter Parker: Spider-Man be affected? Will he drop back more and more on traditional Marvel-style for Bucky to interpret? Will we see the Amazing book be led by crazy ideas, and the Peter Parker book be led by its art? Is Image coming to Spider-Man?

What about this special Marvel event in August, the one that has been kept so secret, very few people know what will actually happen. Are we looking at the move of the Captain America book from the Marvel U to Marvel Knights as a precursor of Steve Rogers being killed or retired, and Sam Wilson, the Falcon, taking his place? The first black Captain America? Or, as yet more rumour would have it, are we looking at Spider-Man's Uncle Ben being revealed (either truly or just another Mysterio-type-clone-saga-cop-out) as a child abuser? Or if not Uncle Ben (as debunked recently) what about Peter's missing parents?

Ah, this is all speculation of course, but interesting nonetheless, backed up in small measure by recent comments by the aforementioned writers and wildly extrapolated by your friendly neighbourhood reviewer for the sake of perspective. Yes, there has been a point to all this. The point is this - our mortgages have been bet on a Spidey renaissance at the hands of JMS and Jenkins, what if it doesn't come off? What if it's a disaster? We await those issues with immense interest...

But until then, we have Howard Mackie and Paul Jenkins tying the last few years up, or trying to at least. However, unlike with Lobdell's war over in the X-titles, or Mackie's own version of the apocalypse in Mutant X, there aren't really that many characters to play with in the Spider-verse, so no last minute deaths on the cards I'm afraid. The real loose end that needed attention was Mary Jane Parker's supposed death in the plane crash...

Well, she's not dead, folks, as this issue (should be subtitled The Search For MJ) shows us. Instead she has been locked up in a closet by a nutter, who was prepared to dress up as an old man, drug her with a lollipop (MJ eats lollypops?), abduct her off the plane before it took off, and then cause the plane to explode, killing a shed-load of innocents, just to convince the world that MJ is dead.

Mary Jane's return, whilst an obvious and sickeningly repetitive device in comics, was planned a long time in advance. Mark Buckingham had hinted her return was on the cards on his first visit to Alan's shop (back when issue #20 was published). His comments were that she wouldn't just come back...that IF she was coming back, it wouldn't be anything silly, and everything would change because of it. Spider-Man would have just got his life back together and...well, a lot of this is pure extrapolation from Mark's obscure and diplomatic hints. He loves his job and won't give anything away that would jeopardise it. We also know (from preview comics) that MJ will reject Spidey and live her own life.

For now, we have the sickening and overused plot device of a main character being presumed dead, and returning from the grave. Supes came back from the dead. Peter Parker reclaimed the mantle of Spider-Man from Ben Reilly. PP returned to the Daily Bugle. Clark Kent returned to the Daily Planet. Bruce Wayne reclaimed the mantle of Batman from Jean Paul Valley. The list goes on and on. The status quo can only be disrupted for so long before being restored - Gotham had to be rebuilt, just as MJ had to return; she was too deeply ingrained into the legend to finish off for good. Colossus was allowed to die but Cyclops wasn't...

Back to this issue. So, now we officially know where MJ is, we know about her terrible plight and the background of her kidnapper, but what about Spidey? He's suffering bad but still refuses to accept her death - much like the link between Cyclops and Jean Grey, he knows she is still alive, just doesn't know where to find her. The villain of the piece gives us another feel of what the "Marvels" look like to the common man before going into full-on "Buffy-in-earshot" mode (you know, the episode she developed telepathy but slowly went mad as she couldn't shut out the voices). It's a real shame that Xavier hasn't used Cerebro in the last couple of comic months, it would've registered off the Richter scale with the mutant potential of this villain!

This issue sees the end of Mackie's run on this monthly title, and I feel that mamy people (myself included) have been unfair to Howard as he has proven to be a very imaginative and skilled writer - it's just his style (on this particular title) hasn't always matched my preferences or prejudiced views of what Amazing should be. I wish him well wherever he may be going (some comicshop owner and reviewer...I never keep track of who is moving where).

So it's not a bad comic by any means, just a little inevitable. At least we get to see the best way to nullify Spider-Sense at the end of this issue!

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