Current Reviews


Spider-Man's Tangled Web #20

Posted: Wednesday, December 4, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Dean Haspiel

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with J. Jonah Jameson arriving at the Daily Bugle where he discovers to his annoyance it's "take your kid to work day" at the paper, and when one of the children gets him off on an anti-Spider-Man tirade we see Jonah suffers a heart attack. We then join Jonah as we see he's been sent to a psychiatrist, as the insurance company that provides his medical insurance is going to drop Jonah if he doesn't get some grip on why he has such an unhealthy fixation regarding Spider-Man. As Jonah belittles the efforts that are being made to help him, and basically sets out to be the most difficult patient he can be, we see the psychiatrist decides to try and use hypnosis to probe Jonah's past to learn why he hates Spider-Man. We then look back on Jonah's life, as we see his father was an extremely driven man who didn't accept any form of weakness in his son, and as such we see Jonah quickly learned that one should never back down from a fight, and that it always better to approach others with a sense of superiority, so no one would ever be able to look down on him again. We then see the psychiatrist forms a theory that Jonah sees Spider-Man as a father figure, and as such the hatred he held toward his father has been transferred to Spider-Man.

J. Jonah Jameson has always been my favorite member of Spider-Man's supporting cast, and frankly it's about time that this title focused some of its attention his way, as this is a character whose entire professional life is largely devoted to Spider-Man. Now this issue attempts to explain why Jameson has spent years dogging Spider-Man, and while the answer it provides is a solid enough attempt I think I'll stick to the one that I've fashioned for myself over the years. I believe the seed of Jameson hatred for Spider-Man began when the hero's debut stole the spotlight away from what was suppose to be his son's big moment, as Spider-Man rescued the endangered space capsule launch that supposed to make John Jameson a big hero. One also has to think that Jameson's pride is tweaked every time one of his claims against Spider-Man is proven false, and as such the fire is consistently being supplied with more fuel. Now this issue basically makes the claim that Jameson sees Spider-Man as a father figure, and since his own father was a creep, Jameson refuses to acknowledge the idea that Spider-Man isn't the same. This explanation doesn't feel wrong, but I prefer the one I had going in.

The one thing this issue deserves full credit for is its perfect presentation of Jameson's personality as everything he does in this issue is absolutely dead on. From the opening tirade that leads to his heart attack, to his interaction with the psychiatrist who has been given the task of discovering why he holds such an intense hatred of Spider-Man, this issue is littered with moments that I simply adored. Zeb Wells plays up the idea that J. Jonah Jameson is a unrepentant blow hard, and he doesn't pull any punches when it comes to making the character quite unsympathetic. Even the standard looks back at Jameson's childhood traumas have nice little twists that makes it clear Jameson’s abrasive personality was already formed when he encounter these character defining moments. We learn he had an abusive father, but even as a young child Jameson's willfulness had him showing little fear at standing up for himself. We also learn that Jameson's stubborn nature served him quite well in life, as everything he earned in life was gained through his unwillingness to back down, or show the slightest sign of weakness. There is a nice brief moment where we get to see a crack in the armor though, when the conversation turns to the death of his first wife.

One nice thing about this book is that the art changes almost every issue, so each issue acts as a bit of a discovery process, as I'm exposed to yet another artist who most times I've never even heard of. Now I'm sure if I expanded my horizons outside of the books being offered by the big companies, I'd be more familiar with the steady stream of artists who are making the rounds on this title, but waiting for them to come to this book is far more convenient, as I'm already a lifelong fan of Spider-Man's corner of the Marvel Universe, and as such these artist are instantly working in an environment that has me wanting to like their art. Now this month's artist is Dean Haspiel, and I have to say that his art proves to be a remarkably good fit to the material, as while the story does deal with some fairly serious-minded issues, the simple fact of the matter is that J. Jonah Jameson is very much a cartoonish character, and as such he works best when the art is highly expressive, and not overly concerned with a sense of realism. There's also some great work on the little moments, like when Jameson is stumped by the little metal balls, or the scene where he's hypnotized. The cover to this issue also does a nice job of instantly telling you why you should read this issue.

Final Word:
A highly entertaining look at one of my all-time favorite supporting cast members, as J. Jonah Jameson steps under the magnifying glass, and the question of why he hates Spider-Man is examined. Now I found the answer we receive wasn't as convincing as one I had already fashioned for myself prior to this issue, but the issue still holds up as a delightfully entertaining character study. The issue also deserves credit for being so true to the established personality that has been created for Jonah, as the only real peek at Jonah's more vulnerable side is during a highly emotional moment where he discusses the death of his first wife. The rest of the issue is classic J. Jonah Jameson, as he blusters his way through the book and manages to drive his psychiatrist to the point of distraction. Easily one of my favorite standalone issues of the year, and if you're a fan of J. Jonah Jameson then you're doing yourself a disservice by not reading this issue.

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