Current Reviews


Amazing Spider-Man #51

Posted: Monday, March 31, 2003
By: David Kozlowski


Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Scott Hanna (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Previously, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker resurrected their marriage, now they begin to reconcile the issues that caused their separation. Meanwhile, A new villain, with incredible origins, arrives in New York looking to settle old scores.

Writer J. Michael Straczynski, like his contemporary Kevin Smith, is a near master of one-to-one dialog. When he puts Peter and Mary Jane together it’s like eavesdropping on a romantic conversation through the walls of your apartment or between booths at a restaurant. While character interaction is his strength, plot development and character design are not. The revelations provided by Ezekiel and gleaned from the Astral plane (see previous story arc) remains more or less unresolved, yet this issue strikes out in a new direction. Or then again, maybe it doesn’t. Anyone familiar with Straczynski’s “Babylon 5” TV series knows that he ever completely finishes or explains anything.

I am most critical of Straczynski when it comes to the adversaries he invents. I find them neither unique nor compelling and too often they are simply “throw away” composites (see ‘Black Wasp’ from a couple of issues back). The Super-Vampire ‘Morlun’ is the sole standout of JMS’ two-year tenure. In this latest attempt he mashes a bunch of unrelated ideas into one high concept villain. Try to imagine: “Sammy The Bull” Gravano gets exposed to Gamma Radiation and you’ll get the idea. It’s a “groaner”, but JMS seems to be having fun with the premise. Oh sure it’s an insult to your comic book intelligence, but it beats the skivvies off what’s happening over in DC’s Batman.

NYPD Detective Lt. Lamont, one of Straczynski’s better-conceived characters is reprised. Several issues back Lamont was introduced as Spider-man’s “buddy-cop” foil; though he was a somewhat one-dimensional straight man to Spidey’s comedy bits. His role is now expanded and we learn that Lamont is not exactly an ally, but rather a pragmatic cop who views the super-hero community as lamentable yet effective tools for solving extraordinary crimes. I like the tension vs. mutual respect dynamic that JMS has created between Spider-man and Lamont. Be interesting to see where this goes.

Each month artist John Romita Jr. quietly embarrasses every other Penciller in comics. His characters truly live and breathe; each exudes believable personalities, emotions and attitudes. Whether the scene is a romantic conversation in a hotel room, a violent nightclub encounter or just a character moment of Spider-man eating a hot dog on a rooftop, Romita conveys them all with balance and originality. Also, I can’t imagine Romita Jr. without longtime inker Scott Hanna, his lines jump and are best compared to Klaus Janson, for whom there is no comparison. Amazing Spider-Man is a consistently brilliant visual creation.

Final Word:
This is a really good jumping on point for Amazing Spider-Man. A powerful new villain debuts and it appears he will pose a distinct challenge for Spider-Man. J. Michael Straczynski has shuttered the events of the last dozen issues, though he leaves most of them dangling. Call me foolish, but every once or twice a year I like a tiny bit of finality, if not clarity, in my favorite comics. But never mind me, Amazing Spider-Man is solid, old-school, super-hero goodness.

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