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Amazing Spider-Man #54

Posted: Sunday, July 13, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
The book opens with Spider-Man paying a late night visit to a research lab to study the genetic material he collected from Digger, the gamma-irradiated zombie/gangster he's been fighting. After a quick study Peter is able to come up with a rather simple way of defeating Digger, as he theorizes that the gamma radiation that brought Digger to life can be depleted, and when it runs out Digger's body would quite literally fall apart. As an excited Peter heads into the next day telling a dead tired Mary Jane all about his plan, we see before heading to do battle with Digger, he pays a visit of his new ally in the police department. We then join Spider-Man later that night as he tries to get the mob boss whose hired him, to offer up more information about why Digger is looking to kill him and his daughter, but this conversation is cut short when Digger arrives. What follows is a furious battle where Spider-Man uses his agility to avoid most of the attacks Digger sends his way, while delivering a few well placed shot of his own. As Digger begins to fall apart we see the battle moves into the sewers below the streets where one massive explosion later Spider-Man emerges as the last man standing. We then discover that Spider-Man was wearing a microphone, and as such the mob boss' confession to the murders of the gangsters that made up Digger gets the man placed under arrest.

Comments:
I hate to start off with what sounds like a complaint as I rather enjoyed this issue, but I really don't think I'll be able to move on with the rest of the review until I get this little problem off my mind. Now being a lifelong Spider-Man fan I fully believe that he could defeat the Hulk. I mean his battle with the Juggernaut proved he is able to take his fighting to the next level, and the various encounters that Spider-Man's had with the Hulk have shown that he's at least able to keep the big guy occupied for fairly long stretches, not to mention the fact that he's still alive after what has to be at least a half dozen encounters. However, J. Michael Straczynski offers up a theory of how the Hulk's power functions that has Peter making a statement that convinced me J. Michael Straczynski has a very poor understanding of just how powerful the Hulk has been shown to be. Now I'll accept that the Hulk is a creature fueled by it's rage, and as such the idea that the gamma radiation's interaction with adrenaline is what triggers the change & effectively allows the Hulk to stay hulked out, and why he reverts back to Banner when he relaxes makes for a sound premise. However, the numerous lengthy battles that the Hulk has had with heavyweights like Thor & the Thing would seem to suggest that if nothing else that it's highly unlikely Spider-Man's own endurance would be able to outlast the Hulk's supply of adrenaline.

As for the issue at hand it's not a terribly deep or complex affair as Spider-Man acts to defeat a villain who is trying to kill a mob boss & his daughter, and he comes up with the idea that if he keeps the creature busy for a long enough stretch the creature will eventually fall to pieces. Still, it's a pretty solid display of Spider-Man's agility versus the brute force that the villain brings to the table, and if nothing else I'm always game for an action heavy issue. Now the book spends far too much time & energy on the conversation between Spider-Man & the mob boss, as we see Peter is pressing the man for more information, when he's already has more than enough to fully understand the situation. Now I realize that a reveal scene later in the issue shows us that Spider-Man was wearing a microphone, and as such this conversation was likely set up to catch a murder confession on tape, but still three pages was a bit excessive. As for the rest of the issue, the humor is a bit obvious at times, and there's a couple groaners to be found in these pages, but I have to say that I was left smiling a couple times in this issue, and the scene in the early morning hours between Peter & MJ was a fun look at their relationship. The last page also offers up a nice reveal that details what Peter did with the money.

John Romita Jr. is given yet another action heavy issue to deliver, and as always seems to be the case he more that delivers some truly wonderful action that nicely plays up the raw intensity of the conflict, as well as the raw power that is playing out before the readers. The shattered walls, exploding widows & squashed cars are just some of the more impressive touches. He also does some nice work on the little details, like the fact that Mary Jane actually looks like she's been pulled out of bed early, and her expression is nicely contrasted by Peter's wide-eyed excitement as he delivers his scientific exposition. The art also does some nice work detailing the idea that the villain is falling to pieces, as the creature does look noticeably less put together in this issue, and when he does start to come apart, the art manages to play up this slightly unsettling visual. My only quibble with the art is that this issue offers up what looked to be a fairly intense battle, but when the dust settled, Spider-Man looked relatively untouched. This struck me as a little strange, as out of all the Spider-Man artists, John Romita Jr. is normally the one who provides the most convincing display of the intensity of the conflict (e.g. the cracked eye pieces, tuffs of hair stick out of the mask & shredded costume). I mean the fight shows that he didn't avoid every punch and that he got knocked around a fair bit, but the art fails to convey this detail when the battle is finished.

Final Word:
An action heavy & largely enjoyable issue that is somewhat bogged down by a couple of scenes that are trying to deliver information that is unnecessary to the story at hand. I mean I don't mind a good old-fashioned debate on taking esponsibility for one's actions, but Spider-Man's exchange with the mob boss felt longwinded & downright ponderous, as the same point was made over & over again. There's also a rather shaky bit of comic book science that falls apart when J. Michael Straczynski attempts to work it into an explanation for why Spider-Man would be able to beat the Hulk. Apparently we're meant to think of the Hulk as a bottle rocket, and that if one was able to keep him mad for long enough he would eventually revert back into Banner. This flies in the face of the "madder equals stronger" premise that has been the mantra of most Hulk fans, and frankly I found the conclusion offered up, displayed a poor understanding of the Hulk's powers by J. Michael Straczynski.



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