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Amazing Spider-Man #55

Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writers: J. Michael Straczynski and Fiona Avery
Artists: John Romita Jr. (p), Scott Hanna (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
When Peter comes across a young student who looks like she might be straying down the wrong path, we see he makes an active effort to steer her back on course. However, as he becomes involved in this young girl's life he learns that one of the contributing factors to this student's hard life is that her brother was sent to jail after he was caught by Spider-Man.

Comments:
I had a bit of difficulty getting into this issue as it makes an awkward attempt at evoking sympathy for the criminals that Spider-Man puts away, by basically say that the families of criminals have to eat as well. Now while this is true, the whole power & responsibility gimmick that drives Spider-Man in his continued war against crime was that he did let one get away, and he paid a very high price for doing so. Now sure I'll buy that Peter would feel bad that his actions had such a negative impact on this family, but this scene doesn't really sell the idea that this family has suffered because of his actions. I mean yes there's the fact that the oldest bother is in jail, but given he was caught committing the traditionally violent crime of carjacking, and the apartment that we see the mother & daughter living in looks to be relatively comfortable, I found it difficult to get overly convinced that Spider-Man had made their lives as difficult as it needed to be for this story to work. It also doesn't help that Greg Rucka delivered a far more effective & powerful version of this story a couple years back, when he showed us the story of one of the Kingpin's underlings who found himself getting called to a meeting after Spider-Man had entered the scene & prevented a shipment this man was responsible for from getting through.

As for the art, John Romtia Jr. continues to impress, as I honestly don't think he could deliver a bad looking issue if he tried. This issue is largely a talking heads affair, but the art manages to give the young girl a nice range of expressions, and there's also a fun bit of comedy, as Peter takes out a group of goons while making it look like a clumsy fall. The action where Spider-Man takes out a room full of thugs, is also quite strong, with the double-page, twelve panel grid sequence being the issue's highlight.

Final Word:
I don't want to dismiss this issue as an after-school special, as the writing exercises far more subtlety that we ever saw in those specials. For one the fact that the little girl has a busted leg looks to be completely unrelated to her problem, and Peter's attempts to help this young student feel quite genuine, and as such the story avoids the ever dreaded preaching to the audience feel. However, I have to say that I found the idea the this book was trying to explore simply wasn't handled all that well, as making the jailed sibling a carjacker points to a violent crime, which is exactly the type of crime that Spider-Man would never turn a blind eye to, and as such attempting to make Peter question whether he should of taken action after seeing the impact it made on the young man's family felt a bit awkward, especially since the family looked to be doing okay in spite of the young man's arrest. The moral of this story is also lost in the incredibly longwinded speech that is offered up in the final pages to detail Peter's plight to his ever convenient audience.



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