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Amazing Spider-Man #56

Posted: Friday, August 15, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Plot:
With one of his young students off risking her neck in a bid to locate her missing brother, we see Spider-Man has to come up with a plan to keep this girl out of danger long enough for him to locate her brother. However, when he does find the brother, Spider-Man has his eyes opened to the bigger picture regarding his war against crime.

Comments:
I'm not quite sure what the grand lesson we're suppose to learn from this arc has been as it seems to suggest that Spider-Man is suppose to look out for the people that are left behind when he sends people to jail. It then uses the example of a street thug that Spider-Man put away for car-jacking, who then failed to hook up with his family upon getting out of jail. Now I'll accept the idea that Peter would take an active interest in this case due to the fact that the young girl who is getting herself is all sorts of trouble over her missing brother is in his science class. However the idea that Peter is some sort of guardian to these people seems to be at direct odds with the entire pathos that motivates Spider-Man to fight crime, as having him worry about the aftermath of his taking down a criminal, is counteracted by the painful lesson that the one he let get away went on to kill Uncle Ben. It also fails to address the simple fact that the criminals that Spider-Man puts away are most times caught in the middle of committing violent crimes, with the back alley mugging being his bread & butter, and one could argue that perhaps it's better that people who view threatening others with bodily harm to acquire money might be exactly the type of person whose absence would actually be a benefit in the lives of this person's family.

As for the art, John Romita Jr. is handed a talking heads issue to deliver, with the action scenes either calling for Spider-Man to act unseen from the shadows, or the fight is ended before it can even get going. Still, the art does some fairly solid work capturing Peter's bemused expression when he discovers the young girl is off getting in trouble once again, and there's also a fairly impressive sequence where Spider-Man sneaks into a mysterious meeting inside a warehouse.

Final Word:
A somewhat intriguing look at the idea that the criminals that Spider-Man captures have lives & families that are disrupted by their going to jail, and as such in his attempt to do good he's actually doing harm. Now there is the concept of free choice and taking responsibility for one's actions, as the criminals that Spider-Man sends to jail are committing crimes, and they had to know going in that what they were doing was illegal and there was a chance of getting caught, and as such if they really cared about their family they would choose a different path to make money. The book also undermines it's central argument when we learn that prison didn't exactly destroy the older brother, and that he actually came out the other side a better person. In fact the only thing I got from this issue is that the younger sister is completely devoid of common sense, as she chooses to look for her brother in the most dangerous manner one could go about it. I mean why didn't she just send a message to him via his parole officer.



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