Current Reviews


Amazing Spider-Man #57

Posted: Saturday, September 6, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The book opens with Peter discovering that the books that he ordered for his class (and paid for out of his own pocket) are cooking books instead of the science texts he had wanted, but he soon discovers that the administrative assistant who placed the order has no intention of owning up to her mistake, but rather she appears to have made it her life mission to be a royal pain in Peter's life. As a moody Peter heads home to sulk, we see after receiving some rather odd & uncharacteristic advice from his Aunt May, we join him later that night when his quiet evening with Mary Jane is cut short by a situation playing out in Times Square that requires his immediate attention. As Spider-Man arrives at the highly chaotic scene he finds Iron Man, Thor, the Fantastic Four & Cyclops are all on hand battling an army of creatures that go by the name the Mindless Ones. As Reed feverishly puts together a device that he believes will drive these creatures back through the dimensional portal which they are spilling out of we see Spider-Man joins the others in a rather furious battle with this ever increasing army. However, when Reed activates his device, we see Dr. Strange arrives to let our heroes know that this attack has only made the situation worse, as this massive outpouring of energy was exactly what Dormammu needed to make his return to this reality.

This issue has a scene where Aunt May consoles an upset Peter by basically telling him that it's pointless to be offended by a wicked persons actions, because they are simply being true to their nature, and as an example she uses a lion that has escaped from the zoo, and goes around being true to it's nature by biting people. Now if this argument was being used to explain the actions of a small child, or a machete welding maniac from a long-lived franchise of horror flicks, than I would agree, but frankly I feel it's far too simplistic to explain away & essentially justified a person's behavior by saying they're simply being true to their nature. I believe in a world where the Grinch grew to love Christmas, the cowardly Lion stood up to the Wicked Witch, and the Scrooge was no longer a greedy miser, and if there was any character in the entire Marvel Universe who would agree with such starry-eyed optimism about the human condition it would be Aunt May. I mean this is the woman who married Doctor Octopus because he seems like such a nice man. If any thing Aunt May should be the one who is talking Peter out of taking such a grim view of a person's ability to change. I'm not all that upset by the basic message, as I know several people who hold a similar opinion and they're perfectly fine to hang about with (though according to this issue they're mindless ones, but than again so am I ... go Oilers). However, I am upset that J. Michael Straczynski decided to make Aunt May the messenger of such a jaded stance.

I did like the fact that this issue plays up the idea that Spider-Man is part of the Marvel Universe by having him respond to a big crisis that has erupted in the middle of Manhattan, where he finds half-a-dozen heroes already on scene. Now I realize that I wouldn't be as excited by this scene if it was a regular occurrence, as knowing myself I'd probably be whining about Spider-Man needing to get involved in some solo adventures. I also understand why writers tend to avoid crowding the guest-stars into every adventure, as it really wouldn't be much fun if Spider-Man wasn't allowed to capture the big, bad villains, and occasionally save the world all by his lonesome. However, given almost every hero in the Marvel Universe calls Manhattan home I'm always pleased when a writer seems to recognize that there will be time when a crisis will draw the attentions of more than just the character whose title this crisis takes place in. I mean there's only so many times that both the Avengers & the Fantastic Four can be out of town before I begin to suspect there's some sort of underground network that lets villains know when these two groups are busy else where before they emerge from the woodwork with their giant death ray, and cunning plot to hold the city ransom for one million dollars! Plus, it just nice to see Spider-Man fighting alongside the Thing.

John Romita Jr. offers up a pretty decent issue that manages to sell the idea of Peter's inner frustration as he deals with a extremely petty administrative assistant, and there's also a rather cute scene where Peter is busy listing off the various lightning types, before hitting the one that signals a crisis that requires Spider-Man's attention. However the real highlight of this issue occurs when Spider-Man arrives at the crisis to find a small army of Marvel heroes involved in a heated conflict with a massive army of Mindless Ones. From the wonderful opening double-page shot of Time's Square overrun by these creatures, to the following pages that follow Spider-Man's efforts, this entire sequence is a visual delight. I mean, any time Spider-Man picks up a street lamp and start swinging it about like a baseball bat my inner fanboy starts to get excited. I realize that I'm probably well past the age where most people will admit to being excited by the simplistic thrills of a super-hero slugfest, but frankly I feel sorry for the fans who have lost this ability, as there's nothing quite like being reminded of the sense of excitement that comics were able to deliver when you were a wee little fanboy in your Spider-Man pajamas. I do have to make mention of the cover though, as it's a rather unusual pose, and one does have to wonder why the flag is at half-mast.

Final Word:
I like the almost grandiose feel of this story, as the rather impressive array of heroes that have been gathered reminds me of the type of story that we don't really see all that much anymore in the pages of a regular monthly title. Why I remember back in the mid-1980s we used the see this type of story all the time, from the classic throw-down between the Hulk & an army of Marvel heroes in his 300th issue, the John Byrne's Fantastic Four run where the heroes of the Marvel Universe gathered to battle Galactus. Nowadays the various titles are almost fearful of stepping on each others plot lines, that the only time we seem to get a good mixture of heroes is during a separate miniseries. So in spite of the rather awkward attempts at humor, and the somewhat contrived cliffhanger finish I must confess I rather enjoyed the wider scope this arc looks to be taking advantage of. I did have some problem accepting Aunt May's rather simplistic advice though, as it reads more like one of those long winded speeches we've been getting from the ever ambiguous Ezekiel.

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