Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: John Romita Jr (p), Scott Hanna (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The book opens with Doctor Strange giving the gathered heroes an earful about how their misguided efforts allowed Dormammu to gather his energies back together, and while he prepares to do battle with his long-time enemy, Doctor Strange advises the others to limit their efforts to keeping the Mindless Ones occupied. After Spider-Man rescue a young couple from the hulking monstrosities, we see he decides to ignore the good doctor's advice, and see if he can lend him a hand against Dormammu. However, instead of helping Spider-Man manages to stumble his way into the middle of the battle while Dormammu was casting his own banishment spell upon Doctor Strange, and Spider-Man's presence was enough of a distraction that this spell looks to be successful. As both Doctor Strange and Spider-Man are caught up in this spell we see their atoms are scattered outside of time and space, and it's only through a considerable effort that Doctor Strange is able to pull them back together. However, they are both still trapped in the void outside the time stream, and his efforts to restore them to their proper time, are unsuccessful as the two find themselves bouncing all over the time line, and their journey includes a trip to a possible future, where Dormammu has left a devastated Manhattan in his wake.
I have to say I was a little disappointed with this issue as it essentially shifts the focus away from what had been a fairly energetic big brawl involving a fairly impressive collection of Marvel's best and brightest, to what looks to be an episode of "This is Your Life" as Spider-Man finds himself trapped outside of time and space, and essentially this means he's jumping back and forth through the time stream. Presumably this means next issue's big anniversary issue is going to be a bit like one of those anniversary shows that celebrate reaching a certain milestone by looking back upon the great moments from one's past, and what has me a bit concerned is that J. Michael Straczynski has shown in previous issues that he's rather set on tinkering with Spider-Man's back-story, and I'm worried that next issue is going to be J. Michael Straczynski inserting his spider totem notions into Spider-Man's past. Now I realize it's not all going to be a look back on Spider-Man's past, as J. Michael Straczynski has saw fit to include a possible future, in which Mary Jane is horribly murdered only hours after the accident that cast Peter out of the time-stream, and we then jump even further into the future, where we see a 50ish looking Peter is visiting the grave of the late Aunt May, before the police move in. However, I'd much rather the 500th issue have been a big bash, than a fond look back.
I've gotten couple e-mails lately that essentially accuse me of entering these issues looking for something to complain about, and looking up at the column I've just written where I whine about how the story zagged when I wanted it to zig, I can see where people would get the impression that I am purposely picking on J. Michael Straczynski's work. Now I'm enjoying his work on the new Supreme Power series quite a bit, so I'd like to think that I am capable of enjoying his work. However, out of all the comic characters, Spider-Man is the one character that I spent my entire comic reading life span with a genuine affection for. I've been through the good times (the Roger Stern years on Amazing Spider-Man), and the bad times (the clone saga), and as this book reaches it's ever impressive 500th issue, I'm happy to say that I have read roughly 95% of those 500 issues. I'm a fanboy pure and simple when it comes to Spider-Man, and as such I know what I like, and by the same token I know what I dislike. As such being a devoted fan the urge to whine and moan about something that I feel a writer has done wrong is harder to ignore than is the urge to praise something that other writers in the past have done just as well, if not better. J. Michael Straczynski does some good work on this book, and I'll admit I haven't given him the praise he deserves, so I promise from this point on I'll make a greater effort to see the bright spots, as clearly as the rough patches.
John Romita Jr. gets an opportunity to show us why he's always been looking for an opportunity to draw Doctor Strange, as the scene where the good doctor squares off against his long-time enemy Dormammu, the art is pretty much as good as one could hope for. I mean the art perfectly conveys the sense of power that is being exchanged between these two, and the double-page shot that marks the opening of their battle stands up as one of the great Dr. Strange moments. There's also a great panel where we see the big magical energy wave sends the Mindless Ones scattering like leafs in a windstorm, and the sequence where Dr. Strange pulls Spider-Man's body back together was a nice little bit of work. Now I have to say that I was somewhat unimpressed by the look of the void where the two find themselves, as it was a little empty, but than again I guess this was the whole point of this place, since it is supposedly removed from time and space. Now the shot of the devastated Times Square was certainly a solid way to reintroduce the characters to the real world. I also have to say that while I don't really care much for the look of the future Spider-Man's costume, I have to say that it is nice to see that with his older age comes an effort to protect himself from the elements, as I always found it a bit odd Spider-Man never made any efforts to winterize his costume.
A rather plot by numbers issue that requires Spider-Man to act a bit foolishly so that he can become caught up in Doctor Strange's magical battle. I'm also a little disappointed by the idea that the story looks to have shifted from what had been shaping up to be a fairly grandiose battle that featured a pretty sizeable collection of Marvel super-heroes, into a more personal story where it would appear we'll be taken on a tour of Spider-Man's 500 issues of history. Now I'm a Spider-Man fan so I'll likely enjoy a trip down memory lane, and as long as J. Michael Straczynski doesn't start cutting and pasting his various spider totem ideas into Spider-Man's back-story, I'll probably be quite happy with next month's time jumping adventure. However, while Doctor Strange fans will likely want to give this issue a look as the character is in fine form in this issue, Spider-Man is made out to be a bit ineffectual, and almost secondary to the plot itself, as a fairly sizeable chunk of the issue is handed over to Doctor Strange's efforts against Dormammu, and Spider-Man's role in this battle is more of an impediment than a help.
What did you think of this book?
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