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Amazing Spider-Man #504

Posted: Thursday, February 26, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Plot:
As Spider-Man finds himself in an uneasy alliance with Loki, we see he's approached by the ancient sorceress Morwen once again, and she's less that pleased to discovered her intended has entered into a partnership with a god who aims oppose her own. However, working together Spider-man and Loki are able to drive Morwen out of her host body, who we have learned is one of Loki's children.

The Good:
I consider myself an on again, off again reader of Thor so I can't really claim that I'm a huge fan of Loki. I'm also a member of the group of Spider-Man fans who prefer his adventures to be a little more down to earth. Now I'm not dead-set against the occasional trip into space, or the Negative Zone, but for the most part Spider-Man in a character who has always worked best when his adventures are set within the confines of Marvel's Manhattan. With this all in mind one would think that I would have a problem with this arc, as it has Spider-Man caught up in the middle of a plot that one would normally finds in the pages of "Thor" or "Doctor Strange". However, I have to confess I found myself becoming quite caught up in this issue, and while the humor does feel a bit contrived considering they were both involved in heated combat, I did find myself rather enjoying the interaction between Spider-Man and Loki. The story also manages to do a nice job establishing the idea that Spider-Man is clearly out of his league in this encounter, and the simple fact that he's willing to rush into battle knowing he's playing the role of the clay pigeon while Loki works on taking down Morwen, makes the character feel incredibly heroic, which will always earn a writer my gratitude. There's also something rather cool about the idea that this issue ends with Spider-Man ending up with one favor that he can call upon from Loki.

John Romita Jr. is one of my favorite artists, and it's issues like this that reaffirm my belief that his explosive style is perfectly tailored to deliver comic book action. The magic use in this issue looks fantastic as we see Loki and Morewn laying into each other with spells that display more imagination than the standardized magic bolts. I mean the spine attack looks downright cool and the one page spread where Spider-Man is pined against the building, the art does a great job of making that attack look impossible to escape. The last page is also worth a mention as not only is a great looking shot of Spider-Man, but the visual perfectly captures the idea that the character now has a very powerful ally he can call upon. The book also has some fun in the opening pages, as there's something inherently silly about the image that opens this issue, though I do have to say that those hot dogs are so large they almost come across as novelty props. Great looking cover visual as well, though once again I have to mention showing Spider-Man's spider-sense going off is a visual trick that the artist should really employ if they want to project a sense of impending danger on a cover.

The Bad:
I realize that Spider-Man is supposed to be a funny character who uses humor to relieve the tension that builds up in conflict, and that writers are actively encouraged by fans to play up the character's witty banter, but to be perfectly honest Fiona Avery seems to be trying too hard to be funny, even when the situation doesn't really lend itself to his humor. I mean Loki and Spider-Man are locked in a furious combat and they are engaged in a conversation about the lack of respect that Spider-Man is affording him when he simply refers to him as Loki, or the scene where Spider-Man admonishes Loki for thinking about a Blonde on the corner when his mind should be centered on the battle. I guess what I'm trying to say here in my incredibly long-winded manner is that Fiona Avery needs to come to the realization that just because one can insert a gag into a story, doesn't mean she has to. By injecting a running lighthearted conversation into the middle of what is supposed to be a serious-minded battle, she is undercutting the sense of danger that she's trying to establish, as one starts to believe that if Spider-Man and Loki can be tossing witty barbs at each other than the situation can't be all that dire. I also have to say the idea that the woman that Morwen picked as her host is one of Loki's daughters also felt like a bit of a plot contrivance, and it doesn't help that this revelation plays such a key role in her defeat.

Papa Was A Rolling Stone:
I have to confess I enjoyed this issue, as while Spider-Man isn't a character who lends himself to magic-based adventures, J. Michael Straczynski manages to deliver a highly enjoyable reading experience in which the character is wading in way over in head in "magical whackos". Now part of this could simply be my responding like Pavlov's Dog to the idea that Spider-Man's involved in a battle where he doesn't stand a chance of winning, but since he doesn't last all that long in his solo battle with Morwen, there has to be more to it than my enjoyment of battles where the character is the clear-cut underdog. The issue does manage to offer up some cute moments of interaction between Spider-Man and Loki, and while I found some of the gags to be trying a little to hard to be cute, or amusing, I will confess that I did find myself smiling a couple times, as the two characters' personalities ran up against each others. It also doesn't hurt that John Romita Jr. was born to draw magic-based action like this, and one has to hope that J. Michael Straczynski is joined on his upcoming "Doctor Strange" miniseries by John Romita Jr.



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