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Amazing Spider-Man #506

Posted: Monday, April 12, 2004
By: Jason Cornwell



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

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The Plot:
After looking in on the mysterious Ezekiel as he pays a visit to a temple in the jungles of Peru, we see Spider-Man's bid to rescue a hostage being held a gunpoint is aided by the arrival of Ezekiel, who has come to warn Peter of the impending arrival of the big, bad threat he's been hinting about since his first appearance. As Ezekiel continues to try and sell Peter on the idea that his powers are connected to a supernatural force, we see in another part of the city an evil force makes it's arrival on the earthly plane.

The Good:
This book does a pretty fair job of selling the idea that there is something dark and ominous steadily advancing toward Spider-Man, and the seeming arrival of this entity in the final pages of this issue makes for a powerful moment to carry us into the next issue. I also have to say the issue does some nice work with Mary Jane's secondary plot as Aunt May is allowed to play the voice of reason when it comes to the idea that Mary Jane is frustrated by her inability to make a go of it with her fledging movie career. I rather like the idea that Aunt May's advice isn't to coddle Mary Jane's hurt feelings but rather to provide a cool, detached analysis of why others wouldn't be quick to embrace her as a future Oscar contender, rather than just another pretty face.. I also rather enjoy the idea that Mary Jane is allowed to recognize that there is a difference between being a super-model and a movie star, and that she's going to have to prove she can act before she can even get her foot in the door. This issue also brings Ezekiel back into the fold, and while I'm not overly fond of the character this issue does stand up as his most engaging appearance, as the opening sequence does paint a pretty dire picture of what lies in Peter's future, and the rest of the issue allows the character to do more than pop in and out of the picture making vague suggestions. In fact it was nice to see Ezekiel head to Peter's home to enjoy dinner with Mary Jane, as most of the people that know Peter's secret are either deadly enemies or rivals for Peter's affections, so outside of Aunt May, Mary Jane's choice of dinner companions who are in the know are a bit limited.

John Romita Jr.'s impending departure from this title is downright depressing news as the one thing that the Spider-Man books had going for them is that they were home to artists who never had any difficulty meeting the monthly deadlines. there's also the fact that the art was a near perfect match for the character of Spider-Man. I mean John Romita Jr. has a style that works exceptionally well with the powerhouse players in the Marvel Universe (e.g. Thor, the Hulk), so he's given Spider-Man's battles a sense of power that have manage to sell the idea that Spider-Man is one of the few middle-tier heroes who can comfortably square off against the heavy hitter and we can feel secure in the knowledge that he would be able to hold his own. Now this issue is largely a talking heads affair, but there's some powerful visuals in this issue from the sequence where Ezekiel is subjected to the unkind attentions of the man with the knife, to the wonderfully creepy arrival of the villain in the final pages. The double-page chase sequence across traffic was also nicely done.

The Bad:
I recognize that he's probably put a great deal of thought into his presentation but no matter how much he tries to sell me on the logic of his idea that Spider-Man's powers have a supernatural element to them, I can't shake the feeling that this is a silly idea. I mean the entire appeal of the character of Spider-Man is that he's one of the first heroes who embraced the every-man quality. I mean here was a character, who had money troubles, who got cold when he ran around in the dead of winter in his spandex, and had to deal with all the indignities that life rains down upon the ordinary masses. Spider-Man is the Joe Average of the super-hero set, and this every-man quality is what makes him stands apart from the mob. There's certain elements about the character that I don't feel should ever be changed, and one of these elements is the simplicity of his powers. I mean you have to love the look of understanding on the face of the younger readers as they draw the connection between the idea that the bite from the radioactive spider gave him the abilities of a spider. Now J. Michael Straczynski feels that he's tapped into an inconstancy as Spider-Man's spider-sense doesn't mirror the abilities of a real spider, but asking the readers to accept this as proof that his powers must be supernatural in nature simply doesn't hold up, as we've had decades to simply accept that the spider-sense is part of the package, while this supernatural spider totem nonsense feels like something that J. Michael Straczynski is trying to tack on top of what is already a complete package.

Down Came The Rain:
On one hand I am glad to see the supernatural elements of J. Michael Straczynski's run look to be coming to a head, as if nothing else after he delivers this final threat, one imagines he'll be forced to move on to a new idea. On the other side of the equation though I can't say I was all that enthused by the idea that this entire arc is going to center around the contributions that J. Michael Straczynski has been trying to shoehorn into Spider-Man's back-story, as I simply don't buy into the idea that Spider-Man's powers are supernatural in nature. I also have to say I'm not all that fond of the idea that there have been multiple versions of Spider-Man running around throughout history. Still, I can draw some comfort in the idea that J. Michael Starczynski hasn't fully committed to this idea, and he almost seems hesitant to draw any concrete connections that can't be dismissed by another writer as the fanciful imaginings of a mysterious character who has been presented as being rather fond of keeping the entire truth under his hat.



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