Writer: J. Michael Stracyznski
Artists: Mike Deodato Jr.
After last issue’s revelatory letter from Gwen Stacy, the two figures from the graveyard show up to make Spider-Man’s life even more difficult. Meanwhile, Mary Jane helps discover what else Gwen wrote in her mystery letter, and how this impacts on Peter’s life…
After a tentative review of last issue, not really being sure where JMS was taking the first issue of this arc, I’ll come out and say it: I’m really getting to like this storyline. Whilst it may be unpopular among Spidey purists to drag yet more anguish and heartache out of a relationship that reached its emotional climax about thirty years ago, my feelings are that JMS is tapping into a fairly complex well of emotion for the character and doing something new with it.
After some standard threats to Peter’s nearest and dearest and a couple of threatening letters and phone calls, Pete’s newest adversaries finally show themselves in an explosive second half of the issue. It’s a wise move to keep throwing in some action with all the intrigue, and JMS succeeds in never making it feel forced. Indeed, even when it comes to the mystery element of the story arc, the writing moves along at a brisk pace, giving us clues that other writers may take a whole story arc to reveal before the likely full reveal in a few issues’ time. Without wanting to give too much away, Stracynzski seems intent on putting a new spin on what may have happened in Pete’s relationship with Gwen Stacy, and one which may directly connect him with his new adversaries. And whilst the apparent explanation at the issue’s end actually says a lot less than first appears to be the case – leaving JMS plenty of leeway to pull some surprising tricks at the arc’s end – it at least confirms that there’s going to be a fair bit of re-invention of the Gwen Stacy era. Whether or not JMS can pull it off will be testament to his skills as a writer.
Deodato Jr. provides some outstanding visuals this issue, with dynamic, awesome artwork in the action sequences. There are also some great character touches in the art, the sepia scenes lending a real feeling of nostalgia to Pete’s flashback, perhaps thanks as much to Matt Milla’s colours as any of the linework. However, his talking heads still have a static, dour feel to them that suffers in comparison with the recently-departed John Romita Jr.’s humourous and light renderings. There are a couple of other jarring transitions in artistic style, such as previously Romita-drawn characters like the well-rounded Detective Lamont showing up again looking like Robert Redford, but this isn’t a fault of the art – more just a necessary adaptation of the readership to a new look after such a long uninterrupted run from Romita. To be honest, Deodato has already succeeded in making this storyline his own - and when we’re being treated to graphics as effective as this month’s cover (for once faithfully reproducing a moment from the inner pages), no-one is going to be complaining. It’ll be interesting to see where the writing asks him to progress from here.
Fresh, intriguing, and well-drawn, this new direction has the potential to be as memorable and thrilling as JMS first ‘Morlun’ arc, which he hasn’t equalled since. A couple of logic flaws in the plot mechanics aside, such a potentially controversial storyline probably couldn’t have been handled much better.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!