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Sunday Slugfest - Amazing Spider-Man #513

Posted: Sunday, October 31, 2004
By: Keith Dallas

ďSins Past, Part FiveĒ

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Mike Deodato (p), Jose Pimentel (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics





Average Rating: 5/10

Jason Cornwell:
Kelvin Green:
Shawn Hill:
James Redington:
Ray Tate:
Dave Wallace:






Jason Cornwell

Plot:
Deciding he needs to take steps toward finding Gwen's children, we see Spider-Man holding a press conference that draws them out of hiding. However, while Peter tells them the truth behind their parentage, Gwenís son is unwilling to accept Peterís explanation, and a fight quickly ensues. In the chaos that follows Gwenís daughter is struck down by a bullet, and while Peter races her to a hospital, Gwenís son makes an unsettling discovery.

Comments:
Itís difficult to get overly worked up about this story, as itís pretty clear that J. Michael Straczynskiís primary goal on this arc has been to inject controversy into this title by messing about with one of the cornerstones of Spider-Manís continuity. Of course this acts to stir up the bookís fan base, and the extra buzz created by this uproar draws curious new readers to the title to see what all the fuss is about. The problem Iím having with this arc is that itís not exactly a well put together event, as it feels more like a bunch of shocking ideas that were thrown together, and J. Michael Straczynski then spends the rest of his time making a half-hearted attempt to explain how it all fits together. Now I could get upset that he tarnished the saintly image of Gwen, but this is exactly the reaction that I expect heís looking to produce. To be perfectly honest Iíd have been perfectly willing to accept the idea that Gwen was far from perfect, but J. Michael Straczynski's efforts are clumsy at best, and next to no effort was made to bring Gwenís behaviour in this arc in line with what had been established, which strikes me as exceptionally lazy writing. This issue also offers up an exceptionally hackneyed sequence where Gwenís daughter is sent tumbling off the bridge, and Spider-Man is forced to re-enact the final moments of Gwen Stacy. The shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later behaviour of the gathered police is also downright baffling, given the issue clearly establishes they have no idea whatís going on up on that bridge.

Mike Deodato Jr. turns in some solid work capturing the emotions of these characters, as one has to image itís quite difficult to convey the emotional reactions of a character wearing a full face mask, but thanks to a solid understanding of body language, and fine display of how to heighten the visual impact of a scene using tricks like the extreme close-up, I had no problem following Peter's various reactions to key developments in this issue. Now the rescue scene involving the falling Sarah never quite manages to match the impact of Gwenís fateful plunge, but most of the fault for this lies at the feet of the writing which never quite developed the character so that one would be emotional invested in what happened to her. I will say that the one-page spread that shows the ends result of Peterís efforts made for a nice big impact moment, and I also rather enjoyed the sense of dread that is projected by that final page discovery.




Kelvin Green

I canít believe Marvel could publish this! Donít they care about us fans? Donít they realise that some of us have invested a great deal of emotion into these characters and stories? How could they let in a hack like Straczynski to violate everything we hold dear? As if last issue wasnít bad enough, we get more trampling over continuity and common sense this issue! Itís terrible! Something must be done!

Straczynski has Spidey say, ďI swore, long ago, that Iíd never stand up here again. I never wanted to see this view againĒ as he stands on top of the bridge where Gwen died so very long ago.

But of course, every Spidey fan knows that heís up there every other month for some reason or another! He went up there for a chat with Daredevil in one of the Kevin Smith issues of DDís comic (they even referred to it as their usual meeting place), so itís not as if this is obscure trivia or something! Donít let this flagrant disregard for continuity continue! Boycott this book! Burn Marvelís offices! Take your Babylon 5 DVDs back to the shop!

ahem.

Not a bad issue, all in all. I'm really not liking Deodatoís pencils*, but I'm starting to enjoy the story a bit more, now that itís finally gotten to the point that Iíve been waiting for it to get to for months. The stand-off between Spidey and his assailants is tense and emotional, and there are some good dramatic moments. The sequence in which Spidey sees Gwenís fall happening all over again is very well done (even if Marvelís solicitations make it very clear that Sarah will be fine), and the sequence that immediately follows, as Gabe discovers that heís been lied to by Osborn, is suitably creepy, even with the stupidly inappropriate lettering used on the big reveal page. Itís not all drama though, as the opening pages treat us to some good old-fashioned Spider-Man humour. We even get a cameo from a flustered and angry Jonah Jameson, which might be his first appearance in Straczynskiís run, but is welcome nonetheless.

So Iím still not won over by the art, and this story as a whole has taken too long to get really interesting, but this issue was a good fun read. Not bad at all.

* Iíve been getting a lot of complaints about this. I should mention that Iíve actually really liked Deodatoís work in the past, but his work on this title has been below-average.




Shawn Hill

Plot:
Peter works desperately to save the lives of the two young victims from his past, and their lives start looking as bad, if not worse, than his.

Comments:
As with last issue, JMS is bringing his full storytelling skills to bear on a story that just isnít working. Itís a very awkward fit for this title, unearthing some least fortunate demons, and all weíre going to be left with is a set of toys a little more roughed up and scuffed, but not really changed or improved.

All the earmarks of dealing well with continuity are here. Gwenís sudden death has cast a shocking pall over this title that still haunts and resonates with readers. Peterís marriage to Mary Jane has had many problems, but this ghost from their youthful years strikes at the core of their relationship, the love that might have been. And Norman Osborn, the Green Goblin, is Spider-Manís principal and most insidious foe.

So why isnít it working out? Normanís a ghost in this story, too, not a real presence. His agenda is indirect and overwrought, just surreal and self-serving madness without apparent motivation. His agents, the two children who have meta-abilities and age rapidly and think theyíre Peterís, are idiots and dupes who are playing out an agenda they donít understand. So when the big revelation comes about their parentage, it doesnít ring true, because kids of either daddy and Gwen should have figured out what was going on long ago.

Thereís a tacky replay of Gwenís fall, and a humorous intro that is just queasy-making in this context. Deodatoís art is serviceable but uninspired. Itís an abundance of dialogue, in a conversation weíd have been better off avoiding.




James Redington

I am not going to touch upon last issueís matters. I am only going to review this comic as I find it. Unlike some other fans, I wonít be dropping the title, and I will still buy Spider-Man comics...

The first page of issue recaps all that happened in the last. I guess this is for the new readers Marvel hopes have jumped onto this story half way through. Itís also good for me as I have been so busy these past few weeks that I can pick up on any of the little details I may not quite remember. Once we get past the first page we are right back in the thick of it. There is a nice little scene that I think is definitely missing in the Spider world, between Spidey and J. J. Jameson, and then we are atop the Bridge with lots of dialogue and some action between the police, Spider-Man and the twins.

The writing is as solid as it always is, subject matters aside. Straczynski handles his characters well, and you feel every word they say. Deodato Jr. is also good this issue. I really liked his fight scenes--which I usually donít.

SPOILER ***** MAYBE******

Anyone not see that last page coming and what will happen next issue? Guess we might have a new Goblin around soon...

This issue is okay, it continues the story and plays out the drama in a very nice fashion and nice pace. It doesnít completely feel like itís being dragged out for a trade like some of the previous story arcs in this run.




Ray Tate

In the opening to part five of the worst story arc ever, J. Michael Straczynski attempts his usual humor, but the jokes are about as funny as George Dubya Bush looking for weapons of mass destruction in a slide of his office while men and women are being murdered in Iraq. This is not to compare a comic book to a war. I'd never do that. I will however point out that we have a mistake for a President, and ďSins of the PastĒ is a mistake for a story. Even the presence of J. Jonah Jameson does not wash the bad taste one has in oneís mouth.

After failing to inject humor into what is essentially a corpse, Straczynski tries for poignancy as Spider-Man waits for the Terror Twins on the bridge where he accidentally killed Gwen Stacy who we now know to be the sex partner of Norman Osborn. Of course, itís difficult to make this scene poignant even with Deodatoís technically expert use of space. What the bridge means to Spider-Man continuity now is that it represents his failure in saving Gwen Stacy who was his first love; although she first boinked Norman Osborn and spat out from her womb his two prematurely aging children because the Green Goblin formula which gave Osborn greater strength and toughness ever so naturally gave the Terror Twins a bad case of progeria.

This amendment--that Gwen Stacy invited Norman Osborn to screw her--to the constitution of Spider-Man adds so much more resonance. It also sets the stage for other authors to add their voices to the Homeric epic. Brian Bendis I'm sure is probably just itching to detail how Gwen Stacy loved receiving anal sex from Norman. Hey, maybe Marvel can ask Brad Meltzer to come over to reveal that somebody like--oh, I don't know--the Hypno Hustler raped Gwen Stacy after she had just finished off Norman with some of the mind-blowing oral sex that she refused to give Peter. Yes, thank you so bloody much, Straczynski.

I have decided that this issue will be the last for me. Iím no longer giving this hack, or Marvel, another chance to take my money through the beautiful, tender story of Gwen Stacy practicing The Kama Sutra on Norman Osborn.

But back to our story. Spider-Man tries to reason with the Terror Twins. The girl listens. The brother doesnít listen. The brother attacks and predictably--as in I called it in the last review--shoots the sister. This sets the stage for Straczynskiís attempt at irony. I think itís more ironic that Gwen Stacy wouldnít blow a guy named Peter.

Naturally, the sister goes over the bridge in a parallel to Gwen Stacyís plummet. This time Spider-Man saves the girl who is a product of a Norman Osbornís and Gwen Stacyís hot monkey love, and the brother who Spider-Man kicked off the bridge scurries through the sewers to find Norman Osbornís lair, and yes, there are two Green Goblin suits waiting there. One has cups for boobies in case youíre missing the point thatís subtly applied by a sledgehammer.

In short, "Sins of the Past" in Amazing Spider-Man is one of the finest arguments for abortion I have ever read. I'm betting a bipartisan committee would agree. Shame on Straczynski. Shame on Marvel.




Dave Wallace

Okay, so maybe my one-bullet rating for last monthís issue was a little harsh. After all, JMS is trying to craft an original story based around established continuity which puts a new spin on what we thought we knew about Spideyís past relationship with Gwen Stacy. However, even on these terms, the writer fails to capture anything approaching the level of surprise or intrigue a good mystery should have.

The plot continues to be as predictable as could be, with each strand taking its time to play out just as the reader could have imagined, rather than throwing us with any really surprising twists. We get a little bit of humour in the issueís opening few scenes, followed by a heartfelt plea from Spidey to his foes, a long stint of exposition which tells us something we know already from last issue, a nifty enough little fight sequence which pays homage to Gwen Stacyís death (albeit in the midst of a story which stamps all over her character) and a final few pages which give us about as unoriginal a way as could be imagined of further developing one of the villains. All in all, the story doesnít go anywhere we wouldnít have guessed--a shame for a story which has turned out to be more about playing on cheap shock tactics to gain sales than creating any meaningful or well thought-out new spin on the Spidey-verse.

Amongst this phoned-in script is some dazzling artwork from Mike Deodato Jr., whose faces are as emotive as ever and whose action sequences are definitely improving since his first couple of issues in the title. Whether handling a moody shot of Spidey on the Brooklyn bridge or some light silliness with a Spider-Man fanatic, the artist acquits himself well--but even he canít turn a hollow, predictable story into an enjoyable piece of comics art.



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