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Amazing Spider-Man #574

Posted: Tuesday, October 28, 2008
By: Steven M. Bari

Marc Guggenheim
Barry Kinston, Mark Farmer (i), Antonio Fabela (c)
Marvel Comics
Amazing Spider-Man #574 is as much a somber tale of bravery as it is a message of gratitude for the men and women serving in the United States armed forces. It is a touching, researched, and substantive one-shot story in the new world of Spider-Man.

Flash Thompson has been a constant supporting character since the series inception when he was Peter’s high school nemesis. To Peter Parker, Flash represents that understanding that even your childhood bully can foster a valued friendship. To Spider-Man, Flash is the constant support that assures Spidey that his deeds are not only good, but inspires others to good as well.

When a four-star general approaches Flash for a Medal of Honor in saving the life of his superior officer, the recuperating vet must explain his harried tale of survival in Mosul, Iraq. Guggenheim focuses on Spider-Man’s influence on Flash, inserting panels of the webhead’s heroism alongside Thompson’s. Despite this visual break in the narrative, the dialogue remains firmly in Flash’s hands. It’s an interesting effect in that it intends to allocate Spider-Man’s influence in Flash’s decision but because scenes of Spidey fighting the Juggernaut and such are side by side with Flash engaging drugged-up, gun toting militants, the effect heightens Thompson’s experience over the wall-crawler’s. Spidey’s exploits seem silly in contrast to the realistic danger Thompson faces.

Guggenheim also maintains a sense of realism in dialogue. He has Flash telling his story with front line lingo such as "cordon-and-search mission." Even the four-star general doesn’t know what this is, but Flash explains, "Oh. Well, a cordon-and-search is a clean and clear mission. We go in, knock on doors, clear the town of insurgents. Standard stuff.” Given the subject matter, Guggenheim and Marvel did have consultation, from Sergeant Jeffrey Guerin, U.S. Army 25th Infantry Division, to whom special thanks was given. Amazing Spider-Man editor Stephen Wacker elucidates, “Jeff got on the phone with Marc and me for about an hour giving us a ton of specifics and reference to litter our story, enough material that we could have done an entirely separate Flash Thompson series." Spider-Man's Pal Flash Thompson? We'll see.

That series would certainty have an artist in Barry Kitson, whose did a superb job here. His panel composition in particular was excellent in creating both anxiety and an intentionally confusing atmosphere. As Flash’s team engages enemy combatants that knocked over their Stryker I.C.V. with a roadside bomb, the panel’s perspective tilts 30 degrees to the left. The reader’s line of vision is held by two parallel lines of gunfire, which intersect with two other streams of bullets. The intensity of the firefight is contrasted by the placidity of the Mosul skyline. While Kitson does an amazing job with these scenes, his Spider-Man panels weren’t as strong. Again, this could be the effect of the narrative considering Kitson has a history of working on Spider-Man. Nonetheless, the webhead’s panels lacked the intense and emotional resonance of the rest of the book.

Amazing Spider-Man #574's outcome will inevitably upset continuity-savvy fans. How will Flash’s injuries affect his role in the continuing adventures of Spider-Man? If anything, Flash Thompson’s actions solidify Spider-Man's persona as a true hero, whose ideals inspire others to help those in need. We all aren’t lucky enough to be bitten by radioactive spiders. Despite this vulnerability and super-powerlessness, Flash Thompson lives up to his responsibility, and its sacrifice.

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