Editor's Note: Amazing Spider-Man #627 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 31.
"Something Can Stop the Juggernaut”
It might be heresy to say this, but I don't hang on to many individual issues of the comics I read. I don’t "slab" them on cardboard in see-through sleeves, I don't hoard them in cardboard boxes, and I don't have a complicated ordering system to organise them. Only a small amount of comics are retained permanently, and they tend to be stories that I particularly enjoyed, have a nostalgic connection to, and/or are difficult to obtain in collected editions.
Two of the few original issues that I have kept, however, are Amazing Spider-Man #229 and #230, comprising the story "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" by writer Roger Stern and artist John Romita Jr., a hugely fun storyline that essentially consists of Spider-Man trying -- and failing -- to find a way to stop the Juggernaut from trudging through New York to execute a villainous plan. Stern returns to Amazing Spider-Man here for a sequel of sorts to that classic story, again bringing Spider-Man into contact with the well-known X-Men villain, and weaving a mystery as to who -- or what -- might be responsible for having stopped him in his tracks.
As you might expect for a writer who has been around for as long as Stern has, it's quite an old-fashioned feeling story. However, that sometimes works in its favour: it's laudable to see the writer acknowledge the old idea that "every comic is somebody's first" by going to the trouble of quickly and efficiently introducing the character of Spider-Man (and his powers) in the opening pages, and then comprehensively recapping his history with the Juggernaut in just a few brisk panels. It all helps to make the story accessible (even to someone who's never read a Spider-Man comic in their life), without wasting too much time for readers who faithfully buy every issue of the book.
It's not a perfectly-written issue, however. The references to recent Amazing Spider-Man developments that have left Peter Parker unemployed feel as though they've been added to the story after the fact, and sit uneasily with the idea that he's able to use his identity as a photographer to get closer to the action here.
Also, whilst the big mystery as to who might have stopped the Juggernaut is in fact resolved within this issue, the answer comes so out of left-field that it's more confusing than illuminating. The character that appears on the final page is one that will probably be meaningless to a lot of the book's readers, and even for those who will recognise him, it's difficult to work out how he's connected to the Juggernaut -- and, more importantly, why his story is one that should be told in a Spider-Man book rather than one of Marvel's less grounded, cosmic titles. I won't hold this against the story too much, as it's perfectly possible that Stern has satisfying answers to all of these problems, but at this stage it's too early to know how to feel about the book's cliffhanger revelation.
The issue is enhanced by the artwork of Lee Weeks, whose clear storytelling and slick finishes make this issue look better than the average issue of Amazing. I'm guessing that Weeks has studied John Romita Jr.'s work closely in preparation for this follow-up to one of Romita's best-loved stories: in fact, if I wasn't told who had drawn them, I would have bet money on the idea that the scenes of Spider-Man in costume were drawn by Romita himself. I also enjoyed Weeks' depiction of some of the old-school story devices that Stern employs, such as the web-glider that Spidey fashions in order to sneak into a high-security compound.
I can't say yet whether this will turn out to be a story that's equal to (or better than) "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut", but it's shaping up to be quite an enjoyable romp in its own right. A lot of the success of the story will rest on how Stern explains the development of the final page, and where he takes the story from here, but for now this is a fun ride that feels like a classic Spider-Man story of old, without feeling anachronistic or dated.
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