Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man #649, Ultimate Spider-Man #150

Ultimate Spider-Man #150

Before I get to the specifics of this issue, can I ask, what's the point of re-starting the numbering on your series if you're going to go back to the original numbering 15 issues later? I know it's all about money, but does this mean we're going to celebrate both sets of anniversary issues? So like when we get to the 50th issue since the restart, that'll be a triple-sized issue, then a year after that we'll get a special #200? Just stick to one numbering set please.

OK, that quibble aside, I liked this issue, which had all the hallmarks of an anniversary story (flashbacks, recaps, multiple artists, and only mild plot advancement). The writing of Brian Michael Bendis continues to be a highlight, as he captures the confusion going on in Spider-Man's life, with Peter Parker torn in all directions. The flashback stories, told from the perspectives of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, each felt distinct in their writing, not just their art (the art was easy, since they were all drawn by different people). The development of Peter attending "super hero school" would feel cheesy in most other books, but in this one it re-emphasizes the high school tone, something the movies will try to recapture

The back half of the issue fit into USM continuity from way back (I wish I could remember the exact issue of the whole "pick a hero" class assignment, but I can't). While the message of the story was strong, I think it would have been better with more consistent art. I understand the desire to get so many different artists to share their take on a couple pages, but it can really detract from a good story. Still, some of the art was striking -- my personal favorite was the Peter/MJ stuff by Romita.

Still, as much as I enjoyed this issue, I would have enjoyed it more if it had addressed some of the fallout from the last issue, when Gwen ran away. First of all, we have to remember that on some level Gwen isn't really human, so it might not be entirely safe for her to be out there alone unsupervised, and that's even before considering her unstable human history. On top of that, the Gwen-Peter-MJ dynamic has always been confusing, and the incident with Chameleon adds more confusion to that. I care more about the character interactions than the public perception of Spider-Man, and this issue was more about the latter. I'm not saying that's necessarily bad, I just hope the series doesn't forget that its strength is the former.

Amazing Spider-Man #649

In contrast to Ultimate Spider-Man, which I've loved consistently since I started reading it, I've had something of a love-hate relationship with the book, sometimes leaning more toward hate than love. However, I've stuck it out, hoping things would get better, and I think that's starting to happen.

A large part of my dissatisfaction with the book has come from the decisions made at the top and not the actual execution, but for the first time in awhile, there's a decision I like: as of the previous issue, ASM has a long-term creator team for the first time since before "One More Day". That wouldn't mean much if Marvel had picked a bad team, but I think of all the rotating writers during "Brand New Day", Dan Slott might have been my favorite. Humberto Ramos's art style is still growing on me, but he wasn't the worst possible choice, and Marvel not making the outright worst choice is a step up from the norm of late.

As for the book itself, we find out some things about this Hobgoblin pretty quickly, and there's a solid balance between darkness (in the Hobgoblin scenes) and light-hearted fun (most notably in the scene with Spidey and Black Cat saving Norah from the gang). Also, while Spider-Man's problems -- in this case, the Hobgoblin -- are still getting in the way of Peter Parker's life, it's nice to see Peter not repeatedly having his ass kicked by life in general. He's got a new high-paying job, a steady girlfriend, a nice new apartment. It seems like ever since OMD, Peter's life has sucked, so it's good to finally get some positivity in the book. I'm not ready to call "Big Time" a success after two issues, but it's a refreshing light at the end of the depressing BND tunnel.