Written by: Zeb Wells
Penciled by: Machael O’Hare.
Inked by: Wayne Faucher
Colored by: Studio F
Lettered by: Randy Gentile
Cover by: Fransisco Herrera
Editor: John Miesegaes
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Long time fans of my writing will know that the esteemed Peter Parker, better known as the Amazing Spider-Man, is the favorite hero of yours truly since childhood. So naturally, with two of his three titles coming out this week, The Starman was in a state of bliss as he picked up his comics this week.
I read this title before Amazing Spider-Man #50 for two reasons. The first was that I wanted to check out artist O’Hare, having found the work of Francisco Herrera (who did the cover of this issue) distasteful and too abstract for my tastes. The second, is that I was afraid that Amazing, which I have been eagerly awaiting all month, would be so good that any other lesser Spider-Man story would be viewed more harshly by me when the time came to write the weekly reviews.
Having read the book twice, before and after sampling the latest work by JMS and Romita, I can’t say that it helped. This issue isn’t nearly as good as its’ more acclaimed sister-title. Which is a shame because until Paul Jenkins and Mark Buckingham left the title with issue #50, Peter Parker could easily stand up to any issue of Ultimate Spider-Man or Amazing.
This left Zeb Wells (mis)handling the writing chores with Francisco Herrera doing the (badly disjointed) artwork. And I honestly wish Marvel had shut the doors on this title with issue then, instead of waiting until issue #57.
Wells is probably best known for writing a number of Spider-Man stories based around best-forgotten super-villains take from Wizard Magazine’s “Mort Of The Month” column. (“I Was A Teenage Frogman” from Tangled Web, for example.) While not quite as grating as Ron Zimmerman, Wells does suffer from the same problem of trying to write a plot into a joke instead of the other way around.
Case in point: his first two-part story on this title spent the first part showing Peter doing whatever-a-spider-can interspersed with humorous scenes showing off the miserable lives of Z-list bad guys “The Shocker”and “Hydroman”. The second half of the story was spent trying to convince us that “Dumb and Dumber” were a credible threat to Spider-Man. It kind of defeats the point of trying to build a character up as a serious menace when you make fun of their inherit lameness in your previous breath.
The sad part is that Wells does present a lot of interesting ideas, but they are often not developed . The idea presented in the previous story of a major corporation secretly using their money to train super-villains is an interesting one and is well worth exploring, especially in the Post-Halliburton/Enron economy. But it is only used as a plot device to set up two men loosing their jobs and turning to desperate measures to survive.
This same concept (the rich and powerful funding supervillains) is explored in this issue as well, with a similar joke character: Boomerang. The scenes introducing us to him are intercut (without any sense of transition) among scenes of Peter stopping a fight at his school, a CNN news show with two people debating the place of the superhero, Peter holding detention, Peter reading “Lord of the Flies” to a comatose Flash Thompson. There is not much rhyme or reason to anything up until the ludicrously one-sided battle between Spider-Man and Boomerang and crashes into a cliffhanger that doesn’t really hang.
Thankfully, the artwork by Machael O’Hare is a big improvement over the over-exaggerated work of Herrera. (Just look at the cover and you’ll see what I mean.) Sadly, the good artwork cannot save the lame humor and poor plotting. Not that this book is all that bad, really. I can name worse Spider-Man stories written in the last year. But on a menu that includes steak and lobster, even the best hamburger in the world is going to look a little lackluster. And that’s what Peter Parker is right now. Not that bad, but it could and should be a lot better.