Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Amazing Spider-Man #131 - A Review

Written by: Gerry Conway
Penciled by: Ross Andru
Inked by: Frank Giacoia & D. Hunt
Colored by: P. Goldberg
Lettered by: Artie Simek
Editor: Roy Thomas
Publisher: Marvel Comics

It had been a hard few months for Peter Parker, even taking into account that he is Peter Parker and very rarely has easy months. His first girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, had been killed by the now just as deceased Norman Osborn. His best friend Harry, newly recovered from a drug overdose, had come to hate Peter for reasons he wouldn’t articulate and Peter couldn’t begin to guess at. He was fresh off an encounter with a new and deadly vigilante called The Punisher. Throw in the usual money troubles, the fact that most of the city hated his alter-ego and the fact that a gang-war between super-villains Dr. Octopus and Hammerhead is keeping all his free-time filled and it seems like things couldn’t get much more down for good old Spidey.

And if you honestly believe that, I’d like to welcome you to the outside world and congratulate you upon your escape from whatever dungeon you’ve escaped from. It’s Parker’s First Law: No Matter How Bad Things Are, They Can Always Get Worse.

This truism is proven once again as Peter rushes to the mansion now owned by one Dr. Octopus. Aunt May, having met the good doctor after he answered her advert for a room for rent after escaping for prison, moved into his dubiously acquired mansion to act as caretaker after he was once again incarcerated. After the most recent gang battle, Peter finds a letter that explains to him why Hammerhead and Doctor Octopus are fighting and why Doc Ock has been trying to keep Aunt May on his good side. And that is where this issue begins… with Doc Ock in a tux, his henchman formally dressed and standing behind him… and Aunt May in a wedding dress, looking blissfully happy as the pastor reads the ending of the wedding ceremony.

The cover features an epic scene of Spidey swinging down the aisle and webbing up the page’s of the pastor’s bible, as well as a bubble that boasts this is just the start of “The Greatest Action Ish Ever!” Well, it’s the start. But this is hardly the greatest action issue ever. In fact, this is easily one of the goofiest issues of Spider-Man ever, even ignoring the idea of Aunt May marrying Doctor Octopus. Consider how…

  • The wedding is disrupted by Hammerhead whose amazing power wasâ?¦ hitting things with his colossal and super-strong head.
  • It turns out the cause of their war is overâ?¦ a Canadian island with a nuclear reactor, which Aunt May inherited from a distant relative, which Doc Ock found out after opening her mail while living in her house. The whole wedding was a scheme for him to get legal ownership of the island.
  • Said island blows up with all the thugs on it after Hammerhead head-butts the reactor controls, with no adverse effects other than a big kaboom. (Fallout, anyone?)
  • And somehow, Peter Parker, who never learned how to drive a car is able to fly off the island at the last moment, thanks to a plane “modified so that even an idiot can pilot it!”

And then there’s a big whopping continuity error where Mary Jane leaves the same Christmas party twice in one comic… but hey, there’s no sense in being anal about this.

Still, it is funny how as much as some people insist that Gwen Stacy’s death instantly darkened the tone of Spider-Man, there was still a lot of just plain weird stuff that happened in the title. Still, one thing can be said for this book: at least it didn’t feature Peter driving the short-lived Spider-Mobile!

In all seriousness though, this book is enjoyable for what it is. And while it doesn’t live up to the promise of its’ glorious cover (Spidey isn’t even the one to stop the wedding), it does manage to move the story alone and provides the promised action. And the flaws I list above are obvious to me only after repeated re-readings. And even now, the flaws do nothing to detract from my enjoyment of what is at heart a very silly book.

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