Saturday, January 25, 2003

Amazing Spider-Man #49: A Review

“Okay. I know you don’t want to hear this, but pay attention and deal with it, because this is important ... Who’s telling this story, me or you? I’m trying to explain that one way or another, whether it was intended or you backed into it, you’ve tapped into something old, something important...”

Usually, I get worried when the first thing in a story is the writer addressing the audience and telling us that we need to stop complaining about his work. That is what, in a not-too subtle way, J. Michael Straczynski does at the start of this issue. True, it is Ezekiel addressing Peter Parker about the aftermath of the last few issues… but it could just as easily be JMS addressing all the fans who are worried about that same aftermath.

Without giving too much away, Ezkiel is an 60-year old man who has the same powers as Peter and claims to have gotten them through a magical link to Anansi- an African tribal Spider-God and the very first Spider-Man. He says that Peter got his powers through this same link and that as a result, Peter is becoming a magnet for various magical predatory forces that seek out those with this bond to the Spider Totem. But the science-minded Peter is as reluctant to accept this as his just as science-minded fans. This has been a big controversy throughout the JMS run and I’m somewhat split in my feelings.

One the one hand, I’m a mythology geek who gets most of the references in your average Neil Gaiman story without running to I can see how Peter is a good parallel to Anansi (a trickster who beat many stronger animals with his wits) and how drawing attention to the link between the common heroes of different cultures can be a fascinating intellectual study.

On the other hand, I’m enough of a classical Spider-Man purist to think that Stan Lee got things right the first time. So you don’t have to go messing around with the origins or the character concept just because you can, okay Babylon 5, boy?

Regardless, Peter soon finds himself heading back home to NYC after a trip to exotic climes. In the airport, he changes the flight and heads to Los Angeles, intent on finding his estranged wife Mary Jane and settling things, once and for all.

Just one problem: Mary Jane had the exact same idea and has just flown to New York City to find Peter and talk to him!

Yes, it’s romantic misunderstandings, the limbo of airplanes and lots of waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to come through the door that isn’t coming. You might think that this could get tedious really fast. It doesn’t. In fact, it is possibly the most romantic comic story I have ever read.

I know I’ve read a good story when I just have music pop into my head while reading it. All throughout this story, I kept having Bono in my ears singing “With Or Without You” as I read and reread this story. I also, for reasons I won’t explain, thought of Steve Martin’s unappreciated classic “L.A. Story”.

I could tell you a lot more about why this story touched me and why I can’t wait for Amazing Spider-Man #50 next month… but then I’d rob you of the experience of reading one of the best stories to come out this year. Perfect 10.

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