Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Amazing Spider-Man #568 by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr.

"New Ways to Die - Book One"

Inks: Klaus Janson
Colors: Dean White

After reading Sean's review of Kick Ass I was reminded of (a) how much I like John Romita Jr. and (b) how little interest I've had in reading most of the books he's worked on in the last few years. But I saw this in the store yesterday and decided to give it a try. It helped that Dan Slott's name was on the cover, because his Spider Man/Human Torch series is my favorite (relatively) recent Spider-Man comic.

For anyone who can accept the existence of Spider-Man comics by people other than Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, this is a pretty good example of a well made Spider-Man comic. Nothing jaw-dropping from either Romita or Slott , but nicely handled all around. Romita's work is relaxed and assured and a little more stripped down than it was the last time he was on this book: he comes off like the genuine cartoonist he is.

I like the way Slott is weaving the workplace storyline - Peter leaving the Daily Bugle (now a tabloid called the DB) for Ben Urich's paper - together with the super-heroics - Norman Osborne bringing his team of super villains to NYC to hunt down Spidey.

Also important: it really does feel like a first chapter. I haven't read an issue of Amazing Spider-Man since sometime around the end of the J. Michael Straczynski run (when I jumped ship), but there was no head-scratching and I relieved that there was no smell of anything Secret Invasion-like.

I guess what's surprising is that I actually am surprised that this book is pretty good. Though it doesn't have as much personality as some of the more idiosyncratic second-or-third tier super-hero books, it's a worthy enough successor to the Amazing Spider-Man comics I grew up reading.

The problem, of course, is that this shouldn't be surprising. This is what the main Spider-Man comic should be like. I shouldn't be moved to blog about how cool is it that they got Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. to work on this comic because Dan Slott and John Romita Jr. are the guys who should be working on this comic. I shouldn't feel relieved that there's no tie-in here to some convoluted crossover event that will cost me hundreds of dollars to keep up with because children of all ages should feel safe that they can buy an issue of Amazing Spider-Man and get a pretty good Spider-Man story without having to worry about following the Super Skrull over to Captain Britain*.

I realize that this isn't an original complaint. And I also think that Todd's argument here (that stuff like Secret Invasion isn't supposed to work like an old-fashioned Spider-Man comic) is pretty interesting. But I'd recommend this comic to all the other people making this kind of complaint .

*A comic I would try out if it didn't have Secret Invasion on its cover.


Mark said...

Drool - Klaus Janson doing inks on John Romita Jr's pencils? It's like a fan boy dream come true.

James said...

Jon, you mentioned that this issue manages to bring new readers up to speed with minimum fuss. Does it do it with that lame "first page of exposition" stuff that Marvel's been doing lately?

Because I'm of two minds about that. I'm happy that they're giving some sort of crutch to new readers, but I'm irritated that such steps are necessary and that the storytellers can't work their exposition into the narrative. The seamless exposition of crazy events seems like like of the key skills of comic book writing.

Jon Hastings said...

The first page is a quickie, 6-panel grid of Spidey's origin. But it is very nicely drawn in a slightly more "cartoony" style than the rest of the book, which makes it work somehow. However, most of the other "get up to speed" exposition - like that the Daily Bugle has turned into a tabloid and the stuff about Norman Osborn having his own super villain team (both of these developments were new to me) - is worked into the narrative pretty seamlessly. Dan Slott is a real student of '60s-era Marvel.