Comic Book Review: Amazing Spider-Man #541

Amazing Spider-Man continues to be a total miss with The Revolution. JMS has failed to engage my interest in any way shape or form with this current story arc. I’m sure that I’m going to find Amazing Spider-Man #541 to be another less than impressive read. Let’s go ahead and hit this review.

Creative Team
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciler: Ron Garney
Inker: Bill Rienhold

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 3 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 4.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Fisk and Peter talking over the phone. Peter finishes his best Punisher impression by threatening Fisk and then hanging up on him. Peter then questions the thug that he caught outside the hospital about the man he just shot. The thug says that all he knows is the Kingpin wanted the guy dead because he knew something Kingpin didn’t want anyone else knowing.

We cut to Kingpin emptying several bags of money that he had hidden in his prison cell. Kingpin offers the money the guard outside his cell. Kingpin tells the guard to give some of the money to the other guards and in return all they have to do is look the other way at some point this evening. Kingpin then tells the guard to go and get him his clothes that were taken and stored in the holding lockers.

We then shift to Peter webbing the thug up in a sewer tunnel with rats all around the thug. Peter yammers on about who is the predator and who is the prey. Peter tells the thug to tell everyone he knows that Peter’s family is off limits. That if anyone touches them then Spider-Man will kill them.

We zip back to Peter and MJ at Aunt May’s hospital room. Peter mentions how one time Peter had doctors give Aunt May a transfusion of his blood and it saved her life. (See Amazing Spider-Man #10). MJ counters that Peter’s blood almost killed May and he had to do some radical things to cure her. (See Amazing Spider-Man #31-33).

Peter says that if the serum that saved May’s life had a lasting effect then it might allow he rot accept his blood now. Plus, the last time they did the transfusion they purified his blood prior to the transfusion. This time it would have to be a straight-up transfusion and Peter’s white blood cells may help save May from having a reaction.

MJ gets the necessary items from a supply closet and then Peter performs a blood transfusion from him to May. Peter then tells MJ that he has to go. That he has to be somewhere.

We cut to Rykers’ Island where suddenly, all the doors to the prison cells open up. We see Kingpin slipping into his trademark white pimp suit. Kingpin walks out into the middle of the prison and is immediately met by a pissed off Spider-Man. Spider-Man says “End of the road, Fisk. You. Me. Right now.” End of issue.

The Good: What a shocker. Amazing Spider-Man #541 was another less than impressive read. Of course, I have to follow the Rule of Positivity so let’s see what I did enjoy about this issue. Well, Garney provided for some pretty cool splash shots of Spider-Man. Garney definitely draws a bad-assed looking black costumed Spider-Man.

I have to give JMS credit for playing off of a very old plotline in Peter giving May a transfusion of his blood in order to save her. I am intrigued what effect this may have on May. I just hope it lead to May morphing into a giant monster spider that attempts to eat New York or May becoming Spider-Granny and taking a position with one of the government’s new super teams that they are establishing in each state pursuant to the Initiative.

The Bad: The pacing for Amazing Spider-Man #541 was agonizingly slow. This story seems to be stuck in neutral as this issue leaves the reader in pretty much the same position as we were with the last issue: Spider-Man still on an angry mission of vengeance. We get Peter vowing to kill the Kingpin and Peter worrying over Aunt May in a coma. That is pretty much what we got in Amazing Spider-Man #540.

JMS serves up another heaping helping of extremely uninspired dialogue. The dialogue is either dull or overly dramatic that makes it rather cheesy. We also get plenty more of tough talking Peter Parker that simply doesn’t suit his character. And Peter’s constant threatening and tough talk simply rings hollow since the reader knows that Peter is not a killer. Peter is not Wolverine. He isn’t the Punisher. At no point do I actually expect Peter to follow through with any of his threats.

I thought it was odd that the big “scary” interrogation scene with the thug in the sewer begins with Peter in his civilian clothes and ends with him in his Spider-Man costume. What was Peter doing while talking tough? Kicking off his loafers like Mr. Rogers? Unbuttoning his shirt? Hopping on one leg as he slipped off his pants? If I was the thug, I would have been more frightened that Peter was disrobing with romantic intentions in mind.

I continue to care less about the fate of Aunt May. If she lives then this was all a bunch of drama over nothing. We have seen Aunt May in a life or death situation so it is nothing new and reads like a tired re-tread plotline. If May dies then there is no surprise since JMS already informed the reader that May is in a coma and has practically no chances of surviving. Therefore, there will be no shock if she does die. It isn’t like a dramatic out of nowhere traumatic death like May randomly getting hit by a bus.

Despite all my various criticisms of this story arc, the fatal flaw of this story arc remains the fact that the Kingpin is the main bad guy in this story. The inherent weakness of making Kingpin the man behind the order to kill Aunt May and MJ is that we all know Fisk doesn’t die. That despite all of JMS’ repetitious efforts to make the reader believe that Peter is ready to kill Kingpin, at no point are we even remotely believing that possibility.

The reader already knows that Matt Murdock gets Kingpin freed from jail and all charges dropped in return for Kingpin exiling himself from America and promising never to return. We already know from the brilliant story arc that Brubaker gave us on Daredevil, that Kingpin is a broken man due to Vanessa Fisk’s death and the madness that gripped her up until her death.

Therefore, there is absolutely no excitement or tension between this supposed big showdown between Spider-Man and Kingpin. We know that Kingpin doesn’t get killed. We know that Kingpin gets freed from jail and exiled from the country. This means that JMS won’t be able to deliver to the reader an ending that isn’t going to be anti-climactic compared to all this overblown and overdramatic storyline leading up to this final showdown.

What is JMS going to give us? Spider-Man soundly thrashing Kingpin and then giving realizing he is better than Fisk and that he isn’t going to stoop to Fisk’s level by killing him? Boring. JMS really has himself in a box with the selection of Fisk as the mastermind behind the hit on Aunt May. I don’t know how he manages to eke out a satisfying conclusion to this showdown between Spider-Man and Kingpin.

Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #541 continues JMS’ long string of rather dull reads on this title. Marvel cannot get JMS off this title fast enough. I really look forward to actually enjoying reading this title again.

1 thought on “Comic Book Review: Amazing Spider-Man #541

  1. for once, I am in agreement with your assessment of ASM Rokk. As you know, I was rather enjoying JMS’ work on this title since Civil War #2 but I wholeheartedly concur with your assesment that making Kingpin the mastermind was a mistake on JMS’ part. I too don’t relish the confrontation, I’ve see Spidey confront Kingpin countless times before and every time the wall crawler backs down bc he realizes the big man is untouchable. Aunt May’s condition seems pretty grave, I think they should either kill her and let her stay dead or have her make a recovery with the transfusion but there is not tension as you mentioned. Besides the OK artwork and keeping my ‘back in black’ collection intact, I saw no other reason for me to pick up ASM #541.

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