It seems like an eternity since I last enjoyed an issue of Amazing Spider-Man. JMS continues to turn in some surprisingly poorly written Civil War tie-in issues. In Amazing Spider-Man #538, we have been teased that either MJ or Aunt May might get killed. I do not expect that I’m going to enjoy Amazing Spider-Man #538. Maybe JMS will prove me wrong. Let’s do this review.
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciler: Ron Garney
Inker: Bill Rienhold
Art Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 2 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 3.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: We begin with the assassin being instructed that Mary Jane is the secondary target. That the assassin should hold off in order to get the primary target, Aunt May. Peter calls and tells MJ that he loves her. That he wanted her to never forget that.
We then cut to the massive brawl that took place over in Civil War #7. Spider-Man yammers on about never quitting until Captain America does and that Captain America will never surrender when he believes something. Spider-Man thinks about how the anti-registration side is not fighting this battle for the right to wear a mask. They are fighting this battle for the people of America. For the ability to be to help the people of America without condition. (Yeahbutwhat? That has to be one of the most asinine statements I have read in a good long time.)
Spider-Man thinks that in the end all that matters is that Aunt May and Mary Jane understand why he is fighting this battle. That without Aunt May and Mary Jane, Spider-Man would have nothing worth fighting for. Only things worth dying for. (Oh Jesus, JMS. Could you be anymore heavy handed? Just kill off Aunt May or Mary Jane and get on with it.)
We cut to Ryker’s Island where we see the Kingpin telling the assassin to hold off and wait until the end of the fight in New York between the pro and anti registration sides. That if Spider-Man is killed, that Kingpin wants the assassin to go ahead and kill both targets. If Spider-man survives then the assassin is to kill him when he returns home.
The convicts then see that Iron Man’s side won. Kingpin comments that this victory will serve then very well. (Umm, actually no it won’t. You see, Brubaker has you retired and your citizenship revoked. You are now living outside of the country and are a completely broken man because of your wife’s death.)
We cut to the aftermath of the brawls from Civil War #7. Some heroes are missing like Triathlon, Coldblood and Spider-Man are missing. (Who cares? Spider-Man is ok and the other two characters are total losers.) We get plenty more ham handed dialogue about the wounds that the heroes in this war have suffered and how will they every truly heal. (Well, since Tony won, that means booze and hookers for everyone. That should help the healing process.)
We see Aunt May and Mary Jane watching the news report that Spider-Man is among the missing. Mary Jane goes outside to get some air. When she opens the motel room’s door, the device the assassin placed on it causes an alarm to buzz in a receiver in his ear.
Mary Jane stands outside and begs God to let Peter come home safely. That she will give up anything if God let’s Peter come home. Mary Jane then repeats that she would give up anything and repeats the word “anything” several times. During this dialogue, the assassin has his sniper rifle trained on Mary Jane. (Anything? Like maybe your life, MJ? Geez, JMS, ease up on the overly dramatic writing.)
We cut to the President getting ready to address the nation. The member of the Senate and the House are saying that the conflict is over and that all sides must come together. However, that will be easier for some than for others. We then see Bill Foster’s grave with what I guess are his parents grieving next to it.
We cut back to the assassin remembering that Kingpin told him how Spider-Man can detect trouble so the assassin has to stay as quiet as possible until the moment of the kill. So, the assassin goes to sleep. (Which is pretty much what I would like to do at this point.)
We shift to Mary Jane and Aunt May in the motel room. Peter opens the door to the motel and Mary Jane is happy to see him. Unfortunately, the opening of the door causes the device on the door to buzz the receiver in the assassin’s ear. The assassin wakes up, grabs his sniper rifle and aims it at Peter and MJ. Peter says that he senses something wrong.
The assassin fires the rifle and Peter pushes Mary Jane out of the path of the bullet. Unfortunately, the bullet strikes Aunt May who was standing behind Peter and MJ. (Way to go Peter.) Peter screams a Darth Vader-esque “NOOOOOOOOOO” like we got in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. We see Aunt May bleeding from a gunshot wound to her belly. (It’s only a flesh wound.) End of issue.
The Good: Yeah, Amazing Spider-Man #538 was pretty much what I expected: a less than impressive read. I don’t know if I can satisfy The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity with this issue. Let’s see. Well, it was nice to read an issue of Amazing Spider-Man and not have to read about anything being compared to the Nazi party. Refreshing.
And this issue did get me to think about one question. Who does Kingpin hate more? Spider-Man or Daredevil. Personally, I’m going with Daredevil.
Garney’s artwork is average. I don’t really like it or dislike it. It is dependable art that gets the job done. It doesn’t add anything special to the story, but it doesn’t detract from the story either.
The Bad: I found JMS’ writing to be rather poor. This issue was way too over-dramatic. JMS is guilty of trying way too hard. JMS wants to create an emotional and dramatic story. Unfortunately, when a writer tries too hard the story tends to just totally miss the mark. Trying to hard usually makes the story seem too over the top.
The writing comes across like a teen-ager fan fiction writer handled the writing duties for this issue. JMS was way too heavy handed with the “drama” and the “emotion.” I started chuckling while reading myself because the story was just too much. And I don’t think that JMS wanted to invoke laughs from the reader with this issue.
It was everything. You had the obligatory phone call from Spider-Man to Mary Jane right before the big battle. Then you had Spider-Man among the missing in order to place Aunt May and Mary Jane in emotional limbo. This allowed JMS the opportunity to give us such ham handed dialogue like when Mary Jane repeated over and over how she would give anything if God would bring Peter back safe and sound. All while the sniper has Mary Jane in his rifle sight.
That scene was just ridiculous. This scene was a perfect example of JMS trying way too hard and delivering some seriously heavy handed and over the top dialogue. JMS just clubbed the reader over the head that MJ would give “anything” to have Peter back safe. C’mon, JMS, sometimes less is more.
Oh, but it gets even better. We have the dialogue from the news report where JMS ties too hard to be serious and somber concerning the aftermath of the Civil War. And then we get the grand over the top finale. Peter yelling “NOOOO!!” as the most predictable event took place: Aunt May gets shot. You know that MJ wasn’t getting shot. Joey Q may hate that Peter and MJ are married, but I just don’t see Marvel killing MJ off and having to deal with Peter as a widower. I don’t think Peter the widower would really appeal to anyone.
So, that left the old lady. And sure enough, she took one to the gut. I dislike this plotline for several reasons. First, it was too predictable. I have been waiting for this poor old lady to get knocked off. Second, I strongly dislike Peter without Aunt May. I’m not saying that I want Aunt May spotlight issues or an Aunt May mini-series, but she is too critical a character in Peter’s life to be killed off.
Aunt May provides the necessary source of wisdom and advice that Peter cannot get from any other source. Aunt May is the only family Peter has. Peter has already lost his parents and Uncle Ben. To take Aunt May away from Peter would be unfair. Peter deserves to have at least one parental figure who can dispense the sage advice that Peter so desperately needs. Plus, Aunt May is a powerful supporting character that I feel is absolutely necessary for the Spider-Man franchise.
Now, I guess there is the chance that Aunt May doesn’t die. And that would be okay in my book. But, I have this feeling that Aunt May isn’t going to pull through and this is the reason that Peter assumes his old black Spider-Man look.
I also found Peter’s rationale for why the Anti-Registration side has been fighting against the Registration Act to be completely laughable. JMS totally pulled this rationale out of his ass. Peter says that they are not fighting for the right to keep their masks. No, they are fighting for the American people and the ability to help the American people without condition.
Bullshit. It has been said over and over again by all the different writers, including JMS, that the Anti-Registration side opposed the Registration Act because they didn’t want their privacy invaded by having to give the government their secret identities. And that they didn’t want to have to work under the jurisdiction of S.H.I.E.L.D. rather than operating as a vigilante. That’s it. Those are the reasons that we were given over and over again as to why the Anti-Registration side opposed the Registration Act.
Never at a single moment did the Anti-Registration side think about the common man. At no point was it mentioned that they could better help the American public by not having to comply with the Registration Act. And to think that an untrained vigilante who doesn’t answer to anyone and operates out of his apartment is better equipped to help people than a trained super hero with all the resources of S.H.I.E.L.D. at their disposal is completely laughable.
No, that is complete bullshit. JMS is just quickly trying to rehabilitate the Anti-Registration side after Millar exposed them in Civil War #7 as a violent group of heroes with absolutely no regard for the safety of the property and life of the innocent American citizen.
Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #538 was poorly written. JMS tried way too hard and only succeeded in delivering an overly dramatic story with heavy handed and cheesy dialogue. JMS has slowly killed any and all interest I have had in Amazing Spider-Man. You know, Fantastic Four seriously improved after JMS left. I think maybe it is time for JMS to head off Amazing Spider-Man. I know that isn’t going to happen any time soon, but one can still wish.