Amazing Spider-Man #537 Review

The Revolution didn’t bother to post a review Amazing Spider-Man #536. I thought it was getting too repetitious of me to post the same criticisms of JMS incredibly unimpressive drivel that that he has been passing off for stories on Amazing Spider-Man ever since Civil War began. However, I decided that Amazing Spider-Man #537 was worth a review based on the storyline over in Civil War #6 and Punisher: War Journal #2. Let’s hit this review.

Creative Team
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 Peter leaving his motel room. He sees the Daily Bugle with the headlines saying that Peter Parker/Spider-Man opposes the Registration Act. A woman staying at the motel recognizes Peter and calls a friend and tells the friend that she has something that is going to pay them a lot of money.

We cut to Captain America telling Human Torch to try and contact Spider-Man. Human Torch flies off and makes a large flaming Spider-Man logo in the sky with the words “Call me” under it. We see Peter eating at his motel room with M.J. and Aunt May. M.J. tells Peter to come look out the window. Peter sees Human Torch’s message.

We shift to Kingpin in jail meeting with one of his advisors. Kingpin and his advisor talk in code so that the jail guards would think that they were talking bout delivering a bonus to an employee. In fact, Kingpin is telling the advisor to have a hitman go to Peter’s motel room and kill him. And if Peter isn’t at the motel room then to go ahead and kill anyone who is there including Aunt May or M.J.

We cut to Captain America and the Falcon. The Falcon tells Captain America that his planned meeting with Spider-Man could be a trap. That Tony Stark could be orchestrating all of this just to trap Captain America. Captain America responds that when he saw Peter on TV, he knew that Peter wasn’t lying.

We see Captain America and Spider-Man meeting on a rooftop. Captain America tells Spider-Man what he did was brave, but foolish. Spider-Man then asks Captain America how he deals with all of this. When the whole country is against you how does Captain America deal with it. Especially since Captain America practically is the country. (Here it comes. I see JMS mounting his soapbox and preparing to preach to us the uneducated masses.)

Captain America tells Spider-Man when he first understood what it meant to be a patriot. It was when he read Mark Twain. Twain said that the government is just a temporary servant. The government does not have the prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong and who is a patriot and who isn’t. The government’s function is to obey orders and not originate them.

In a republic, it is the common voice of the people who must speak each on their own. Each person must decide for himself alone what is right and what is wrong and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor. If you alone of the entire nation shall decide one way, and that way is the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

Spider-Man then geeks out about how awesome and inspiring Captain America. Spider-Man then follows Captain America and thinks how good it feels to be on the right side again. (Wow, real subtle, there JMS.)

We cut to the Kingpin’s advisor meeting with the Hitman. The advisor gives the Hitman his instructions. The Hitman then kills the advisor and says that he never leaves a direct connection to a job alive to testify against him.

We see the Hitman pose as a motel worker and deliver some fresh towels to Aunt May and MJ. When MJ closes the door, the hitman places some device on the door. The hitman then goes to a room overlooking the motel room. The Hitman pulls out his sniper rifle.

We cut to Spider-Man in the Secret Avengers’ headquarters. The Falcon tells Spider-Man that it took a lot of courage to do what he did. That the hardest sentence in the English language is to say “I was wrong.” (No, really, you are so subtle, JMS.)

We then get a one page splash shot of MJ and Aunt May in the scope of the hitman’s sniper rifle. End of issue.

Comments
The Good: Amazing Spider-Man #837 was another dreadful read. I have no idea how I can follow The Revolution’s Rule of Positivity with this issue? Let’s see, it was cool to see the Kingpin back in the pages of Spider-Man. Kingpin is often associated only with Daredevil and people forget that Spider-Man and Kingpin have a history that is just as long and complex and the history between Daredevil and Kingpin.

The Bad: It is stunning just how poorly JMS has handled this Civil War storyline. JMS hasn’t made even a token effort to show the pro-registration side as anything more than soulless satanic baby killing Nazis. There has been absolutely no attempt by JMS to present both the pro-registration and anti-registration side in an equal light.

And this has been a major flaw in JMS’ approach to these Civil War tie-in issues. This is exactly why JMS’ Civil War tie-in issues are so pathetically uninteresting. Instead of taking the time and effort to craft a compelling, complex and though provoking stories that make the reader truly struggle on which side to support, JMS takes the easy way out and uses the Civil War storyline as an opportunity to preach to the comic book readers.

Preaching is horridly boring no matter which side you are preaching on behalf. I want my comic book writers to make me think and to question. I want my comic book writers to bring up complex situations where there is no black and white. Because life is not black and white. What I don’t want is a comic book writer to just preach to me.

Amazing Spider-Man #837 was also a slow and boring read. It centered on Spider-Man hooking up with the anti-registration side, Captain America preaching and the Kingpin unleashing a hitman on MJ and Aunt May. I found all of that to be boring.

JMS’ Captain America was supposed to come across as wiser than the comic book reader. We were supposed to take the cue from Spider-Man and geek out after Captain America’s sermon. JMS wisely uses Spider-Man’s geeky fawning reaction to Captain America’s speech to get the reader to react the same way. It certainly didn’t work on me.

I thought JMS’ sermon was incredibly flawed and when taken into context with Civil War #6 and Punisher: War Journal #2, it made Captain America look like a phony. A total hypocrite. JMS has Captain America state that the government is just purely administrative. That it can’t decide what is right and what is wrong. That the government obeys orders and doesn’t originate them.

Look, I’m a Libertarian, so I totally agree that the government should be stripped of its massive size and power. That the federal government should be as weak and as small as possible. But, that isn’t reality. The American Duocracy is a massive and powerful federal government and JMS can thank his donkeys for that fact as much as the elephants. The American Duocracy consists of elected officials who are charged with the duty of making laws that say what is right and what is wrong. That is the style of government we have.

JMS then says that it is up to each individual to decide what is right and wrong and what is patriotic and what is not. Yeah, I agree, each person has the right to posses their own personal moral code. However, when that personal moral code conflicts with the laws of the country then guess what? You lose!

To allow people to willfully ignore any and all laws that don’t mesh with their own personal moral code means that you will live in a state of anarchy. And, even though anarchy does have a certain amount of appeal, it isn’t realistic and you can’t have a country based on the state of anarchy where people do whatever they want to with no regard for the laws.

So, according to Captain America and JMS, as long as each person is true to their beliefs then they are a patriot. Ok, so accoding to JMS and Captain America Timothy McVeigh was a patriot. The family of Elian Gonzalez were patriots. White separatist Randy Weaver and his associates involved with Ruby Ridge are all patriots. Absolutely anyone is a patriot as long as they truly believe in their ideals and that they are right for the country.

Let’s stay within the Marvel Universe. Over in Civil War #6 and Punisher: War Journal #2, Captain America goes on and on about how the Punisher is a criminal, a mad dog, and a vigilante. But, wait, according to JMS and Captain America in Amazing Spider-Man #837, Punisher is just as much of a patriot as Captain America. The Punisher has his own moral code that he passionately believes in. The Punisher is making his stand just like Captain America and is choosing to violate the laws against murder in order to clean up America of its criminal threat.

JMS’ little speech makes Captain America look like even more of a hypocrite in his reasoning for why he is still a patriot and why his anti-registration side is justified in what they do, but the Punisher is a criminal and is not justified in what he does. JMS in his mad scramble to pound into the head of the reader that Captain America is the spirit of the country and that the anti-registration side is the right side, he inadvertently makes Captain America looks like a complete fraud.

JMS continues his heavy handed style of writing with Amazing Spider-Man #837. JMS was about has subtle as a sledgehammer to the head. JMS flat out tells us through Spider-Man how great it feels to be on the right side. JMS has the Falcon blowing sunshine up Spider-Man’s ass for doing the right thing and admitting that he was wrong. JMS leaves absolutely no doubt at all for the reader which side the reader should be rooting for. It is hard to be any more one-sided than JMS has been with these Civil War tie-in issues.

Even the hitman storyline did absolutely nothing for me. That is because no matter which way JMS takes it I’m not going to be impressed. There are two outcomes to this plotline. One possible outcome is that no one gets killed. The second outcome is that MJ or Aunt May or both get killed. Either way, I’m not interested. First, if no one gets killed then it is just another in a long line of plotlines since Peter revealed his secret identity where either Aunt May or MJ have been targeted by a bad guy. Second, if one or both of them do get killed then that would probably destroy any interest I have in reading this title.

Would Marvel actually kill Aunt May or MJ? Sure. Quesada has gone on record about how much he dislikes Peter Parker being married. Quesada harbors an almost unhealthy obsession with Peter not being married. Personally, marrying Peter Parker is a road that once you take you simply cannot undo. I have no desire to read about Peter Parker: divorcee or Peter Parker: widower. Neither sound interesting at all. Both would make Spider-Man an extremely depressing and dull read.

Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #837 was another mediocre read. JMS continues to stun me with his Civil War storylines that continue to be shallow and fails to engage the reader in any type of critical thought. I cannot wait for JMS to either get his act together or to leave this title. If you enjoy being preached to then Amazing Spider-Man is definitely a title that you will enjoy.

3 Comments

  1. great review, I agree with you that this issue was just a so so read. Only thing I can say is that I hope Aunt May is the one who dies… not MJ, that granny been here too long.

  2. So, according to Captain America and JMS, as long as each person is true to their beliefs then they are a patriot. Ok, so accoding to JMS and Captain America Timothy McVeigh was a patriot.

    Y’know, that is the exact thought that popped into my head when I read that sequence. Scary, huh? Cap’s speech was just disturbing, because it seemed to be advocating the sort of moral absolutism that, boiled down to its simplest, states “I’m right, and you’re wrong, end of story.”

    I have always felt that evil can be defined as the inability or the unwillingness to acknowledge other points of view, to admit to yourself that you might be wrong. And, honestly, that sounds just like the attitude Cap is displaying in “Civil War.” He is so absolutely convinced that he is right, that everyone else is wrong, and he refuses to even consider that the other side might have valid views, that there are moral shades of grey to the conflict.

  3. I haven’t really liked this whole Spider-Man Civil War tie-in. They’re just using it to make Cap seem like a “can-do-no-wrong” guy and (as I think you said once) rape Iron Man.

    Like you said, Cap’s arguments are pulled apart by his own actions. But the anti-registration side does have a valid point here: once politics begins to rule what superhero does what, then it’s entirely possible that heroes could be misused, or prevented from helping out where they need to simply because it wouldn’t be politically expedient. I think Peter says this or something along these lines to the Committee on the Registration Act that he and Stark talk to.

    Plus, the Act seems to be going after people who have powers simply because they have them, whether or not they’re masked vigilantes. Might be an incorrect assumption on my part, but I’m basing this on this one set of panels where SHIELD (I think?) agents pick up this kid who calls herself “Cloud 9”. No idea which issue it’s in, but…yeah.

    Forcing masked vigilantes to register is one thing, but going after people who have powers just because they have them? That’s like forcing an athlete to register because he or she could possibly commit a crime using his or her superior physical abilities.
    Even when it comes to usage of said powers, the same analogy holds; arresting someone who can fly for flying is akin to arresting someone who can throw a discus for throwing a discus. It’s a slippery slope to tread, one which I think the writers could’ve – should’ve – handled better.

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