Comic Book Review: Amazing Spider-Man #546

All right, The Revolution needs to talk about how we are going to handle Amazing Spider-Man from here on out. Look, the One More Day story arc sucked. I know that and you know that. And we all agree that Joey Q’s poorly constructed retcon was a massive mistake and made for a dreadful read. I mean this retcon was so bad that you would have thought that DC had written it.

And the amount of criticism has been incredible. And not just from fans. The squabbling between Joey Q and JMS has just added more fuel to the fire. Keith Giffen in his column over on Comic Book Resources poked fun at the poorly concocted retcon utilizing the magical powers of Mephisto. Giffen ends the article with this:

“I’m actually kind of amazed that the ‘One Day… Whatever’ story has generated so much blow-back. Not on the part of the fans, that’s to be expected, but on the part of the participants. Used to be, you spelled out the story, put it out for public consumption and dealt with the varied reactions. Regardless of circumstance, you generate it, you own it. Period.

Too old school? File that under ‘tough bounce.’ Hell, I’ve generated my fair share of stories that, in hindsight, I wish I’d never told. We all have. Best thing to do is (hopefully) learn from it and move on.”

I don’t always agree with Giffen but I like his approach on how to handle yourself as a professional in the comic book industry. I think both JMS and Joey Q could stand to follow Giffen’s old school approach.

Now, since we can all agree about the pathetic retcon, the question remains where do we go from here? Do I drop Amazing Spider-Man? Or do I stick with it and see what Marvel has in store for us? Well, I could drop the title and constantly bitch about this retcon and, quite honestly, that would accomplish nothing. Marvel doesn’t care about my opinion.

And despite the threats of numerous readers to drop this title, the fact is that I’m sure sales numbers for Amazing Spider-Man #546 are going to be pretty solid. The comic book store that I frequent is hands down the largest comic book story in a metro area of almost 2 million people. The owner of the store told me yesterday that not a single person dropped Amazing Spider-Man from their pull list. Now I’m sure other people frequent comic book shops where plenty of people dropped Amazing Spider-Man from their pull list.

So, I will relinquish any delusions of mine that I can actually influence Marvel and get them to abandon Joey Q’s silly retcon. Now, I’m going to actually stick with Amazing Spider-Man despite my general dislike of JMS’ entire run on the title and my dislike of Joey Q’s horrid retcon. The main reason is that I simply like Spider-Man. The other two reasons would be the two gentlemen that Marvel has brought in to handle the writing and art duties on this title.

I have never read a Dan Slott penned title, but I have heard nothing but positive things about his writing. Many people whose opinions I respect have raved about Slott’s writing talents. So, the fact that Slott is the new writer for Amazing Spider-Man gives me hope. And I’m a huge fan of Steve McNiven’s artwork. I love his work and would buy almost any title just for his artwork.

So, with all this in mind, I am going to try and judge Slott and McNiven for what they give us during their run free from whatever hard feelings I might have due to Joey Q’s terrible retcon. Let’s hit this review for Amazing Spider-Man #546.

Creative Team
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Steve McNiven
Inks: Dexter Vines

Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with Peter playing tonsil hockey with a hottie at a nightclub. Peter says that this isn’t what it looks like. We then jump back 24 hours ago. We see a mugger wearing a Spider-Man mask robbing a man in an alley. We see a news report about the multiple muggings committed by the Spider-Mugger. We also learn that New York’s official licensed hero, Jackpot, is on the case investigating the muggings.

We see J. Jonah Jameson on the news report debating how Spider-Man is a total menace. The news anchor comments how Spider-Man hasn’t been seen for months. That J.J.’s paper made all its money from its Spider-Man coverage and without any Spidey stories its circulation has plummeted. J.J. barks “No comment!”

We cut to later that morning at Aunt May’s house. Aunt May is off to pull a double shift at her volunteer job at a homeless shelter. Aunt May tells Peter it is time for him to get up and get a job.

We see Peter that morning engaged in his search for a job. Suddenly, Betty calls Peter and tells him that she found an apartment for him in the city and in his price range. But, the landlord wants the check by tomorrow. Peter responds that he needs to get a job fast.

Peter interviews at a High School for a teaching position but is rejected due to his poor attendance records at the last school he taught at. Peter interviews for a staff photographer job with a magazine. But, he is rejected for a lack of technique with his photos. They look like Peter left his camera on a ledge.

Peter then gets rejected for a lab assistant job due to his failing to get a single work published and no work in the field. The scientist says he remembers Peter as a child prodigy in the science field. The scientist asks Peter what he has been doing all this time. Peter sits there thinking about his adventures as Spider-Man.

We cut to Peter later that afternoon stressing that he can’t get a job. Suddenly, Harry Osborn calls Peter’s cell. Harry invites Peter to go out to a new club tonight. Peter says yes. We slide over to Harry’s girlfriend’s apartment. Harry and his girlfriend, Lily, then invite Lily’s roommate to come with them. Her roommate is Charlie who is a nerdy science chick. But, she is still kinda hot if she just took off her glasses. (Pretty much like every single 1980’s teenage flick where the nerdy girl is insanely hot but nobody recognizes that fact because she wears glasses.)

We cut to later that night with a police detective turning over a briefcase from the evidence locker in the police station. The Negative Man’s flunkie takes the briefcase and refuses to pay the detective the money being offered for the item. Mister Negative kills his thugs and then pays the detective the money that was promised. Mister Negative opens the briefcase and looks at a screen with something written in a foreign language. Mister Negative comments that he needs to find an expert in foreign tongues.

We shift to the scene that kicked off this issue with Peter at the club lip-locked with a hottie. The girl says her name is Mia Flores and tells Peter to remember her name. Peter nervously backs away and scurries back to the table where Harry, Lily and Charlie are seated. They joke Peter about the hottie that kissed him.

Peter comments how he is too young to get married. They then talk about how Harry has already been married three times. We learn that Lily’s father is Bill Hollister who is a public crusader. Harry mentions that he has started a million dollar exploratory committee to see if he should enter the mayoral race.

Peter then tells Harry about his problem with getting rent money for a new apartment. Harry then gives Peter the money. Mia Flores then starts making eye contact with Peter. Peter runs to the bathroom. Mia follows thinking that this is her way into Harry Osborn’s circle of friends. That from there she can get into all the good clubs and then kick Peter to the curb and trade up. Mia follows Peter into the bathroom, but Peter has disappeared.

We see Peter outside the club having escaped through the window. There Peter bumps into Charlie who also decided to leave. Charlie isn’t much of a club person. Suddenly, the Spider-Mugger appears and demands their money and jewelry. Peter and Charlie give the mugger their valuables. The mugger runs away but not before Peter slips a spider tracer on him.

Peter then tells Charlie that he is going to follow the mugger in order to take a picture for the Bugle. Charlie thinks that Peter is an idiot. Peter is about to change into his Spider-Man outfit when he realizes that being Spider-Man just makes J. Jonah Jameson more money and Peter isn’t about to do that. So, Peter decides to handle it as himself.

Peter chases the mugger through the streets. The mugger then slips into a homeless shelter. Peter follows him inside. There Peter loses the mugger in the crowd. Suddenly, Aunt May approaches Peter. This happens to be Aunt May’s volunteer workplace. The man who runs the shelter mistakes Peter for a homeless guy. Peter feels so embarrassed. The mugger manages to slip back out of the shelter and hail a taxi to make his getaway. Aunt May tells Peter that he can stay with her for as long as he wants to.

We see Peter leaving the shelter and deciding to head over to the Daily Bugle. Peter arrives at the Bugle and tells Betty that he is here to get the check that the Bugle still owes him. Betty informs Peter that all the money has been frozen. That no one has been paid. That J.J. is fighting off a hostile takeover of the Bugle. That he needs to get enough capital to retain over fifty percent of the shares of stock in the Bugle.

Peter enters J.J.’s office and says that he wants his check that J.J. owes him. Jameson screams that Peter is an ungrateful little bastard. Peter snaps and starts ranting about how his pictures of Spider-Man made the Bugle what it was. That Peter risked his life for those photos so that J.J. could become rich. Peter says J.J. owes him because Peter made J.J.

J.J. then stands up from his desk and is about to erupt. Suddenly, J. Jonah Jameson has a heart attack and crumples to the ground. End of story.

We get a back up story about Aunt May working at the homeless shelter. We see what a wonderful woman that Aunt May truly is.

We get a back up story about Jackpot. She is busy chasing a criminal who hi-jacked a truck full of explosives. The criminal manages to give Jackpot the slip. But, Jackpot refuses to give up and comments that “I’m going to get you, tiger. Count on it.”

We then get a three page back up story about Harry Osborn meeting his Lily’s father for the first time. Mr. Hollister is less than pleased that his daughter is dating a person like Harry.

Comments
The Good: How about that? I know that I’m going to get called an idiot for saying this and that everyone is going to bash my review, but I found Amazing Spider-Man #546 to be a fun read. Slott impressed me with his ability to take the crappy hand that Joey Q had dealt him and actually deliver a technically sound and well written issue.

Slott serves up a nicely paced and plotted issue. We get a pleasant blend of action and drama. Slott never lets the story slip into a lull yet at the same time this issue doesn’t feel frenzied or rushed. I actually like that Slott refrained from trying to make his debut issue artificially flashy. Slott opts for a nice low keyed approach to his run on this title. Slott focuses on the nuts and bolts of a quality comic book which includes character work and dialogue. Since this title is going to be published three times a month, there is no need for Slott to rush anything.

I really enjoyed Slott’s dialogue. It was so much fun to read. Slott brings a wonderful sense of humor to this title. And what is so great about Slott’s humor is that it isn’t “Bwa-ha-ha” over the top humor. It is just enough to get you smiling and actually have fun while reading a comic book. Imagine that. A writer who actually tries to deliver a fun read to the reader. What a rarity these days.

Each character has their own distinctive voice and they all interact with each other incredibly well. There is such a pleasantly natural flow to the dialogue between the various characters. This enables Slott to whip up some solid chemistry between the various characters quite quickly.

Slott also is wise to spend plenty of time making sure that he delivers nicely well rounded characters in this issue. In just this one issue, Slott wastes no time making sure the reader gets a good feel for the different personalities of the various characters that make up Spider-Man’s supporting cast.

I have always believed that one of the greatest strengths of Spider-Man is his wonderful supporting cast that he has had over the years. Spidey’s supporting cast is as deep and fleshed out as you are going to find on any comic book. And Slott recognizes this strength of Spider-Man and it appears that establishing Spider-Man’s supporting cast is a number one priority for Slott. And I’m glad that the various supporting cast members got plenty of panel time in Amazing Spider-Man #546.

It was cool to see Harry and Peter hanging out together once again. Now, I still don’t like this retcon, but I do like how Slott has Harry and Peter interact. Their friendship reminds me a bit of the friendship between Lex and Clark in the first two seasons of Smallville. Harry and Peter’s friendship also is a great source of tension as we all know that Harry struggles to do the right thing.

I really enjoyed Slott’s version of Peter Parker. I’ll readily admit that I prefer this version of Peter much more than the version that JMS gave us during his run. I dig that Slott gives Peter his proper optimistic outlook on life and his never-give-attitude no matter what troubles might come his way. That has always been Peter’s best quality. The ability to see how great his life is despite whatever problems he might have. I’m just glad we have ditched the terribly depressed and morose Peter that we have gotten for the past two years.

I like how Slott handled Peter’s job search. It really drove home the point that Peter has seriously neglected his own personal life due to his career as Spider-Man. I know that Joey Q stated that the retcon didn’t push back time in Peter’s life, but Slott’s Peter definitely feels to be mid twenties tops. I’d place him in that awkward period between graduating from college and trying to find a career or deciding to go to graduate school. I have been there before so I can relate to how Peter feels at this crossroads in his life.

And the scene with Peter at Aunt May’s homeless shelter was hilarious. Talk about humiliating. Being mistaken for a homeless person is Slott telling the reader that he fully recognizes that Peter has been placed in the role of a slacker loser with this retcon. And I suspect that Slott is not going to let him languish in that role for too long. Peter is incredibly talented and hopefully Slott is able to let Peter attain some success rather than keeping him cast in the role of the eternal loser.

The plotline involving the Negative Man is interesting. Negative Man is a solid villain and should provide for an enjoyable conflict with Spider-Man. I am curious to learn more about the contents of the briefcase.

Slott serves up a fantastic ending. Peter finally just unloads on J.J. and unleashes years of pent up frustration. And the result is J.J. dropping to the floor due to a heart attack. I can’t imagine that Marvel would kill off the loveable curmudgeon known as J. Jonah Jameson. But, you never know.

Now, the obvious question that springs to mind is Jackpot none other than MJ? Jackpot references a modeling gig of hers. Jackpot also uses the word “Tiger” like MJ. Plus, the obvious connection between the codename “Jackpot” and MJ’s favorite saying to Peter of “Face it Tiger. You just hit the jackpot.” And the fact that they are both red-haired hotties. I’ll reserve judgment on the decision to make MJ a metahuman until we get a bit more information on this plotline.

It is still unclear how far-reaching the retcon is. And I have a feeling that Marvel is going to avoid even addressing the retcon from here on out. We know that nobody knows that Peter is Spider-Man. And we know that Spider-Man hasn’t been seen in months. That calls into question his activity with the New Avengers since they have been caught on video helping the Mighty Avengers fighting the Venom symbiotes and then later sticking around to help in the cleanup effort.

We also see that Spider-Man no longer has his organic web shooters. I would imagine that the spider fangs that he had in his hands are also gone. I’m wondering how much of JMS’ run negated? Slott does reference Peter’s job with the high school that he had during JMS run. But, the lack of organic web shooters and spider fangs could mean the craptacular spider totem mystical background that JMS gave Peter has been mercifully wiped from existence.

McNiven and Vines combine to serve up some fantastic looking artwork. I love McNiven’s style and I think that he delivers the best looking artwork that we have gotten on Amazing Spider-Man in a very long time. McNiven’s Negative Man is wicked cool looking.

The Bad: I guess Charlie is the unavoidable and obligatory love interest that Slott is going to try and pair up with Peter. I found Charlie rather blah. Personally, I’d rather that Peter didn’t date a female version of himself. That makes for a boring relationship. I find it much more fun to watch Peter deal with a woman who is the total opposite of him. You know like a gorgeous, outgoing, confident model type woman. Oh yeah, we had that already didn’t we…

Overall: Look, with Joey Q’s retcon, Slott was handed a plate of chicken shit and told to make chicken salad out of it. And I think Slott did the best with the parameters he was given to worth within. I know I’m going to get slammed for saying this but I found Amazing Spider-Man #456 to be a good read.

I will openly disclose that I just didn’t enjoy JMS’ run on Spider-Man. I hated the entire mystical spider totem origin that JMS shoehorned into Spider-Man’s back story. And I found JMS’ run to be rather plodding, dull and morose. Slott dishes out a much different Spider-Man. If you didn’t like JMS’ run that much then I think you will dig Slott’s take on Spider-Man.

Amazing Spider-Man #456 was just a fun read. And there is something to be said for that given the typical type comic book that dominates the current market. If you can let go of your anger and hatred for the poorly concocted and executed retcon of One More Day then I think that you will really enjoy Slott’s take on Spider-Man. Personally, I found Slott’s Spider-Man to be an enjoyable breath of fresh air.

7 Comments

  1. I believe you’ve read a couple of issues of Avengers: The Initiative, although you never reviewed any of them; Slott writes that series, although it isn’t his best work (my personal favourite is GLA: Misassembled, a four-issue miniseries focussed on the Great Lakes Avengers that parodies “Avengers Disassembled” and “Identity Crisis”, with a team of loser heroes in Wisconsin who actually manage to save the world, but the only thing they get is a “cease-and-desist” letter from the Maria Stark Foundation telling them not to use the Avengers name).

    I didn’t buy the series, though I was tempted. It’s probably, as you say, a futile gesture, but the ongoing frustration of remembering how we got where we are just seemed like too much hastle.

  2. This got me thinking. I went back to rehash the One More Day concept and wrote a column on my website: http://www.limeflavored.com/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=37

    This pretty much sums up how I feel right not about how comics are these days… which is sad because I’m still a huge advocate of comics.

  3. Great review and I agree with you 100% about Dan Slott. He is quite talented as a writer, especially whenever you can use some comedy. I strongly recommend the GLA mini-series. Slott is also the former writer of She-Hulk.

    After six years of JMS’ awful stories, ASM # 546 was a breath of fresh air. Despite the heavy-handed retcon nonsense, I will be reading this book again at least for the short term to see how things go.

    If you think about everything that Joey Q and JMS had done to Spider-Man (the secret identity gone, the Stark thing, the organic web-shooters, the spider-totem silliness, etc.; hitting the reset button actually makes perfect sense. Due to bad writing and even worse editing and decision-making, Marvel had finally painted themselves into a corner with Spider-Man and there wasn’t much else that could be done, imho.

    I know a lot of younger fans grew up with the Peter/MJ marriage, but to me, even that had gone pretty stale.

    I think all we can do now is forget the past and look to the future. Hopefully things will be brighter from hereonin.

  4. Not-Quesada DiDio January 13, 2008 at 12:02 am

    It wasn’t that this was a *bad* issue, per se, but it felt almost like I was rereading an old issue of Spiderman…I like the new villain but as a guy who hasn’t been following Spiderman much as of late and came back for OMD/BND, I really expect something more after the crapfest of OMD.

  5. I agree with pretty much everything you said. Slott gave us a good deal with his first issue with what was done with Spider-man. That’s pretty much what all the writers are going to be trying to do in the next few months. I will at least say this, there is some forward movement with the supporting cast for the first time in years. I’m talking about 12 years worth of stagnit to pretty much ignoring them all together except for the basic 4.
    I’m still liking Spider-man, I’m not happy with out it happened but at least these are writers and artists that basically say: “Well, here’s our hand, let’s play ball.”

  6. Given that the One More Day arc was supposed to convine me to pick up Amazing Spider-Man three times a month and failed spectacularly to do that I am one of the people who dropped it from my pull list. A new starting point like this also serves as a great jumping off point as well. Unless everybody and their mother can’t stop talking about how great this series is in a few month’s time I will be perfectly satisfied to get my Spidey fix from Ultimate Spider-Man. I won’t say I will never buy it again but for now I have had enough.

  7. I also have dropped Amazing Spiderman with the One Miserable Day crap. But I had to fight to get all my subscription money because they had already shipped the first Brand New Do-over issue. So I’ve been trying to read it but so far can’t get more than half-way. It’s not that the writing is bad (you all seem to love Slott, while I have mixed feelings from his past work, although I certainly don’t dislike him). The problem is that we’ve seen all the “I’m broke’ angst so many times. And the “I’m still living with my aunt”. And to be honest. I think that the first page is in bad taste, not only for Spider-marriage fans, but any fans of marriage in general.

    Maybe I’ll write more if I ever finish the issue (and your review)

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