Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #515

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This story is part of an Arc: "Skin Deep"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

Peter is just getting over his ordeal with Gwen and Norman's children, and now an old friend comes asking for a favour...

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #515
Feb 2005 : SMURF 515.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 1 of "Skin Deep"
Editor:  Axel Alonso
Writer:  J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils:  Mark Brooks, Mike Deodato, Jr.
Inker:  Jaime Mendoza, Joe Pimentel
Cover Art:  Gary Frank
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 Reprinted In: Spider-Man TPB (Amazing) #9
Articles: Weiderman, Charlie

The comic opens with Peter in a rush to get to school on time. Upon entering he finds out that he has been given a class for remedial citizenship and social studies. As soon as he enters the class, one kid starts giving him cheek. Pete handles it, and then when his back is turned, the kid launches some paper at his head. With his spider abilities, Pete catches the paper and wins the class over. As he gets back to teaching, he notices a familiar figure outside the window: Charlie Weiderman....

Pete heads into flashback land and recalls a new kid that came to school when he was in high school. The kid's name was Charlie and he was even geekier than Pete (this was before Pete got his powers). Pete was relieved that the bullies started to pick on Charlie instead of him, and even though he felt bad for Charlie, ignored his efforts to intially begin a friendship, for his own selfish reasons....

Later, after class, Pete goes out to talk with Charlie. Charlie tells him how his father died and left him some money. Charlie used the money to start developing a second skin body armour that would make soldiers indestructible. But he's gotten as far as he can go, and wants Pete to write him a recommendation so that he can get a grant from Stark Industries. Pete reluctantly agrees.

Pete has another flashback of Charlie when they were kids, of how he intentionally picked on Charlie in PE to better himself in his peers' eyes. He felt ashamed, but enjoyed the other kids' approval more. Later, in science class, Pete tries to make it up to Charlie and asks him about a beaker that he has. Charlie tells him that it's a formula for super soldiers he's working on using steroids he stole from his dad. Pete's a little worried, and 3 weeks later, Charlie is in the hospital getting his stomach pumped after trying some of his mixture...

Meanwhile, Charlie manages to get an interview with Tony Stark. Charlie fudges the truth a little bit and claims that Pete is his full partner and will be working on the project with him. Tony, knowing Pete as Spidey (since New Avengers #3), approves the project based on Pete's involvement.

Weeks pass, until one evening Pete gets a call from Stark Industries for an update on the project's progress. Peter is surprised, so heads over to see Charlie. He finds Charlie hard at work and using some risky materials and processes. Pete gets angry, and tells Charlie to stop the dangerous experimentation and come clean with Stark by the morning, or he will. After Pete leaves, Charlie decides to take the experiment to the final stage. There is a huge explosion and in the rubble a lone body is revealed, covered in a weird material...

In General...

Whoa, a lot happened this issue. A new character is established and weaved into Pete's past, and Pete is put in some difficult positions. And overall the end result is pretty good.

Charlie is established pretty well this issue, and fits into Pete's past pretty well. The flashbacks show a side of Pete never shown before, and it's interesting and, in its context, makes sense. We don't really get an idea of how Pete and Charlie become friends. Is it Pete's guilt at treating him badly? This is a little unclear. Hopefully, the next issue will fill in the details. Charlie is obviously ethically challenged, to say the least, and puts Pete in a bit of a predicament. I'm interested to see what the fallout will be.

It seems that Charlie is going to go bad, and has gained whatever powers his second skin grants. So far, he's the most interesting angtagonist that JMS has come up with in his run. I hope that JMS continues to make Charlie interesting and doesn't just kill him, as with the other villains he's created.

This is really just a straightforward comic, introducing a new villain and setting up a conflict, but it's executed well by the whole creative team. It also seems that JMS may be going to explore a nastier side of Pete's character than we're used to seeing, or at least to explore how Pete deals with his more negative feelings. This would be great to see, since it's pretty much unexplored territory.

Overall Rating...

Very solid stuff, with the potential to introduce a great new villain.