Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #539

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This story is part of an Arc: "Back in Black"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5

This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

During Civil War, Peter Parker, while supporting Tony Stark's pro-Registration forces, unmasked to the American public. The Kingpin, while in prison, hired a hitman to attempt an assassination of Peter Parker or his loved ones, after the climactic battle of Civil War. After the final battle, Parker returns to the hotel where he, MJ and Aunt May are staying, as the sniper fires into the room, striking Aunt May...

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #539
Apr 2007 : SMURF 539.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 1 of "Back in Black"
Editor:  Axel Alonso
Writer:  J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils:  Ron Garney
Inker:  Bill Reinhold
Cover Art:  Ron Garney
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Review

As Aunt May reels from the gunshot, Peter runs out of the hotel room, and throws a vehicle up in the air towards the sniper, sending it crashing through the side of the building. Peter then runs back into the room, as MJ calls 911, picks up Aunt May and web-swings furiously through the streets of New York, finally crashing into a hospital room, and putting May's body on a bed. As doctors come in to frantically deal with her wound, Peter sits outside the room, against the outside wall.

In prison, Fisk gets news of the success of the mission, with one of the secondary targets being down. He recites a favourite quote of his to a security guard, who gave him the message.

The next day, Peter and MJ meet up in an alley, as he tells her where May is, and what the initial prognosis is. He gives her instructions, on how to register May, so that there isn't any suspicion. He swings off, with the intent to hurt someone in response to what's happened to Aunt May.

Peter revisits the scene of the crime, where the Sniper sat. He encounters a cop, and, not saying anything, merely webs the cop up against the wall. As he surveys the abandoned room, he finally locates a scope that the Sniper left behind, his first solid clue. He heads to bust in a arms deal, so that he can find out the answers he desires, to locate the sniper who purchased the hardware. He savagely beats them and interrogates the last standing thug, who gives him the information he desires.

At the hospital, MJ searches for Aunt May, finally finding the doctor who treated her the night before. She finds out that Aunt May is in a coma, and that if nothing changes, she's going to die.

Peter swings to the top of a building, and recovers an old cloth version of his black costume, which reflects his current state of mind, so that he can send a message, to those who hurt his family. He's ready to kill those who harmed his family...

In General...

First of all, there's an actual story happening here, in comparison to last issue which was more of a filler issue highlighting events of Civil War #7. The pacing by Straczynski is excellent, is furious and quick, just as it should be, and the reader is totally sucked into this adrenaline rush of an issue, where everything happens at breakneck speeds, and there's real tension in the air. Will Aunt May die? Would Marvel really try this again? I can honestly say I'm not sure where they're going with this, what Peter will do, and how it will all be leading up to One More Day, and what that event is, so in that respect this issue really drags me in and makes me pay attention.

However, that being said, there's also a TON of holes in this issue. Peter's mad, we can see that, but are his actions and his thoughts really in keeping with the Peter Parker that we're all fans of? Personally, I find it frightening that they're darkening him this much, and I'm afraid of what will come of this. Because its starting to alienate me a little, because we've seen Angry Peter before, but he's always illustrated the tendancies and thought-processes of the Parker we all know and love. However in this issue, he's much darker, breaking hands and set in his mind that he's going to kill those responsible for shooting Aunt May, and it almost seems like too much. I keep hoping he'll snap back, and quickly, but so far its almost overboard on his murderous thoughts, and a bit alienating to me as a reader. Is the pacing, plot and dialogue good? Yes, it is, but I'm afraid of what it means for the character in the long-term.

The holes I mentioned earlier? Well, the main one is no one recognizing Mary Jane and Aunt May. Now, the latter I can forgive, although considering the outing of Peter's identity, one would think her picture would have been every where by now. With the former, she's a FAMOUS model, and former soap opera star, PLUS she's the wife of SPIDER-MAN. Her face is everywhere, yet no one notices her, or asks her who she is, and why she's checking up on her "Aunt" May? Seriously? I found this incredibly hard to believe and it kept me out of the story a little. Peter being able to swing through the DAYTIME sky also seemed out of place, as was his meeting MJ in a brightly-lit alley in the middle of the day right off a busy street in New York. The second hole is the fact that he retrieved his costume from a building. IN A WEBSACK. He hasn't worn the black cloth costume since... Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 2) #18 or so, ironically during a period when MJ was "dead" and his other costumes were dirty... but even then, he still had his homemade webbing at that time, which dissolves after an hour, so the fact that his websack lasted there "a long time" is just ridiculous.

The art by Garney is actually the most impressive its been throughout this entire run of late. He really does a good job of matching Straczynski's frantic pace and dramatic storytelling, with excellent illustrations showcasing his storytelling capabilities. The scenes after the initial gunshot are incredibly well done from an action-perspective.

Overall Rating...

It would have been a four web book if it hadn't been for some glaring errors which took me right out of the book and bothered me immensely afterwards. Its got excellent pacing, even if the characterization feels a tad off, and makes you wonder just what's going to happen next, and how this is all going to end. The art by Garney is surprisingly great in this issue, a real surprise and a good one at that.