Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #540

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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...

Aunt May was shot by a Sniper hired by Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, currently rotting in prison. As May struggles in a coma, Peter dons a cloth version of his old Black Costume, and goes about trying to locate the sniper, finally finding a lead in the form of a scope...

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #540
May 2007 : SMURF 540.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 2 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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...as Mary Jane watches over the struggling Aunt May, Peter calls her on her cell phone to check in on her status. She tells him that there's nothing he could do for May at the hospital but cry, so Peter slips on his mask and goes looking for answers and bodies to hit. He tracks down four different arms dealers, the fourth one being the one with the information he requires. Peter throws the dealer out a window as a strong-arm tactic, and, with the dealer suspended above the street by a web, finally gets the information he requires.

Peter finds two cops out of their car and talking to a street bum, so takes the opportunity to web up the alleyway, and use their onboard computer to track down the sniper's address. Peter shows up at the address to find it cleaned out, although the nice landlord points him in the right direction, a train station, as the sniper tries to flee the city. Peter drops into the station, in plain site, and uses his spider-sense to fix upon the sniper, who's startled by Peter's appearance. Peter chases the sniper, who starts firing at him, and runs out of bullets. Peter breaks the man's arm, causing him to drop his firearm. Peter brutally interrogates the Sniper, and is about to get the name of who hired him when he's silenced by a hail of gunshots. Peter throws a tracer on the hired gun's shoe, and then keeps a close eye on the Sniper, following his ambulance to the hospital, the same one that May is being held at.

Peter and MJ reunite at May's side, and watch over her as she struggles in her coma. The Sniper dies, ensuring that Peter won't get the name out of him. Peter feels the spider-tracer in proximity, so follows it, and finds the man on a cell phone with his employer. Peter webs up the man's mouth, and takes the cell phone from him. He listens to the voice on the other end, and says hello to Fisk, on the other end. Fisk speaks to Peter, with Peter telling the Kingpin that he can die...

In General...

Before I say anything else, I want to say that I forgot to mention just one thing in the last review of issue Amazing Spider-Man #539, that being that May's maiden name was mistakenly listed as Fitzgerald, when its widely known and established that it is actually Reilly (hence the reason that the clone chose Ben Reilly as his name, an homage to his "aunt" and "uncle"). Its since been dismissed as a continuity error, apparently fixed in second prints of issue #539, but I felt it did bear some addressing here.

This issue isn't quite the rollercoaster of emotions that the last issue was, instead more frightening that given some time, Peter's still dwelling on killing those responsible. Its just not something I'm that comfortable with, when we're dealing with Spider-Man, and given the build-up of this story, it seems like it might almost be anti-climactic if he DOESN'T kill someone, even though its the last thing that I want, as it would totally go against the character of Peter Parker, Spider-Man. His savage violence here is, I suppose, meant to show how bad-ass Peter can be, but it just doesn't quite ring true to who the character is at heart. He can't possibly think this is what May wants, or that its something that she would ever approve of, and even MJ seems to be turning a blind eye to this uncontrollable rage he's feeling. Its just stark and disheartening that Straczynski feels the need to really go down this route.

Once again, I'm not sure how Peter is not being arrested left right and centre in this arc. We've seen Luke Cage immediately accosted after saving someone's life at a convenience store over in New Avengers, but somehow here Peter, a wanted fugitive, can swing through New York without hiding himself, drop blatantly in to plain view in a train station, and walk around with his face exposed in the hospital, and NOT GET NOTICED or any CAPE-KILLERS on his trail? Its starting to really go against believeability, and I'm also not sure where this really takes place continuity-wise anymore, with so many other titles having Spider-Man in his black costume. This issue is fast-paced, and is only the day after May is shot, which means Civil War just ended, and, theoretically, that Captain America is still alive, thus predating the Fallen Son one-shots that have him in costume, as well as New Avengers' current arc, plus all of the stories occuring in Sensational Spider-Man or Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. A clear resolution to the timeline would be nice, because all of these stories happen later but still have May in the hospital (or at least mentioned as such in FNS and Sensational).

The artwork by Garney is still fairly sharp and clear, it seems almost as if he's saved his best artwork for this title to be used on this storyline, boasting a cleaner and more crisp and clear storytelling style. The art here is more polished and focused than some of his more recent works. However, the cover is sketchier than I would have liked for a cover of an important issue, and the blatant ad for FedEx was pretty distracting. It looked like a mediocre panel INSIDE the issue, not the cover for said issue.

Overall Rating...

The continuity issues, and holes in established SHRA logic are what prevent this issue from achieving a 4 Webs Score. The issue isn't bad, it boasts some great elements, and some excellent pacing, but the characterization is just starting to feel more off and tweaked than need be. Good effort by the creative team, however.