Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #541

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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...

In the aftermath of Civil War, Aunt May has been shot, and is in critical condition. Finally, Peter finds out that the shooter was hired by none other than his longtime foe and adversary, Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #541
Jun 2007 : SMURF 541.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 3 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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Wilson Fisk, from his prison cell, speaks over the phone with an enraged Peter. Peter, still enraged, interrogates the flunky of the Kingpin that he's captured, and then disappears into the night as MJ comes out looking for Peter.

From his prison cell, Fisk destroys his desk which was furnished with hidden rolls of cash, and buys the silence of the guards at the prison, so that they look the other way, and also so that his clothes and personal effects are brought to him.

Meanwhile, Peter continues to interrogate Jim, the Kingpin's flunky, and threatens him so that he can send a message to those who would try and hurt Peter's family.

Back at the hospital, MJ attends May, until Peter shows up, and holds her hand close. MJ and Peter discuss the situation that May is trapped in, as they pay cash to sustain her medical care, yet arouse suspicion as a result. Peter tells MJ about the time he gave Aunt May a blood transfusion, and the resultant dangers that came as a result of that transfusion, and decides that its a last resort that must be utilized. With MJ assisting, Peter does a blood transfusion personally, and then flees before a Nurse can find him with MJ and May. He swings off.

At Ryker's, the prison doors are all opened, as Wilson Fisk opens up his box of personal effects, and dresses in his classic white suit, bowtie, rings and holds his walking stick. As he walks through the prison, and the inmates start to come out of their cells, Spider-Man drops down from the ceiling, and challenges Kingpin to a duel.

In General...

This storyline feels like its going on too long and just kind of circling the drain a little. With One More Day touted as the next big thing for Spider-Man, this arc in particular just feels like filler that's being used to merely mark time. The use of Kingpin as a villain here doesn't feel as natural as the writer is hoping it will, especially given how they haphazardly tie this encounter into the much more enjoyable and tightly written narrative that is occurring over in Daredevil. The whole concept of Peter becoming so dark and driven feels like its going too far, too fast. Spider-Man has always been a character that goes through difficult periods, but what makes him such a great character, and so enjoyable to read, is his ability and tenacity at bouncing back from great adversity. This entire storyline seems false and hollow, because if Peter Parker is anything, its responsible, and he would never try and avenge May's death by threatening to kill her assailant, or who's responsible for said attack. Its just not who Peter is, and so this entire storyline feels out of character.

Granted, perhaps that's what Straczynski is going for here, by showing what grief and anger can do to someone, even a superhero, but given Spider-Man's long history of adversity, strife and grief, it just doesn't feel right. The writing itself on a technical level is good, the pacing is fairly well done, and the last few pages do a good job of setting up the inevitable confrontation in a very cinematic way.

The art by Garney is actually pretty solid here, there are a few sketchy panels and scenes, where the pencils and inks could have been a bit sharper, but for the most part he delivers a fairly good outing. Garney does have an eye for cinematic storytelling, and the last few panels really match the script by Straczynski quite well in terms of matching the cinematic atmosphere.

Overall Rating...

Although from a technical point of view the writing and artwork is ably performed, it just doesn't feel like it really connected with me as a reader. The storyline feels forced and somewhat hollow, and I don't really expect the resolution that they're obviously trying to make the reader feel like is inevitable, that being Spider-Man crossing the line. The other Spider-titles are making much better use of the Back in Black storyline, whereas this title, the centerpiece of the Spider-Man universe, feels like its kind of dropping the ball.