Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #542

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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 has been shot, an accidental injury as a sniper paid by the Kingpin misses his primary target Spider-Man, and hits a secondary target as a result. Peter, enraged, hunts the sniper, and traces it all back to the Kingpin, who's currently in jail. He gives Aunt May a transfusion of his blood to try and save her life, as she lies in the hospital, dying. Peter puts on his black Spider-Man costume and heads to Ryker's, to confront the Kingpin in a one-on-one showdown.

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #542
Aug 2007 : SMURF 542.500 : SM Title
Arc: Part 4 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

Wilson Fisk, decked out in his classic white suit, with his special cane with him, confronts a black-costume clad Spider-Man. He chides Spider-Man for trusting Iron Man, for giving up his secret identity, for being a chump. Spider-Man stays silent, and then deftly delivers a number of blows, before Kingpin continues his speech, mocking Peter. Peter respons by once again delivering a multitude of blows. Spider-Man remains silent, until Kingpin goads him into speaking.

Spider-Man explains that the suit means something to him, about the promises he's made, the lines he said he would never cross. Peter removes the mask and the upper body section of the black costume, and drops it on the floor, as he says that Spider-Man's not there to kill him, but Peter Parker is. Peter savagely beats Wilson Fisk, taunting him with a speech about how powerless Kingpin truly is, and reduces Fisk to a heap on the ground, having not even delivered a single blow upon Peter's person.

Having beaten Kingpin, Peter threatens to shoot web down his mouth to kill him, however stops himself from doing so and tells Fisk that he will kill him, once Aunt May has died. Peter admonishes Fisk for having been beaten, in front of all the other criminals in the prison, and then swings off.

Back at the hospital, Peter and MJ discuss finances and how they can manage to afford May's care, as May lies dying, and Fisk lies beaten, his life tied to May's...

In General...

This is a well-paced issue, by Straczynski. Its an action-packed issue, which has a lot of interesting moments that are well-timed and well set-up in such a way to heighten the intense nature of the action, and the suspense. However, that being said, the characterization here is absolutely DREADFUL. There's a moment here which is a nice piece of writing, which would actually work if it wasn't for the fact that it completely undermines everything about Peter Parker and Spider-Man as a character. I refer, of course, to the moment where he strips off the mask and says that its not Spider-Man that's there to kill Fisk, but Peter Parker.

There was once a time when Straczynski seemed to have a real handle on Peter Parker, in terms of how he operates, who he was with the mask on and off, and the humor of the character. However, if this was the only issue by Straczynksi that you ever read, you would have no idea that he ever understood who Peter Parker is as a character. This is dreadful trash. Peter Parker would NEVER act like this, not like this. I've read Peter Parker's problems with anger in light of disaster before, such as fighting the Green Goblin after Gwen's death, fighting Chameleon in Pursuit, fighting Norman Osborn in any of their myriad fights post-Clone Saga, and at least in all those instances Peter Parker was still in there, could still be seen, and the writing made it all seem more legitimate. But here, the characterization is so over the top to show Peter as bloodthirsty and full of revenge that I found it almost disturbing. The story itself, the fight sequence, the dialogue with Kingpin, its interesting, it makes sense and it works, but not for Spider-Man to be saying those words.

This just doesn't feel like Peter Parker in any way, shape, or form. Aunt May would be disgusted and embarrassed by his behaviour.

The art by Garney proves to be the only really good thing about this issue, as he handles Spider-Man fairly well in the fight sequence, and making him seem so cold and menacing, during his silent treatment for Kingpin. There's a real sense of tension and mystery in the artwork, which explodes into savagery as the costume is discared and Peter takes Fisk on without the costume to protect him anymore.

From a writing standpoint, its an interesting concept, because Spider-Man is Peter's way of hiding, of covering up an aspect of himself he may not be comfortable with, but then JMS ruins it with over the top, cliched characterization which in no way fits Peter Parker.

Overall Rating...

The art here is enjoyable, and well-suited to the story, and although the story is functional and has a good sense of pacing, timing and suspense, the characterization absolutely kills this issue.

This isn't Spider-Man anymore, I don't know what this is, but its not the Peter Parker that I'm a fan of. If he had the symbiote on him influencing his behavior, that would at least make this easier to accept. But as it is... this is just one of the worst characterizations Spider-Man has ever been subjected to.