Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #601

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This story is part of an Arc: "Red-Headed Stranger"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3

This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

Recently in Amazing Spider-Man. Following the Brand New Day reboot, Mephisto's magic means that Peter Parker's marriage with Mary Jane never existed. Instead, some as yet undefined event in their past means that the two of them separated. However, rather than abandoning Peter Parker's supporting cast (as happened with the failed Ben Reilly/Clone reboot a decade or so ago), the Spider-Man editorial team has taken it upon themselves to regroup, expand and redevelop the Parker backup team.

Jonah J. Jameson is now the mayor of New York. Peter's room-mate Vin has been imprisoned for attempting to fake a crime to incriminate Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Vin's passionate Latina sister Michele has moved in to Peter's apartment and her relationship with Parker has been somewhat erratic. Betty Brant is a reporter. Flash Thompson is a crippled hero of the Iraq war. Aunt May, meanwhile, is in splendid form - having just married JJJ's father, "Jay" Jameson as described in the preceding issue, Amazing Spider-Man #600. Harry Osborn meanwhile has just had a major falling-out with his dad, as described in the complex events of American Son.

Well, it seems like the gang's all here. Let's get into issue #601.

In Detail...

"No Place Like Home"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #601 (Story 1)
Oct 2009 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Arc: Part 1 of "Red-Headed Stranger"
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Writer:  Mark Waid
Artist:  Mario Alberti
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Review

Actually I think I might have jumped the gun. Before we can really get started, we need to cover just a few more details from Amazing Spider-Man #600, since many of the events in this issue are consequences of the preceding story.

So fist up, let's also say that in #600, Spider-Man publicly saved New York from the menace of a sick and demented Doctor Octopus. But that wasn't the greatest menace that our hero faced. For at the end of the wedding reception, Mary Jane Watson (super-model and former our champion's former lover) appeared back on the scene. Now, if only Peter could remember what happened after that as we begin a story arc entitled "The Red-Headed Stranger".

For indeed, as Mayor Jameson is attempting once more to exert his influence to turn the city against Spider-Man, the hapless hero himself is attempting to clear his head as he awakes from what may in fact be his first ever class-one, kick-ass hangover. Yes my friends, Peter Parker, our very own "Mr. Responsibility" has gotten completely s#1t-faced, so bad that his famed Spider-powers couldn't help him avoid the bleary-eyed consequences.

And if that doesn't shock you, then how about the fact that he awakes in bed lying next to his room-mate, Michele Gonzales? Now are you persuaded that our hero has had a most unusual evening?

Now, both of these events are clearly intended to shake up the Peter Parker persona, and they succeeded. There was some active debate on the SpiderFan staff mailing list on this whole subject. Are these two events (drunkenness with implied casual-sex consequences) completely out of character for our hero? Several voices said "yes, this is totally out of character". Myself, I have to disagree. While Spider-Man's powers and his intellect are both quite exceptional, the man underneath it all is far too human. Indeed, isn't that what made him unique among the heroic heroes of the time.

It seems perfectly reasonable to me that, faced with the dramatic and unexpected return of his lost love, that Peter might well flip right off the rails. I'm sure that many of us have been there and done that. I sure as hell have, and worse. Nah, I'm more than happy to (a) accept and (b) forgive this exceptional series of events.

So, Peter wakes up next to a naked Michele, and then has to ask if they... umm... did they...? Well, it's the question we would all like answered too... but Michele doesn't feel like answering. Instead, she's furious that Peter "doesn't even remember". Umm... is that a yes? Well, she kicks Peter out of her room, screaming at him. So much for getting "lucky" muses Peter.

Peter heads out of the flat, all the time trying to remember what he and MJ said to each other. He has a funny feeling they agreed to meet somewhere. He heads across town (nabbing a petty crook on the way) and encounters his newly-rediscovered relatives... the "Reilly" side of the family... who are all staying at May's house while May and Jay are on honeymoon.

Peter then heads over to Harry Osborn's apartment, only to discover that Harry has had to leave his flash digs, thanks to the recession, and perhaps also to the fact that having beaten the crap out of his own father, he is no longer able to draw upon his family fortune. So Parker shuffles on over to the DB (formerly the Daily Bugle) looking for work. He doesn't find it, but gets twigged to a major apartment fire. Our hero duly costumes-up and gets down to saving folks. The firemen arrive and the whole thing is busier than Grand Central Station.

Grand Central Station! That's right! Peter agreed to meet MJ at the station! And... he's... not actually late for once! Wow, his a Parker/MJ meeting actually going to occur on schedule? Nope. Turns out that MJ slept all day, and missed the appointment. Now you have to admit that's a novel twist.

Peter heads back to his apartment. Michele left him a plate of cookies. Aww... that's nice. What a kind girl... oh no! She locked up all the milk in the fridge! Peter is left with a face full of crumbs and a terrible, terrible thirst. Well, as revenge goes, that's pretty clever, if not quite as devastating as some of the other options.

In General...

It's no secret that I was unimpressed with the "wave the magic wand" of Brand New Day. Specifically, the part of BND that annoyed me the most was the idea that the Spider-Man editors might try and say "everything has changed, and we don't want to talk about it".

All along, I thought that the one thing that might possibly make me forgive Brand New Day's "clean slate" would be if in fact if Marvel made an effort to actually explain, work through, and build upon the consequences of Mephisto's actions. If they did that... if the continuity was properly resolved, and if I and my fellow long-term Spider-Man readers were given a real explanation and a real resolution... in that case, perhaps it might all be forgiven.

Now, several story arcs later on, I can't help but feel carefully hopeful that perhaps we may get to see some of that resolution, and a proper meshing of the "before" and "after" scenarios. I'm not going to hold my breath, but if this really is the start of some sort of explanation, then I'm prepared to give them a little space while they work through the details.

Overall Rating...

Peter Parker, drunk and hitting the sack with a flatmate? How shocking! How unusual! How... actually perfectly understandable. Jonah as Mayor? Works for me. Aunt May getting some late-life-lovin'? Heh, why not... she always did have a weak heart. But most importantly... MJ is back. Fingers-crossed, we might get an explanation of just what happened in the recent revisionist reality rework.

In fact... with the return of MJ, might we actually see the Mephisto story actually treated as... a story... rather than a "Deus Ex Machina". Could it be? Dare we dream? Well, I really should know better by know, but I'm going to be a fool once more and imagine that perhaps Brand New Day could be salvaged. Let's give 'em an optimistic four webs for a promising beginning to a potential end, and hope for more to come.