Spider-Man: Brand New Day Yearbook

 Posted: 2009
 Staff: Neil McClean (E-Mail)


Even with Amazing Spider-Man coming out three times each month, there still seems room in Marvel's schedule for a never-ending stream of one-shots, annuals and mini-series featuring the webbed-wonder. This particular one-shot is a "celebration" of the first year of Brand New Day. Yes, it has been a whole year since Peter and MJ made a deal with Mephisto, Aunt May's life was saved, the world forgot Peter's secret identity and the Parker marriage was erased from history. The Yearbook allows you to catch up with all these events, and provides insights into the main players of the last year's worth of stories, as well as hints as to what is to come.

Story Details

The Brand New Day yearbook is a sixty-four page one-shot combining a recap of the past year of Spidey stories, a number of Marvel Handbook entries and an interview of Marc Guggenheim that looks as though it was found on the cutting room floor of Marvel Spotlight. There are no new stories in the issue, although none of the content has been published before.

The recap take up exactly half of the issue. It's done in the same Saga style that we have seen in various of the free one-shots that Marvel occasionally produce to remind us what the devil is going on in the convoluted MU. Important panels from the issues in question are arranged around a brief narrative that seeks to link them all together.

The recap covers the Amazing Spider-Man #546-580, the Swing Shift one-shot, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #35, Amazing Spider- Man Extra #1, Secret Invasion, Secret Invasion: The Amazing Spider-Man limited series, and Ms Marvel Annual #1. It tries to present events from across these titles in the correct chronological order, and it fails spectacularly. More on that below.

We are then treated to twenty-two pages of Marvel handbook entries for the following characters: Anti-Venom; Blue Shield; Freak; Hammerhead; Jackpot; Menace; Mr Negative; Harry Osborn; Ramrod; Scorpia; Stiletto; Dexter Bennett; the Bookie; Carlie Cooper; Vin Gonzales; Lily Hollister; Kraven; Overdrive; Paper Doll; Dr Benjamin Rabin; Screwball; Squid; Wayep; Bobby Carr; Randall Crowne; Bill Hollister; and Alan O'Neil.

Next there is a four page interview with marc Guggenheim in which he trails the next Spider-Man epic, Character Assassination. Guggenheim says that the story is a widescreen end-of-season spectacular to the first volume of Brand New Day. He promises that many of the plots introduced since the reboot (the Mayoral race and the identity of Menace) will be revealed.

Which is about it, except to note the three pin-up pages. The one of Screwball and the Spider-Man by Chris Bachalo is probably the best. And I never thought I'd be typing that.

General Comments

This book cost five dollars. Five dollars for a 64 page comic with no adds may not seem like too much of a rip off. But this isn't a comic. The thirty-two page recap of Brand New Day is the sort of thing Marvel gives away for free all the time. The interview with Marc Guggenheim told me nothing more than I could have read for free on numerous on-line news sites. This basically leaves us with twenty-two pages of hand book entries for five dollars. As most of the official handbooks gave us sixty-eight pages of entries for four dollars you might see how that rankles. You might see how I could have read this issue and felt as though I had been forced into an alley and relieved of my wallet.

This might just, just, have been worth it if the content had actually been any good. Sadly this isn't the case. The interview is a waste of time, but as it is only four pages I'm willing to let that slide. So let's turn to the handbook entries.

The choice of handbook entries is fairly eclectic. While I can see the point in including an update of Eddie Brock and Harry Osborn as well as entries for the new supporting cast and the new villains, I don't see the point in rehashing every two-bit crook who just happened to be hanging around the Bar with No Name for one panel in one issue. Do we really need profiles of Ramrod, Scorpia or Stiletto? These guys aren't Spider-Man villains by any stretch of the imagination.

But stretching is exactly what they've done to include sufficient profiles to fill the required page count. This just feels like padding, which given the content of the rest of the issue is something of an achievement. Even the text of the handbook entries doesn't really tell us anything we don't already know. In fact in places they tell us less than we know. This Yearbook was published one week after Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #581 (which revealed how Harry returned from the dead), yet the handbook entry says Harry was returned to life by unknown means.

But my dissatisfaction at the handbook is nothing compared to my disappointment at reading the Saga recap. I'm a bit of a continuity buff. I like to know where all the stories fall in relation to one another. I know that stories should rise and fall on their own merits without being burdened by continuity, but let's face facts: who is this comic aimed at? This Yearbook isn't going to be picked up by the casual reader. It's going to be picked up by the fan, by the completist or - at the very least - by someone who has already read the issues it covers. Therefore, if you're going to include a chronology of continuity then you better make sure it's accurate. Well, this isn't accurate. It isn't even close.

First of all, it omits all of Spider-Man's appearances in New Avengers. I realise that the continuity between the two books has been a minefield since Brand New Day, but that's precisely the reason I'd want to see it covered by a project like this. This omission immediately puts me on my guard.

The bulk of this section retells Amazing Spider-Man #546 to 580. You'd think that these stories would at least be in the right order, right? Wrong. The narrative has #574 happening after #580. Which frankly doesn't make a lick of sense. A far greater problem is what it does to Secret Invasion.

The chronology places both Secret Invasion and the Secret Invasion: The Amazing Spider-Man mini inbetween ASM #567 and #568 - i.e. after the end of Kraven's First Hunt and before New Ways to Die. That simply cannot be the case.

In New Ways to Die Spidey is hunted by the Thunderbolts: comprising of Songbird, the Radioactive Man, Venom and Bullseye. As soon as Secret Invasion finished, the Thunderbolts disintegrated. The Radioactive Man was sent back to China and Osborn got Bullseye to kill Songbird (she escaped, incidentally). Shortly after that the Thunderbolts were officially disbanded and Osborn moved the members over to the Dark Avengers. There's absolutely no room for New Ways to Die unless it takes place before Secret Invasion, which of course it must.

In fact it's plainly spelt out in Secret Invasion: The Amazing Spider-Man #1 that the story there takes place after New Ways to Die. A newspaper headline clearly refers to Osborn's endorsement of Randall Crowne in the electoral race.

To my mind a better place for Secret Invasion would be between ASM #577 and #578. It has to take place before Character Assassination because Vin is still sharing an apartment with Peter during the Skrull attack on New York, and because Secret Invasion: The Amazing Spider-Man takes place before the election. Of course, that means that Annual #35 has to take place after ASM #577 as well, but that doesn't cause any continuity problems.

Now, to be fair, the placing of Swing Shift, the stories from Amazing Spider-Man Extra #1 and from Ms Marvel Annual #1 seem to fit perfectly. And to be fair there may have been some editorial interference or last minute substitution of filler issues that affected the chronology. However, judging it solely on the finished article, this is a poor effort by Marvel.

Overall Rating

Even if the Saga recap was accurate, this would still have been nothing more than an overpriced novelty item. As it stands, this a pointless piece of poorly researched rubbish. Let's call it one web on the strength of some useful material in the handbook entries.

 Posted: 2009
 Staff: Neil McClean (E-Mail)