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    Review: Amazing Spider-Man #659

    By | April 29th, 2011
    Posted in Reviews | % Comments

    Written by Dan Slott and Fred Van Lente
    Penciled by Stefano Caselli


    (That’s the actual solicitation according to Marvel.com, but, um, I don’t know, I guess the cover more or less says it all? Like, Spider-Man is a member of the Future Foundation, and they’re doing Future Foundation stuff. Also, other characters do other things. And per the banner on top, yes, there is apparently a road to Spider-Island, although one would think that that would require some kind of bridge, because, I mean, it’s an island. -Patrick)

    In this issue of FF, the guest-starring Spider-Man — I mean, wait, no, let me start again. After the jump.

    Last issue in Amazing Spider-Man, his involvement in the newest stage of the Fantastic Four — the “Future Foundation,” what with the now-dead-or-whatever Johnny Storm having apparently been the secret ingredient with regard to being fantastic — was elaborated upon and some cute moments were had by all. This issue, well, we get more of it, it’s just that the cute moments are interspersed with more fighting. Still, this issue isn’t so much about Spider-Man himself; it’s about the Future Foundation, with a vague but not all-encompassing emphasis on how Spider-Man slots into the group.

    The idea of “how Spider-Man slots into the group” would be more compelling, by the way, if the role was more than Spider-Man’s role in any group-heroics dynamic, which is “mouth off a lot; occasionally remind everyone that he’s pretty smart.” The Thing makes a ton of wisecracks on his own; Reed Richards is go-to science guy; the Invisible Woman is already a great exemplar of great responsibility. So why does Spider-Man fit uniquely into the group? To be honest, I don’t really know, and this issue of Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t do much to tell me. The story is interesting enough, and the banter between the group is pretty fun, but there’s nothing in here that convinces me that using this space for Future Foundation adventures is vital, the way that last issue’s moment about costumes sort of took a stab at. Not every issue has to have a profound point, especially in the realm of Marvel Super-Heroes, but c’mon, if I paid for an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, I shouldn’t be going “so this has what to do with the other plotlines in the book…?”

    As it turns out, though, Spidey being off with the Future Foundation gives Peter Parker’s girlfriend, forensic scientist Carlie Cooper, an excuse to stew over her discovery that Peter’s been lying to her about what he does with his free time. First off, let’s consider the problems inherent in trying to keep a girlfriend who works as a forensic scientist ignorant of a whole half of your life; her whole thing is to put together tiny details and extrapolate situations from them. As dumb as that is of Peter, though, this issue Carlie pretty much proves herself even dumber. While drinking off her anger with her roller-derby friends, she gets a Green Goblin tattoo. Okay, yes, there’s probably a cool moment to come from that later. But if I was so drunk as to go into a tattoo parlor and insist on getting a Latin Kings tattoo across my stomach (bear in mind: like most people who write about comics on the internet, I am so white that I can be used to light caves), I like to think the tattoo artist would go “Well, I realize you’re mad at someone who dislikes the Latin Kings, but no, that is the stupidest idea ever.”

    Carlie’s already got a lot going against her — hers is an uphill battle toward acceptance, just because she’s not Mary Jane. I was never that down on her, but stuff like the tattoo scene this issue is not the way to sell her to the more staunchly disbelieving portion of the audience, because it tells us that Peter traded in long-suffering Saint MJ for someone who makes spiteful, stupid decisions when drunk and angry. (Mary Jane, meanwhile, just smoked a lot and checked for grey hairs.) Will this sink Carlie forever? No, of course not. However, she’s far from untouchable yet, and as committed as the creative team appears to be with regard to keeping her in the book, one would think they’d take a bit more care in selling us on her. She’s only been in the book, what, three years? Sure, that’s already a zillion issues thanks to Brand New Day, but still, she’s only been Peter’s steady girlfriend for maybe one. Anyway, I tried to look at this as building to some “with great power comes great responsibility” type lesson, like Peter always has to learn when he does something dumb, but it doesn’t even work on that level. The lesson is just “don’t get gangland tattoos when you’re drunk, dummy,” which I suppose is also important for kids to learn.

    Continued below

    This issue’s art comes from Stefano Caselli, who really is turning in the best work of his career on this Amazing Spider-Man run. It helps especially that for once, colorists aren’t infusing his work with a baffling and perpetual pinkness — it always looked like the comic book equivalent of smearing too much vaseline on a camera lens. His idiosyncratic way of overselling facial expressions works well here, and his action is just as fine. When the main point against someone is that they’re not Marcos Martin, well, there’s not much to complain about, is there? Likewise, Fred Van Lente, pulling guest scripting duties, flows seamlessly with Slott’s solo stuff, keeping the tone of the book consistently playful. The two of them even set up a great cliffhanger, although I’m not sure it’s quite on the level, considering there’s one whole issue to pay it off before the Avengers Academy tie-in.

    Oh, oh, oh, and the back-ups. One of them continues the perfectly acceptable team-up between Spider-Man and Ghost Rider, further establishing Rob Williams’ take on the Spirit of Vengeance leading up to his solo stint on the title this summer. Not bad at all. The other, though, reveals an upcoming villain that gives me vivid flashbacks to 1995, and I’m not sure if that’s for good or for ill yet, but I’m pretty interested in finding out…

    Final Verdict: 6.5 / Buy?

    Patrick Tobin

    Patrick Tobin (American) is likely shaming his journalism professors from the University of Glasgow by writing about comic books. Luckily, he's also written about film for The Drouth and The Directory of World Cinema: Great Britain. He can be reached via e-mail right here.