Amazing Spider-Man #11 (LGY #812)
Peter Parker is still adjusting to life beyond Parker Industries. He's bone-broke, forced to have to split an apartment with roommates, and recently fired from the Daily Bugle for about the 500th time. Oh, and there's that business with former (kinda) Kingpin of Crime being the mayor of New York. But he does have one thing going for him:
J. Jonah Jameson is his new best friend.
Ever since Peter revealed his identity to ol' J.J.J. during Chip Zdarsky's criminally-underread Spectacular Spider-Man run, Jonah has been working overtime on his new platform as a talk radio host to push the agenda that, no, Spidey is one of the GOOD GUYS, and since J. Jonah Jameson is never wrong, this is a FACT, okay?!
Having Jonah for a friend is almost as bad as having him for an enemy: he's still pushy, opinionated, self-aggrandizing, and frankly an egomaniac - all of which cause him to announce publicly that Spider-Man will be there with him as he receives a high-profile public service award.
...Without consulting Spidey first. Naturally, Spider-Man has a problem with this, compounded by the fact that the award will be presented by Wilson Fisk himself:
It doesn't take long for the entire thing to be proven an elaborate ruse, though: first, old-school Spidey villains the Enforcers show up, sucker-punching our hero into oblivion, then, he and Jonah awaken in an elaborate "this-is-your-life, Jonah!" deathtrap furnished by none other than stalwart X-Men villain Arcade!
Writer Nick Spencer may have the perfect approach to writing Spider-Man in the post-Dan Slott era: take the character back to basics, but tweak it enough to make it feel fresh again. It might be a bit (okay, a LOT) of a leap in logic for Peter Parker to go from being the Marvel Universe’s nu-Tony Stark to yet again reverting to a down-on-his-luck hangdog, but there’s something to be said about a character’s natural default state being like comfort food.
To that end, lo and behold, we have the heel turn and sorta-redemption of one J. Jonah Jameson. Although Spencer was gifted this characterization prize by the aforementioned Zdarsky, he proves in just this one issue that he knows exactly how to write the hell out of it. For better or worse, Jonah is just Jonah no matter what heated argument he’s waging: loud, brash, and bullheaded, even as Spider-Man’s new best friend.
(Bonus: it’s impossible not to read his dialogue in J.K. Simmons’ voice.)
Though this was a lightweight book plot-wise, the real drive is the tension between Peter and Jonah as they attempt negotiate the dynamics of their new relationship. Characterization is the fulcrum upon which any great story should rest – I’m a firm believer that no matter how epic or original a plot, it’s ultimately hollow without three-dimensional characters to anchor it. That said, these characters need a little more to actually DO in this issue. There’s a lot of table-setting for the remainder of the arc, but that’s about it.
The art is kinetic and bouncy but a bit rushed-looking in places; I’d also like to see Ottley put a little more work into the backgrounds of his panels. Too often, there’s nothing at all, which lends to the notion that the art was rushed.
As an aside, it is interesting to see the Enforcers get a modernized visual facelift that feels natural, rather than a sad attempt at making such charmingly dated characters seem “cool” in the zeitgeist. The updates are generally subtle, but give the trio a more modern look while still retaining their ’60s Ditko essence. Ottley clearly has an eye for character design, and I’d like to see more of it in future issues.
With a character-driven story that gets to the heart of the Spidey/J. Jonah Jameson dynamic, Nick Spencer is definitely onto something - he just needs to beef up his plots a little more. There's nothing wrong with a lighter touch, storytelling-wise, but a truly great comic should feel like a meal, rather than a snack. This issue is fun, but the plot is too fluffy to be anything more than the comic equivalent of a popcorn flick.
Amazing Spider-Man #11 (LGY #812) – With Frenemies Like This…
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 6/106/10
- Art - 6/106/10
- Color - 7/107/10
- Cover Art - 7/107/10
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