Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson have been kidnapped! Worse still, the kidnappers are replaying a 3D version of Jonah's entire life... complete with his tangled history with Spidey, which goes without saying is complicated at best. The story begins with Jonah being left with an uncle and aunt as a small boy, then begins down the road into his journalism; the birth of his son juxtaposed with the tragic death of his wife; his feud with Spider-Man, and so on.
The pair is then set upon by a gang of Jonah's worst mistakes: the Scorpion, the Spider-Slayer (the Ditko one!), and some fly-creatures. They aren't real, of course (except for Scorpion), but rather are simulacra devised by stalwart X-villain Arcade, who is enacting the whole affair, but who reality has been hired by a mysterious third party. A third party who makes BIG entrance at the end of the issue...
First and foremost: Spider-Man isn’t the star of this story. J. Jonah Jameson is. Spidey is along for the ride, but really, this issue is all about Jonah being confronted by his past sins. It isn’t a subtle metaphor in the least; in fact, it’s so derivative of the Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that writer Nick Spencer can’t help but have Spidey obliquely point that out in the story. But here’s the thing: admitting that you’re cribbing from another story doesn’t make the cribbing any more acceptable. If anything, drawing a big neon arrow to it actually makes it all the worse.
All of which is to say: this issue isn’t necessarily a bad story, just an apologetically unoriginal one. And that doesn’t mean it’s a total waste. Sometimes an exposition dump of where a character has been serves as a great reminder as to who they are, and what motivates them, and that’s certainly true here for Jameson. Older Spider-Fans will remember that J0nah’s hatred for Spidey stems from an inner knowledge that he’ll never be the hero Spidey is. I’m not quite sure when the tragic and random murder of his first wife came into play as a part of his backstory, but I like the layer it adds to Jonah’s psyche. He doesn’t just feel impotent in the face of true heroes – he feels shame that he failed to protect his wife.
Additionally, Spidey and Jameson’s chemistry is as spot-on as ever in Spencer’s hands, and the story itself serves as a passable second-act installment. After last issue’s fun start, I’ll be content if the next issue wraps this tale up.
On the art side, I have to admit I’m pretty disappointed with Ryan Ottley’s output – or lack thereof – in this issue. I realize it’s a trope for flashback sequences in comic and other media to take place in a white limbo, but in practice all it really translates to is Ottley has less to draw, which means he can get away with some very threadbare pages:
Speaking strictly from a craft standpoint, the above page couldn’t have taken more than ten or fifteen minutes to draw. It may be a flashback limbo, but that doesn’t mean it has to look dull. And a good half of this issue is full of pages just like it. The cover, too, suffers from being a generic image that fails to really do anything interesting. I’m not sure if maybe Ottley was pressed for time on this issue, but the end result certainly gives that impression.
After a great set-up last issue, this issue unfortunately feels all too rote, despite some solid character beats. Spencer and Ottley are capable of so much more; that said, it isn't wholly bad, either - it just doesn't feel like anything readers haven't seen countless times before.
Amazing Spider-Man #12 (LGY #813) – J. Jonah Jameson, This is Your Life!
Writing - 6/106/10
Storyline - 4/104/10
Art - 4/104/10
Color - 6/106/10
Cover Art - 5/105/10
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