Amazing Spider-Man #544
“One More Day, Part 1”
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Joe Quesada
Inks: Danny Miki
Colors: Richard Isanove
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: Joe Quesada/Marko Djurdjevic
Editor: Axel Alonso
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99 US/$4.75 CAN
Marvel gets its big Spider-Man event of 2007 underway with this issue of Amazing Spidey. There’s a problem, though… it seems as though this storyline has been underway for some time already. Writer J. Michael Straczynski fails to advance the plot in any meaningful way, making for a frustrating read for those who have been following the series. Straczynski and Marvel editorial seem far too focused on trying to make this Spider-Man story as plausible as possible, and that drive for realism just isn’t necessary. Quesada’s exaggerated approach to the artwork doesn’t suit the grounded tone for which the writer strives. He handles the larger-than-life qualities of super-heroes well, but when it comes to portraying the emotional turmoil of people rather than super-people, his effort falls flat.
While Peter and Mary Jane have found some help from a sympathetic soul, hiding the comatose Aunt May in a hospital under a false name with no means to pay for her treatment isn’t exactly a rock-solid plan. Peter has to find a way to pay for the hospital stay, and that means facing off against a former-friend-turned-enemy who just happens to have cash to spare. While that confrontation leads to personal peril, what’s causing Peter Parker even greater pain is the reality that his beloved aunt might never recover, that her death is an inevitability.
Here’s a question: is Joe Quesada still a big name when it comes to comic art? In the 1990s, his work was definitely sought after, by editors and fans alike, be it his earlier work such as Ninjak and Batman: Sword of Azrael. His work on Daredevil and management of the Marvel Knights line firmly established him as a major influencing factor in the comic-book industry. But aside from some covers and the occasional uber-late special project (*cough* Daredevil: Father *cough*), Quesada-as-creator has been something of an elusive creature. His contribution to one of Marvel’s flagship books and for a major event such as “One More Day” is significant. This will serve as his introduction as an interior comic artist to many newer readers or readers who left comics behind for a time in the early 1990s.
Quesada’s pencils here put me in mind of the style of Todd (Spawn) McFarlane and his various imitators. There’s an elongated quality to the figures and character’s faces, and exaggeration seems to be the defining characteristic here. That makes for a visual punch in the more extreme scenes, such as the super-hero fight scene and Peter’s web-gasm defence. But the focus here is on Peter’s personal plight and the ailing May Parker. Exaggeration works against the down-to-earth tone of those scenes. Look at the panels here from Peter’s conversation with May’s new physician. What’s going on with Peter’s jawbone (or is it a cheekbone) in the first panel? And how is he able to run in the next panel on what appears to be a broken leg? I admit these are minor details in a super-hero book, but they distract from the story all the same.
When I heard of the increased cover price for this key issue, I expected that the creators were offering extra pages of story and art, a longer-than-usual episode from the title character’s adventures. That didn’t prove to be the case. The main story is limited to 24 pages, and the rest of the book is filled with the customary ads and a bunch of “bonus” material, such as a Spidey profile/history, a costume retrospective and a look at how Quesada and company craft a page of comic art. On top of that, several pages of the main story were reproduced from one of Marvel’s contributions to this year’s Free Comic Book Day. Not only did I feel I didn’t get much value for the extra buck, but I was left with the impression that Marvel was trying to recoup expenses from that promotional effort. At the very least, it seemed as though the publisher is just trying to squeeze some extra cash out of what will no doubt be a popular event comic.
Straczynski handles the emotional turmoil that Peter and Mary Jane experience in this story quite well. The sadness, desperation and anger are palpable, and it all rings true. Peter’s choice to confront someone who poses him a major threat while also asking for help might have made more sense had he opted to do so earlier, but the faceoff provides a climactic closure for what was an important relationship in the title character’s life in the past year. The stress in the Parkers’ lives is clearly having a profound effect on MJ and Peter’s marriage. Aunt May’s potential demise really doesn’t hold my interest; she’s been ancient and fragile for years. But matrimonial strife… that’s territory that Marvel hasn’t mapped out quite so much.
The script here seems to go out of its way to address the logistics of what Peter’s trying to do to ensure May’s survival. Straczynski tries to cover every angle in an effort to convince the reader of the possibility of such an implausible circumstance. He balances real-world credibility with an effort to address continuity. Marvel Universe money is addressed here, and in the next chapter in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #24, Marvel medical miracles will apparently brought to the forefront. But here’s the catch: I don’t care. Just tell the story. This is a super-hero story. The readers will be able to overlook plot holes, or at least get past them. They will, as long as the storytelling is compelling and entertaining. We’ve been reading about May’s impending death and Peter’s desperate bid to hold his crumbling life together for months.
It’s not holding my interest anymore. 4/10