Amazing Spider-Man #601
“Red-Headed Stranger: No Place Like Home”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Mario Alberti
Colors: Andres Mossa
Letters: Virtual Calligraphy
“The Best Version of Myself”
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Joe Quesada
Colors: Morry Hollowell
Letters: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover artists: J. Scott Campbell/John Romita Sr. (variant cover)
Editor: Stephen Wacker
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $2.99 US
The good news is that this comic (still priced at $2.99, whew!) is a good value, featuring two decent Spidey stories by two writers who clearly understand the character. The bad news… well, let’s say that that there are some aspects of each story that either interfere with either the traditions the writers are working to uphold or ignore established character elements. When these creators hit the mark, the reader will himself or herself immersed in some entertaining, strong Spider-Man storytelling, but s/he’ll also find distractions that one of two minds about this comic book.
“No Place Like Home”: After indulging in a few too many drinks at his aunt’s wedding reception, Peter Parker wakes up beside a beautiful woman, and it leads to a personal nightmare. Pete’s forced to hit the streets to find a new place to crash, and he’s denied at every turn. If that weren’t enough of a headache, he’s also got to make it to a date with Mary Jane Watson, the one that got away. The problem is that thanks to last night’s booze, he can’t remember where or where the date is.
OK, the first problem with this comic is the regular cover, which is meant to reflect the content of the main story. Wow, where do I start? With MJ’s decision to bring her arms together to thrust out her tits to no one in particular? Or how about that lovelorn look as she pines away for her man? She wears his face, keeps mementos all around her. J. Scott Campbell’s cover art suggests that she’s defined her entire life for her feelings for a man. She is defined by someone else, and that’s not a vision of strong woman.
On top of that, the issues with our hero in bed with a woman he barely knows because they both got drunk. Yes, it happens. Yes, it definitely happens at wedding receptions. So yes, it reflects a certain reality. But this is a Spider-Man comic. It feels… out of place. Furthermore, the notion that Peter would get that drunk at Aunt May’s wedding reception seems out of character. It makes a certain kind of sense, given that MJ’s sudden re-appearance back in Peter’s life. But Peter Parker, despite his flaws and problems, is meant to be, above all, a truly decent guy, and his behavior doesn’t seem that way.
Mind you, what follows the aftermath of his one-night stand is classic Spidey/Peter. His desperate search for a place to stay is quite relatable, amusing and just the kind of mundane “tragedy” that defines his life. There’s a definite sense of fun in his travels around the city, especially as Spidey, and I enjoyed how his good deeds provide the perfect escape from his problems. It’s also great to see Jameson still railing against his webslinging nemesis from the mayor’s office (with limited success). Of course, the respect for the traditions of Spider-Man is tempered by the promise of a new character-driven storyline. How he and MJ interact and deal with this awkward reunion is another believable, relatable element that’s more interesting and more grounded than the others.
What’s really striking about the main story is the artwork by Mario Alberti. His style is generally photorealistic in tone, which isn’t something one would associate with classic Spider-Man storytelling. He brings a simpler, brighter tone to play in his depictions of the title character in action. I also love the sticky, organic look he’s devised for Spidey’s webbing.
“Best Version”: Brian Michael Bendis picks up on a plot thread he began in New Avengers in which he revealed that Jessica Jones went to the same high school as Peter Parker and even had a crush on him. Here, Jessica and Peter discuss how much his masked identity meant to her as well. It’s a touching story, and I like that Bendis is developing the friendship between these two characters. Unfortunately, their talk doesn’t really make sense given Jessica’s history as a character. She thanks Peter for inspiring her to become a super-hero, but in Bendis’s Alias, we saw that that life eventually led her to become the victim of a sadistic, controlling criminal. Jessica’s life is back on track now, but it seems like this script ignores the tragedy that defined her life for so long. Furthermore, for the segment to resonante properly, one has to ignore the notion that Peter encourages a new mother to endanger her life as a way to set a good example for her daughter, which doesn’t quite seem right.
Quesada’s work here represents some of the strongest storytelling we’ve seen from him in recent memory. While it’s a bit too dark for the heartening tone of the script, it’s clear and not as exaggerated as his super-hero art usually appears to be. Quesada seems to adopt a Steve McNiven influence for this short story, and the more realistic approach is in keeping with the personal tone of the story. I also enjoyed the incorporation of a single Steve Ditko panel from a Silver Age Amazing Spider-Man, and how Quesada bridges the gap between then and now. 6/10
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