Current Reviews


Amazing Spider-Man #501

Posted: Friday, November 28, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: John Romita Jr (p), Scott Hanna (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

As Spider-Man deals with a villain who has stolen a suit of armor that is capable of generating highly destructive vibration waves, we see the battle requires Spider-Man to outthink his opponent before the villain can destroy half the city. Meanwhile, Aunt May goes about her day, and we see she has taken to sharing her concerns about Peter's dangerous life with her dearly departed husband, as she pays a visit to the grave of Uncle Ben.

I liked the idea that Peter had to call upon his scientific knowledge to eventually defeat the villain, and the art does a pretty solid job of making the villain's power visually impressive, so there are moments where I was somewhat concerned for Spider-Man's ability to emerge from this battle in one piece. However, the narration that is provided by Aunt May is incredibly cloying, and has me rethinking whether it was a good idea to bring her back from the dead, as it affords J. Michael Straczynski access to a character whose only real role in this series seems to provide overly sentimental, exceptionally long-winded speeches, and groan inducing moments of humor (e.g. Aunt May's victory of the jerk on the cell phone). Still as I said above the battle itself was pretty enjoyable considering Spider-Man's opponent was a generic baddie that has never graced the pages of a comic before, and isn't likely to do so again in the future. The battle also features a fairly impressive display of strength on Spider-Man's part as the scene where he keeps a sizeable chunk of the building from slamming into the crowd below made to a cool little scene, as was the follow-up scene where we see what he does with this debris after he's caught it. Still, when Spider-Man's battle with a nobody baddie is the only part of the issue that I'm finding enjoyable, I start to get a little concerned.

As for the art, I strongly suspect that it's the work of John Romita Jr. that had me enjoying this issue's battle sequence, as the art does a fantastic job presenting the sheer destruction that Spider-Man's opponent is capable of delivering, and there's some great impact shots in this issue. From the opening shot of the battle where we see Spider-Man slamming into the villain, to the sequence where Spider-Man uses the mountain of debris as a villain swatter, John Romita Jr. turns in a great looking battle. Now the visual design of the villain was a bit generic but I got the sense that this was intentional, as the suit wasn't really designed to be a super-villain costume, and as such it would've been hard to accept a cool looking visual design. Also while I found the character a bit annoying in this issue, John Romita Jr is getting better at making Aunt May look like a real person, and not the hideous troll like creature she appeared as in the early issues after her return from the dead.

Final Word:
A fairly entertaining battle that offers up a villain with a visually striking ability to generate massive amounts of property damage, and it's nice to see Spider-Man's scientific knowledge plays a role in the battle's conclusion. However, the rest of the issue is not exactly my cup of tea, as J. Michael Straczynski has decided to use Aunt May as this issue's narrator, and frankly the character comes across as the mother hen that I had hoped today's writer's had moved past. I mean I realize that it's natural that she would be concerned about Peter, especially in light of her discovery that he's Spider-Man, but this issue has her treating this new discovery as simply an extension of her previous concerns about Peter leaving the house without a sweater to drive away the sniffles, or without that extra helping of her hot-cakes to get him through the day. It also doesn't help that J. Michael Straczynski's sense of humor tends to prefer the most obvious jokes, and he feels justified in wasting two pages of the issue on a lame joke involving Aunt May and a rude man talking on his cell phone.

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