Current Reviews


Amazing Spider-Man #531

Posted: Monday, May 1, 2006
By: Sam Kirkland

"Mr. Parker Goes to Washington, Part 3 of 3"

Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artist: Tyler Kirkham

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The seeds of Civil War have been planted for the past few months in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) and his new protégé Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man) have gone to Washington, D.C. for an aptly titled three-part storyline, "Mr. Parker Goes to Washington."

Stark and Parker arrive in the nation's capital to attempt to put an end to the Superhuman Registration Act before it gets off the ground by speaking to the committee on superhuman affairs. Writer J. Michael Straczynski surely couldn't spend all 66 pages on congressional talking heads, so an appearance by the Titanium Man provides some necessary action while surprisingly adding another complex layer to Stark's motives.

One part of the story seems particularly problematic, which is yet another case of Spider-Man and Peter Parker both showing up at the same time in a place far away from their usual stomping grounds. It reminds me of the old days (on my 40 Years of Spider-Man CD-ROMs, that is), when Peter Parker would fly to Florida with J. Jonah Jameson, take pictures of Spider-Man, yet still somehow avoid any suspicion that he himself was the webslinger. Here, on the first day of Stark's meetings with the government higher-ups, Peter is right by his side. Soon after, Spider-Man amazingly comes to the rescue when the Titanium Man attacks, and in the next day's meeting, Parker is noticeably absent. However, Spider-Man makes an appearance this time, spouting off the same arguments he had been using as Peter Parker.

Nope. Nothing fishy about that at all.

Tyler Kirkham's art falls into the same traps as recent Spidey artists such as Humberto Ramos and Angel Medina have. His work is slightly angular, lending itself better to the action-oriented scenes than the talking heads ones. Kirkham's strengths clearly lie in the high-flying webslinging. The closed-door meetings are unremarkable, artwise. JMS's use of the Lincoln Memorial makes for a clever touch, but the final page seems to inexplicably contradict the first few pages of Civil War #1.

By far the most interesting part of this storyline has been the continued evolution of Stark and Parker's relationship. Stark is extremely manipulative and cunning as he uses Peter as a pawn to advance his own agenda. His slow conversion from fatherly figure to lying back-stabber has been the greatest strength of Straczynski's lead-in to Civil War and will undoubtedly play a prominent role in the main series. The end-of-the-issue "twist" is telegraphed early in the issue, but any lack of suspense as to the identity of the Titanium Man's employer only enhances the impact of the scene. Stark continues to act with the best of intentions in mind, but everyone knows what they say about the road to hell.

Kirkham's art has some major flaws, making him a bizarre choice for such a high-profile assignment. Still, Straczynski's characterization of both main characters is strong and well worth the price of admission. The writer proves just how far Tony Stark is willing to go to do what he believes is in the best interests of superheroes and the world at large, making Amazing Spider-Man #531 an essential piece of the ever-expanding Civil War puzzle.

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