ďMr Parker Goes to Washington: Part twoĒ
Writer: J. Michael Stracynski
Artists: Tyler Kirkham (p), Jay Leisten (i), John Starr (colours)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
The Civil War bandwagon rolls on with this middle issue of JMSí Amazing Spider-Man tie-in, and whilst thereís not a huge amount of action to be found between the covers, itís a solid enough set-up of the central premise of Marvelís big summer event. Whether this set-up belongs in one of Marvelís flagship titles is up for debate, however, and anyone buying this issue in the hope of a focussed story about Spider-Man or an exploration of the aftermath of the hastily-forgotten "The Other" will be disappointed. The issue presents Tony Stark and Peter Parker's journey to Washington to put forward a case against the registration of Super-heroes, and itís an interesting exploration of exactly why a government might want to have a tighter control on their countryís super-powered population. Marvel seems to be going to great lengths to bolster the pro-registration side of the argument (as most readers will invariably tend to see things from the heroesí point of view, and oppose the tighter controls), and itís essential to make sure that both sides of the divide have legitimate reasoning to back up their political affiliation if the event is to be more than an empty excuse to have heroes go to war with one another. However, itís unclear whether Tony Stark really wants to dissuade the committee from making the act law, as other comics such as the recent New Avengers Illuminati Special show that heís resigned to the fact that such a register will have to come into force sooner or later. Itís a further step towards the characterisation of Tony as a duplicitous, scheming and untrustworthy hero, and I canít see that itís really going to do Iron Man or his cause any good in the long-term.
This issueís penciller Tyler Kirkham is a name which is new to me, and he appears here courtesy of Top Cow comics thanks to a deal with the company which was recently sealed by Marvel. I canít say that I find his art style as offensive as some fans seem to, and save for a few inconsistencies (Peter himself looks so young that heís more like his Ultimate counterpart than the grown-up Spidey of today) itís a very strong effort which is kept traditionally colourful and as visually exciting as possible by the inker and colourist. Of course, thereís only so much you can do when your script is dominated by talking-heads sequences and your storyline revolves around a senate hearing, but the few action sequences which are provided are carried off well. Kirkham also does well with the scene in which Spidey gets used to ďIron Spidey mk.2,Ē a modification of Starkís original design which allows the new red-and-yellow suit to become as chameleonic as the Venom symbiote, changing its appearance, disappearing at will, and reacting to Peterís mental commands via an extra set of metal limbs (no jokes about a third leg, please). Itís not a particularly funny sequence, but Kirkham wrings some humour out of it with some fun slapstick which is cartoony without sacrificing too much in the way of realism.
Truth be told, this feels more like an Iron Man story with a Spider-Man guest-appearance than it does a book about Peter Parker, right down to the apparently arbitrary appearance of the Titanium Man as the issueís villain du jour. To give him his dues, JMS does do his best to give us Spideyís point of view whenever possible Ė making the most of Peterís voice during the committee hearing on the superhero registration act - but thereís a definite feeling that his hands are somewhat tied by the (presumably) editorially-mandated plotting. This issue also provides a liberal sprinkling of Stracynski-brand humour, which can provoke wildly varying reactions in me dependent upon how well itís integrated into his comics. Sadly, this time round itís a misfire, and as his ďeditorsĒ bicker away in caption boxes it only serves to detract from the real meat of the story and to cheapen what should be a fairly serious storyline, if the rumoured scale of the forthcoming Civil War is to be believed. Where the book goes next is anyoneís guess, but with Civil War still a month away, itís fair to assume that the final issue of this three-part arc will play into the opening of Marvelís summer event in a fairly big way. Whilst thereís nothing wrong with maintaining a cohesive universe, this story seems to have been plonked into Spider-Manís monthly for no other reason than to hook Spidey-fans into this yearís big summer event, but Iíd be surprised if anyone was convinced to buy into it solely on the strength of the pretty weak story here.
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