As a great man once said, “It don’t matter THAT the wind be blowin’, it matter WHAT the wind be blowin’.” This same gem of wisdom can be applied to storytelling – it doesn’t so much matter what story you’re telling (quality of content is purely subjective), it matters how you’re telling it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of great things about AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #679.1 – but it all falls flat in the execution.
Content wise, the latest issue of Spidey has a lot of things I’m pretty interested in. A top secret science experiment that winds up being spear headed by a vampire, a boy genius monster movie horrorphile who has spent his entire life creating a line of defence against B-movie baddies, and Spider-man in a fight with both of the previously described while wielding UV light swords and grenades. But the pacing is dead slow (which is shocking – honestly, compared to a lot of contemporary super hero books, A LOT of stuff happens in this issue) the character voices often fall flat, and the story beats often verge on nonsense. Peter’s fluffy moustache boss derides Spider-man for creating a mess of his awesome laboratory and creating a commotion – this is coming from the guy who was feeding Morbius the Living Vampire synthetic blood in a secret underground lab while keeping his fingers crossed that nothing would go wrong.
The art in this book is really great rendering wise – it’s strong penciling with some really dynamic posing and memorable sci fi equipment and set pieces. Acting wise, the characters are very expressive – except their expressions rarely match what the story is calling for, and that’s a problem. Uatu describes himself as having the best day of his life, while looking solemn and hiding in the shadows – I’m not calling for skipping and toothy grins, but a little bit of the vitality one carries on the best day of their lives is called for. Sometimes the flow of the storytelling is a bit underwhelming, and panels can get cramped – however, certain memorable scenes where the composition really opens up make up for it.
I don’t mean to sound so negative and nitpicky – because in fact, as part of Marvel’s POINT ONE initiative, I think this issue does a lot right. It lays down the key players of Peter’s new supporting cast (anybody trying out a .1 book knows JJJ, MJ, Harry and the rest…so why bother?) it establishes some mainstays like the Parker luck, Spidey’s quipping and the light hearted nature of Slott’s take on the series (though Yost’s jokes don’t get a big a laugh as most of Slott’s), fun action scenes, and it’s even a self contained story that also sets up larger moments certain to come up later in the series. The way it fails as a .1 issue is that it’s not that memorable or entertaining, despite having so much potential to be so.
At the end of the day, if you’re trying to get a friend interested in ASM, give ‘em the rollicking time travel two parter Slott and Ramos just wrapped up in the issues previous to this one – it’s got everything you’d want from a superhero book, and more importantly showcases everything that makes Spider-man unique as a character. 679.1 has some great ideas poorly executed, solid rendering, decent introductory elements to the current Spider-man mythology, and one helluva fun, iconic cover – but your precious 2.99 is better spent elsewhere.