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Untangled Web - Part 1

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Well folks, it’s been pretty dark days as of late for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. Retcons, resurrections… it’s come to the point where your average Joe Spidey fan can’t even tell who’s alive or dead in the Spiderverse and whether or not ol’ Peter’s packing the mechanical webshooters from the days of yore or those fancy organic ones bestowed upon our hero by Sam Raimi or some elderly gentleman named Ezekiel.

Fret not, true believers. A Brand New Day is dawning and we here at Broken Frontier are dedicated to untangling the web of confusion that’s been spun around the Spider books. They’ll be publishing three times a month and so will we, returning each week for an in-depth look at the ongoing saga of Peter Parker. So sit back for the premiere chapter of Untangled Web.

First thing’s first: What the heck is going on?

In case your New Year’s resolution of 2007 was to avoid the Internet and you’re just joining us, let me welcome you back to the fold of anonymous nerdiness and get you up to speed. Spider-Man’s world has just been rocked to its core. Like, for real this time! Starting with the events of Civil War #2, Peter Parker unmasked to the world in an attempt to bolster the pro-registration position and lure in defectors from Captain America’s rebels. Yadda, yadda, yadda, Peter realized he’d made a grave mistake sometime around the unveiling of the Negative Zone prison and jumped ship, only to see his Aunt May gunned down by a sniper sent from the now missing Kingpin, that lovable oaf Wilson Fisk.

Aunt May’s condition worsened as Peter scoured the Marvel Universe for help. Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, even Doctor Octopus turned away the webhead before Mephisto, the 616 version of Satan, popped up with a proposition: all memories of Peter’s marriage in exchange for Skeletor… I mean Aunt May’s… life.

Long story short, Mary Jane made the decision for Peter and at the stroke of midnight their marriage was erased. However, that wasn’t all MJ wanted. We know for sure that she asked that Peter’s identity be wiped from people’s minds, but afterward she made a couple of requests just out of earshot in a Lost in Translation moment that has left fans baffled, angered, then baffled again.

Here’s what we do know. Absolutely no-one knows that Spider-Man is actually puny Peter Parker. Not Eddie Brock, not Johnny Storm, not Wolverine, not even Iron Man. In fact, people remember Spidey unmasking during Civil War, but what they can’t seem to remember is who exactly was under the mask.

No more organic webshooters! That’s right, the powers Peter gained in The Other crossover are no more. He’s back to basics.

Harry Osborn is back. Despite having died fifteen years ago, Harry is shown at the end of One More Day back from a European rehab clinic with a new lady friend on his arm. It’s been confirmed that he’s now been married multiple times instead of just once to Liz Allen, and Spider-Editor Steve Wacker recently announced that the status of Liz and Harry’s son, Normie, will eventually be revealed.

Whether Harry’s father, the original Green Goblin, recalls his son’s death is still up in the air. What is for sure is that Harry has no recollection of being the Green Goblin but for some reason Peter still does and doesn’t really seem to care. I guess he got over that time Harry had robots pretend to be Pete’s parents and then die in his arms. Actually, Harry did that from beyond the grave so maybe…. Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

No one remembers that MJ and Peter were married. Marvel Editor Joe Quesada said that every Spider-Man story of the last twenty years still took place, they just took place with Mary Jane not wearing a ring. Ok, sure, that makes perfect sense. Look, guys, don’t blame me, I’m just trying to sort things out.

Next week we’ll discuss more of the sweeping changes that have been dealt to the Spiderverse but until then, let’s look at the first issue of Brand New Day which just hit newsstands this past Wednesday.

The so-called Spider-Brains Trust that’s been handed the reins of the wall-crawler’s book has one of the most unenviable starting points of any group of writers in Amazing’s glorious history: the fallout from One More Day. Let’s not mince words here, the general consensus is that One More Day would’ve been better if they just gave a bunch of kindergarteners some construction paper and markers and told them to let loose. In fact, an epic crossover about Peter Parker punching babies probably would have gone over better. In case you didn’t read my review, the final installment of that sequential art disaster left me curled in the fetal position, my grip tightening over the neck of my Spider-Ham plush doll.

So with that in mind, I think you need to cut the first issue of Brand New Day some slack. It’s not earth-shattering by any means, but it’s certainly a good Spider-Man story in the vein of the first 200 or so issues of Amazing. However, let’s say you haven’t been reading comics for more than two decades. If so, this issue reads like a really good episode of the underrated 90s Spider-Man cartoon.

There’s some goofiness and ridiculous voiceovers - yes, the dreaded thought balloons from Bendis’ Mighty Avengers creep up here – but, all in all, writer Dan Slott cuts to the core of the character, or at the very least, what the core of the character was some twenty-odd years ago. So if you’re willing to bury the rage from OMD down deep inside where it can fester and explode at some distant point in the future, you may actually end up enjoying Brand New Day.

The general thrust of the story involves Peter apartment/job hunting. Dan Slott, co-writer of the excellent Avengers: The Initiative, really nails the humor of Pete’s world and it’s pretty apparent that this is the book he was destined to script. Peter never dons the Spider-suit even once and yet I’m never even remotely bored. Slott fills this world with a love and enthusiasm that leaps off the page.

And remember Steve McNiven? He drew that little thing called Civil War? Well he’s back and surprise, surprise, this book looks awesome. If you wanted to see the man who drew Cap come to blows with Iron Man pencil Peter and Aunt May in a soup kitchen then now’s your chance. Despite the fact that there’s very little action in the issue, just a small chase involving a mugger, McNiven’s pencils look amazing.

However, a couple of "extra" stories don’t fare as well. One introduces Jackpot, the latest star of the Initiative who is most likely Mary Jane. I’m hoping this is a red herring, but even if it’s not, this was a pretty lame introduction for a character that makes Lady Octopus, Stinger and even Spidercide look positively radical. No thanks, Marvel. I’ll keep holding out for the return of Delilah.

Then there’s a quick update on the status quo of Spider-Man, but why would you bother with that when you have Broken Frontier to guide you? However, we’re not blessed with the art of John Romita Jr. We will be one day but not today.

Oh, and then there’s a laughably bad short involving Aunt May in the aforementioned soup kitchen and guess what? She runs into a walking urban stereotype! UH-OH! Cue the hyjinx music. Watch as May confuses cocaine with mythical white dragons! This one almost returned me to that all too familiar fetal position.

Surprisingly, the best of the shorter stories involves Harry Osborn. I was quite against his resurrection but man, if the Spider-trust can write him this well I don’t care what kind of ridiculous logic was used to bring him back. Osborn’s voice is captured perfectly here, and with the recent hint dropped in the Thunderbolts’ letter page that Stormin’ Norman’s team of crazed villains may pop up in Amazing sometime during the next year, I’ll be watching the younger Osborn very carefully.

Basically, if you overlook the mostly poor performance of the backup stories and focus on the fairly promising main feature, you can almost bring yourself to enjoy Brand New Day. All you have to do is try and forget the disgusting means of getting Spidey to this point. And try and avoid humming Sting’s Brand New Day while reading. That’s a pretty dreadful song.

Well that’s all the time we have for Untangled Web. Come back next week as we look at the shocking final page of this week’s issue and discuss what’s still to come. And feel free to discuss Spider-Man, me, Spider-Ham or whatever comes to mind on our message boards : we’re open to suggestions.

Hope to see you in seven.

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