Amazing Spider-Man #518


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Amazing Spider-Man #518


  • Words: J. Michael Straczynski
  • Art: Mike Deodato and Mark Brooks
  • Inks: Joe Pimentel and Jaime Mendoza
  • Colors: Matt Milla and Brian Reber
  • Story Title: ?Skin Deep? Part 4 of 4
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $2.25
  • Release Date: Mar 23, 2005

Say what you want about J. Michael Straczynski’s recent work on Amazing Spider-Man. Say that it’s wholly unremarkable or at least not as good as his early Spidey tales, but the man is a good writer. He also has a rare talent among Marvel writers these days. He can let Spider-Man just be Spider-Man.

Take this "Skin Deep" story. Yes, yes, yes, comic book fans are going to explode into a nerdacious rage if they hear anyone utter the line about power and responsibility just one more time in reference to your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. But the webhead is a powerful character with a really strong narrative foundation. The best Spider-Man stories have always been in some way about both Spider-Man and Peter Parker. "Skin Deep" is also one of those stories.

It is not, probably one of the great Spidey stories, but it’s a good return to Peter’s roots. Over the course of the story, we have learned that while Peter was often ridiculed in school prior to a certain spider bite, there was an even bigger and more hopeless geek named Charlie around for a while too, and Peter was not always the greatest friend to him. Now they’ve grown up, Charlie is still kind of hopeless but in a way that has proven to be very, very dangerous.

After abusing Peter’s friendship to conduct an experiment, Charlie has accidentally encased his body in Vibranium, an experimental armor that makes him invulnerable. It’s also made him kind of crazy, and he’s convinced Peter has ratted him out to Spider-Man. The story is told in half-flashback, slowly revealing the details of their friendship and Charlie’s mental instability, but it all comes crashing to a finale in this issue.

A certain amount of Spider-Man stories always involve Peter blaming himself for things crazy people do. It’s part of the mythos that this superhuman guy with incredible power often feels guilt over the effect he has on people’s lives. Straczynski makes good use of this device without being too heavy-handed. So while Peter struggles with his own culpability, Spider-Man battles the enemy and everyone wins.

This is pure Spider-Man. Good action. Thoughtful stories with consequences. Some clever quipping, but not so much that you would roll your eyes. I love Bendis-y Spider-Man, too, mind you, and while I chuckle at Spidey’s witty banter in New Avengers, it’s a gimmick not suited to the older more mature Peter Parker. Like I said before, Straczynski just lets Spider-Man be Spider-Man.

That said, JMS has been getting a little cutesy lately. Bruce Campbell’s theater usher movie cameo character made an appearance last issue. This issue MJ and May take refuge at a hotel called Casa Quesada. Oh, boo. And then, to follow that up with Aunt May’s "-at Casa Quesada, housekeeping only comes by once every six months," is just one wink too many in a story that has such serious business afoot.

Artwise, Mike Deodato’s pencils are just plain awesome, as are Matt Milla’s colors. I love the way the eyes on the costume shine in the light. It’s slick and polished. In this arc, the flashbacks have been penciled by Mark Brooks and colored by Brian Reber. The artwork is also good, though its anime influence on the pencils and the newsprint dots instead of shadows don’t quite serve the story the way they ought to. The art style minus these touches is not that different from the regular style of the book. Young pre-spider-bite Peter is also bigger and more musclebound than I’ve ever seen him drawn, and his chiseled jaw is the stuff of legend. It doesn’t fit.

All in all, "Skin Deep" is an interesting arc that is standard Spider-Man storytelling. This final issue delivers just what the rest of the arc promised it would, but it’s not exceptional, save for the final battle which I won’t spoil here but will discuss at great length in the forums with anyone who’s interested. Regular readers will be satisfied, though, and JMS at least weaves an interesting enough tale to keep the webhead on his feet.

-Jesse Vigil

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