It is possible that I was the only one disappointed in the recent run of Amazing Spider-Man #50 – 55 – a total of 11 books including all the ‘.LR’ issues, but I doubt it. What the heck is happening here? Don’t get me wrong, I love a complex story, but this is off the charts. It almost makes me long for the old simple one-book Marvel Team-Up Spider-Man stories (but not quite).
It is easy to see how someone thought this was a good idea – a convergence with the Order of the Web, the Osburn family, MJ, a strong dose of Dr. Strange, a little Black Cat, the Sin-Eater, Morlun, and the big baddie, Kindred. Just about everyone ends up possessed at some point and some folks get killed (maybe, sort of, hard to tell). By the end, it is clear that there is at least one redeeming quality that pleases fans and collectors alike.
More Ink Than Story
The artwork ranges from good (most of the storyline,) to cartoonish (ASM 54.LR,) to great (ASM #55). Of course, my grading of the artwork is completely subjective. But why make significant changes along the way to something that comes out fast and furiously? Maybe it is exactly because there was a flood of books, appearing almost weekly. This made it hard to generate consistent artwork at this pace.
In this run of 11 books, there are a lot of panels and not so much story. It may just have been that I was having a hard time following it. I decided to crack open some random books from the 70s, 80s, and 90s and start counting words. The average word count of that sampling of books, including Amazing Spider-Man #282, was almost 2100 words. That is 133% more than the average script of this run of books (with the exception of #50, which is over-sized and overpriced). Perhaps Marvel thought that if an installment comes more than once a month, there can be less storyline. Not a great idea.
More is Not Always Better
Many of you found a surprising plethora of ASM books waiting for you at your Local Comic Shop. I was initially excited to see the pile of books but have to ask now, was this story worth $46 (issue #50 has a cover price of $5.99)? In this case, more Spiderman has not resulted in a better story or better investment. But what choice did we all have? It isn’t realistic to look at these intervening ‘.LR’ issues and pass. Marvel had us right where they wanted us. That is a pretty hefty price tag, even for the most dynamic and popular title around. Value is, of course, relative to what it is you get; if these were epic stories destined for greatness, perhaps I could feel differently.
I did find it easier to read the two storylines (regular issues and then the ‘.LR’ issues) separately rather than the way they were published. If you struggled, as I did, on your first read, perhaps try and read them in this way for better clarity. It only helped a little though. I still have no idea how some characters are possessed, freed, killed, and reborn. It felt like a lot happened but something got lost from the initial storyboard to the final lettering. Like a kid in front of a wall of Picasso paintings – I do fear that maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe I’m just missing what is great about it. ‘Good’ is fundamentally a matter of what you like and what you appreciate. Sadly, this run of Spider-Man was just disappointing.
The good news is that Amazing Spider-Man #55 is cool. The artwork is fantastic, the story wraps up well, and the cover art is epic. It will be one that we see in slabs and hanging on walls for years to come. If you do not own this book already, it may be too late to find a reasonably priced high-quality copy, but it is worth the effort. It is a book you can enjoy, even without having to try and figure out the ten books that come before. I hope this idea of inserting these additional issues in-between the regular numbered series issues is something that Marvel takes a serious look at stopping, or at least doing better. The simple truth is that Marvel found a way to squeeze double sales out of their raving fans without delivering anywhere near double the value.
I did eventually learn to love Picasso, so maybe this story will grow on me. However, it is hard to imagine growing to love the total price tag or seeing this as an investment (except for Amazing Spider-Man #55). Feel free to cheer me on or steer me back in the right direction. Just don’t test me on where Sin-Eater ends and Kindred begins.