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Amazing Spider-Man #51 By Matt Martin
Marvel Comics – J. Michael Straczynski (w); John Romita, Jr. (p); Scott Hanna (i)
When I reviewed the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man, I was pleasantly surprised by its quality, particularly in relation to what I think has been a fairly pedestrian run by JMS. So I went ahead and picked up this month’s issue, hoping that the streak would continue and that we’d have some more Bendis-style character moments between Peter and MJ. And while there is a fair share of those quieter moments, in the end, I was left with one thought: what the hell is with that villain?
The book starts off with a backstory sequence, told in the vein of a History Channel special, regaling the reader with the story of an incident known as the “Vegas Thirteen,” a St. Valentine’s Day-style massacre with a twist: the bodies of the mafia dons and their lieutenants killed by Forelli’s hitmen are buried in the desert, theoretically where no one will ever find them.
JMS transitions to the further adventures of Peter and MJ’s reunion, this time in an upper-class restaurant where Peter’s insatiable urge for comedy has his prodigal wife in tears. It’s a scene that works well, even if it does seem like Straczynski is trying a bit too hard (through Mary Jane’s incessant comments about how funny her husband is) to remind the reader that they should be laughing.
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These two scenes are all well and good. The problem arises at the same time that the villain does. And I kid you not, he’s a gamma-radiated zombie with multiple personalities.
Yes. You read that correctly. He’s like the Incredible Hulk, only he’s a stack of corpses (the dead mobsters from the thirty-year old Vegas Thirteen incident) reanimated by gamma-bomb testing.
And it all falls apart from there.
Peter goes on to spout some fairly clichéd dialogue about how much he loves Mary Jane and wants to make their marriage perfect. The gamma zombie (who has no name, I might add, other than his habit of referring to himself as “the boys”) wreaks havoc and begins seeking revenge. And that’s about it.
I’m reminded in this issue of how Grant Morrison has written New X-Men for quite some time now, but has never fallen back on using any pre-existing X-Men villains, aside from the Sentinels and how it’s worked really well. JMS, in the same vein, has created his own villains in every arc of Amazing Spider-Man that he’s written. The difference is that Morrison’s are both interesting and well-suited to the characters that his book centers around. JMS’ are not (a poor man’s Morbius, a moth-demon and a Hulk zombie).
In any event, this is an issue with a solid premise that is brought down by nothing less than mediocre writing.