I don’t write quite as many comic book reviews these days, unless they tend to revolve around complete stories, such as graphic novels. The only exception that I'll make for comic books are when there’s something I read that I feel so strongly about, I truly feel it needs a review to follow. This is one of those rare moments and I hope anyone who reads this will take this review to heart as a result. I promise I’ll try to make this worth your time.
For those who’ve never met me outside of this blog before, know that I am a huge enthusiast of Amazing Spider-Man. I’ve read every issue from all the way in the beginning (Amazing Fantasy #15) to present (Amazing Spider-Man 663+) and everything in between (tie-ins, annuals, etc.). Needless to say, I know the character pretty well, as I’ve grown up with him and been through the good times and the bad (the Clone Saga still hurts, even today…).
Many things have happened to the character’s status quo in the last few years. One of the most devastating is that his marriage to Mary Jane was abruptly put to end when Peter made a deal with Mephisto (the “devil” of the Marvel universe if you will) in order to save his Aunt. The Venom symbiote has left Mac Gargan (who went on to become the Scorpion once more), and now taken refuge in Flash Thompson, who after spending time fighting in Iraq, lost both of his legs. J. Jonah Jameson lost control over the Daily Bugle and became mayor of New York, before helping Robbie rebuild the Bugle to what it once was. Peter is now dating a girl named Carlie Cooper, and has actually gone on to become a scientist, just as he went to school for all those years ago. He also recently lost his spider-sense ability, making for some very interesting fights these past few issues. Despite my unease with the marriage breakup and new girlfriend for Peter, these and many other changes have actually been very nice and positive ways to progress the series in my opinion. But let’s get on to the actual issue and why I’m writing a review for it.
In recent developments, Marla, J. Jonah Jameson’s wife was killed by Alistair Smythe in issue #654, and for the first time ever, instead of blaming Spider-Man like always, he blames himself. Issue #655 begins with Marla’s funeral. There is no dialogue during these pages, but simply artwork and character emotions. One of the most interesting factors to note is Jameson’s expressions throughout the funeral and the burial, as he has none to show. I’ve seen many funerals in comic books before, and the idea here wasn’t anything particularly new, but this one kind of grabbed me. One could only imagine Jameson’s thoughts and expressions outside of the funeral; in fact it’s almost scary to picture. To someone like myself, I feel the scariest things are the things you can’t see, and this being a perfect example.
Following this already emotional and touching sequence, we return to Peter, trying to fall asleep with the thoughts of the recent developments in his mind. What we get from this point however, is where the issue truly takes its form. Peter begins to dream about not only how he failed Marla, but many others in his life to which he still claims responsibility. We see Peter go through strange and awkward conversations with Marla, his parents, a broken-neck Gwen Stacy and Green Goblin, the thug that killed Uncle Ben, and some other interesting surprise characters. This issue more or less explains the dynamics of Spider-Man’s past and present in much more brutal honesty than we are usually shown. It dives into the concept of why the good people in Peter’s life always seem to disappear, while the truly horrible villains always seem to return. One more thing that must be noted here is the artwork and frames of each panel during these sequences. I truly felt his helped the issue leave its mark even more.
After more shocking developments and realizations which I won’t spoil here, Peter is woken from the dream, with a new inspiration and feeling of determination. In a cruel irony, that determination is almost completely rendered moot just as the issue ends, but I feel that this ties things together perfectly for the next part of the story.
What I like the most about this issue is the development within Peter and his very crucial analysis of himself. It’s very rare that a character in American comics such as these will be seen picking himself and his actions apart, as well as actually showing a true development in his character as a result of it. This issue was an exploration into the mind and soul of a character I’ve felt very close to all my life, and I for one will never forget it.
This issue is a must read for anyone who wants to truly see how far Peter has come over the years (unlike the previously released “654.1” issue, which was supposed to be considered a “jumping on” point for readers that I felt very much failed in that regard, despite being an interesting issue all its own). This is a much better point to jump in with and I commend Dan Slott for crafting an excellent issue that, while part of a two part story, stands well enough on its own as something truly memorable.