The Civil War reviews are almost caught up. Expect a review of the “Fantastic Four” crossover late Monday, and a review of the “Black Panther” crossover late Tuesday.

General Information

Title: Amazing Spider-Man #532-538

Author: J. Michael Straczynski

Illustrator(s): Ron Garney (pencils), Bill Reinhold (inks), and Matt Milla (colours)

Original Publication Date: These issues were cover dated from July 2006 to January 2007, but the delays in the main Civil War title slowed publication enough that the last issue didn’t ship until March 2007.

Cover Price: All issues $2.99 US. The Canadian price dropped from $4.25 to $3.75 with issue 535.

Past comic reviews can be found here.

Premise

Peter Parker unmasks when he joins Tony Stark’s side of the Civil War. He comes to regret that decision in many ways.

High Point

The fight in issue 534. Man, that was well scripted.

Low Point

This is so closely tied to the Civil War, that there would be huge gaps for Spider-Man collectors who didn’t also collect the main event. I knew how to fill in the gaps, but many of the long-time readers and collectors who didn’t would need to go elsewhere to get the entire story. (A lot of gaps were filled in, but not quite all of them. Those only reading this title don’t get to see the actual unmasking, for example, though it’s made very clear when and how that happens. Showing that through the reactions of those watching on television causes a small disconnect from the title character, though.)

The Scores

Oh, is this original. That’s to GITCorp’s DVD collection, I’ve now read and reviewed all issues of Amazing Spider-Man. (NOTE: That review is for the CD-ROM collection. The DVD that came later also includes annuals and all regular issues up to issue 531, which is where this review picks up.) Spider-Man has been unmasked three times I remember, but this is the only time he stayed unmasked when the issue was over. The fallout for his family members is also new, as both previous instances were wrapped up before that happened. It’s also rare to see Spider-Man so deeply involved in the whole Marvel Universe in his own title. I give it 6 out of 6.

The artwork is well done, with great emotive pencils from Garney. I’m not completely sold on Reinhold’s pencils, though; they add weird definition to faces in odd lighting conditions. I think it’s because his strokes are too thick, so the lines lack subtlety in dim conditions (such as in the scene lit only by the television screen.) I give it 5 out of 6.

The story is a perfect companion piece to the main Civil War event. We trace a focal character throughout his entire decision making process in this conflict, and see some great action interspersed with illuminating conversation throughout. As a stand alone chapter in Spider-Man’s life, it’s lacking some details. I give it 5 out of 6, splitting the 6 and 4 I’d have given it from each perspective.

The characterizations of Peter, Tony, Steve, MJ, May, and Reed drive every aspect of this story. As usual, Straczynski puts the characters first, and then follows where the story takes him. While Peter would have never unmasked on his own, he is in a position to listen to May, MJ, and Tony, all of whom are in character when they give him advice. The bathroom scene following the unmasking also helps pull Peter back into character. Now, many have griped at Straczynski, blaming him for the unmasking. Check the archived interviews at Newsarama: when asked about the unmasking of Marvel heroes after Daredevil unmasked, JMS maintained that Spider-Man stories wouldn’t work with the mask off. In another interview the day before Civil War #2 hit the stands, he added an unprompted comment to the discussion saying that the writers are ultimately Marvel’s characters, and if Marvel editorial said that Spider-Man had six legs, it was his job as a writer to make stories about a six legged Spider-Man work. Put these together, and it’s my opinion that JMS opposed the idea of the unmasking, but that he’s too polite to come out and say that to the world. That said, reading these issues, he did a great job of finding a way to make it work; if I hadn’t read those interviews, I wouldn’t have doubted his commitment to the events in the story. I give the characterization in this collection 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is strong. Peter’s always been one of Marvel’s most engaging heroes, and the reader really feels the magnitude of these events as we see him react to being in the White House, fighting Captain America, and doubting his father figure. This is a great perspective, and one that really digs deep into the character at hand. I give it 6 out of 6.

The flow is hampered only by the connection to Civil War. There are too many instances in which footnotes tell the readers to go back to particular issues of the main event in order to fill in all of the gaps. I give it 4 out of 6.

Overall, this is a major chapter in Spider-Man’s life, and a good story in its own right. When the Civil War and its tie-ins are all said and done, I’m going to write a summary of the best and worst crossovers to come out of this. Expect this and Cable/Deadpool to head up the top of the “Best” list. I give it 5 out of 6.

In total, Amazing Spider-Man #532-538 recieves 36 out of 42.

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