Spider-Man’s “Brand New Day” isn’t over yet, but we’ve gotten a chance to see what will appear in the first two collections of the issues. How do they hold up with the new status quo?
Title: Spider-Man: Swing Shift, Amazing Spider-Man #546-558
Writers: Dan Slott (Swing Shift, 546-548), Marc Guggenheim (549-551), Bob Gale (552-554, 558), Zeb Wells (555-557)
Pencils: Phil Jiminez (Swing Shift, 552-554), Steve McNiven (546-548), Salvador Larroca (549-551), Chris Bachalo (555-557), Barry Kitson (558)
Inkers: Andy Lanning (Swing Shift, 552-554), John Dell (Swing Shift), Dexter Vines (546-548), Salvador Larroca (549-551), Danny Miki (554), Phil Jiminez (554), Tim Townsend (555-557), Mark Farmer (558)
Colorists: Jeromy Cox (Swing Shift, 552-554), Morry Hollowell (546, 547), Dave Stewart (548), Jason Keith (549), Stephane Peru (550-551), Studio F’s Antonio Febela (555-557), Chris Bachalo (555-557), Avalon’s Ian Hannin and Matt Milla (558)
Cover Dates: June 2007, February – July 2008
Cover Prices: Free for Swing Shift, the 2007 Free Comic Book Day issue, $3.99 US / $4.05 Can on issue 546, $2.99 US / $3.05 Can on issues 547-558
In the wake of One More Day, Spider-Man has a new status quo, new villains, and a different supporting cast. The tone is clearly modelled on that from the early 1980s, and there’s a definite serial nature to the storytelling.
Now, my comments on One More Day were made quite public here and here. I still don’t think the story was necessary, I don’t see why any but a few panels that we’ve seen here wouldn’t work with a married Spider-Man, and I still don’t think the “deal with Mephisto” was better for the character than a divorce or the death of a spouse. (Had it been up to me, Peter would have cashed in a favour with Loki to make sure that nobody knew who was under the mask. The God of Mischief would be unlikely to point out a side effect Peter might have missed, namely that MJ fell in love with him after learning he was Spider-Man; without the complete knowledge of what kind of man he was, she’d have only seen the cowardly wallflower Flash saw, and likely wouldn’t have fallen in love with him. Accidentally wrecking his personal life in an attempt to save his loved ones is very much in character for Spider-Man.) However, I’m going to do my best not to let my opinions of that story colour this one. This crew chose to work with the fallout of that story, but they were not responsible for its creation or execution. I’d wager there are very few comic professionals who would turn down a chance to work with a character like Spider-Man in any status quo. Therefore, I plan to review this content based on this content, and not on the distasteful story that preceeded it. Now that we’ve gotten a sampling of the main contributors of the new braintrust, it’s time for a review.
Dan Slott has Spider-Man nailed. He may not be writing every issue, but the tone is consistent throughout, and his issues contributed the most interesting of the new villains in this batch.
I find the Freak to be a rather boring villain, essentially being the biological equivalent of Ultron. It’s almost as though the desire to create new villains in a hurry for this meant that some would not be up to the expected standard.
The originality is mixed. It feels like they’re trying to recapture old glory, while creating new characters that fit the old tone to keep it from feeling exactly like a retread. The new characters help a lot when trying to keep things fresh, but it still feels like an attempt to recapture past glory. I give it 4 out of 6.
The artwork is varied, as you may have guessed from the creator credits above. The shift to publishing a single, continuous title three times a month instead of three titles once each means the schedules get really tight when trying to fit the pieces together. (I suspect that’s why so many of the issues that end story arcs have multiple inkers; the last time-consuming stage is also the one most likely to get a tag team to hold a schedule.) I really enjoyed the work most of these teams did. Bachalo’s style is, in my opinion, more aligned with off-the-wall Saturday morning cartoons aimed at young audiences than it is with this kind of thing. I find it hard to take a story seriously when the characters don’t stay on-model. Aside from his issues, I was really impressed by a lot of it, including the consistency in the appearances of the newly created characters. I give it 4 out of 6.
The story is shaping up well. There are a couple of ongoing threads that are set up and carried forward, some of which have yet to be resolved. The plotlines delivered in the individual arcs generally worked, as well. There are a couple of moments that don’t sit right with me (such as Spider-Man singing the theme song to a cartoon that probably wouldn’t exist in a world that considers him a menace, or Spider-Man revealing the fate of the Daily Bugle once he realized the information had been deliberately withheld from a heart attack victim), but those moments are generally small. The only part I really didn’t like was the Freak, and that’s primarily because I see neither depth of character nor the means to add any. Generally, the new release structure leads to a lot more consistency than we had with three ongoing titles. (I’m still trying to figure out how everything fits together in the Amazing/Sensational/Friendly-Neighbourhood run, especially during the Back in Black section of things.) It’s generally enjoyable, and the internal logic is very sound given the rotating teams. The editorial meetings must be intense to hold things together to this well with this number of creators. I give it 5 out of 6.
The characterization is well done. Slott’s not the only one with a great grasp of Spider-Man, and we get a pretty good feel for his supporting cast and the new villains. Freak seems a bit shallow, running like the worst of the crop of strong, dumb Silver Age villains that we’ve seen over the years. Mr. Negative definitely has my attention, and Menace could go either way. I give it 5 out of 6.
The emotional response to these issues was very good on today’s reread. Initially there was distaste, but in retrospect, that’s tied to the story that set this up, and not to this set of issues. These are old school fun, almost on par with the Roger Stern/John Romita Jr. days. I give it 5 out of 6.
The flow is very well done considering the number of chefs working on this particular stew. There are ongoing plots involving a mayoral race, a serial killer leaving old-model Spider-tracers on his victims, and a new registered hero that reminds readers and Spider-Man alike of a certain feisty redhead. The villains are even overlapping here, as agendas and timelines cross. Things are moving from one issue to the next very nicely, retaining the serialized nature of Pete’s personal life that Stan Lee used back at the start of it all. The writing flows very smoothly from one issue to the next, though the art can be jarring coming in and out of the Bachalo issues. His style is very different from that of the rest of the team. I give it 5 out of 6.
Overall, despite what you may think of the story leading up to this, the first chunk of “Brand New Day” is a pretty good read. I give it 5 out of 6.
In total, Amazing Spider-Man: Swing Shift and Amazing Spider-Man 546-558 receive 33 out of 42.