And I want every child to understand that the blessings these brave Americans fight for are not free—- that with the great privilege of being a citizen of this nation comes great responsibility.
–Barack Obama, paraphrasing Spider-man in a letter to his daughters1

Fiz will be reviewing the current Spider-man run once the new storyline ends. This issue is more of a stand-alone and, as it features a timely guest appearance, it will receive a special review of its own.

General Information

Title: The Amazing Spider-man #583

“Platonic”
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Barry Kitson, Adres Mossa

“Spidey Meets the President!”
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artists: Todd Nauk, Frank D’Armata

Cover Date: March 2009

Premise

The first story explores Spider-man’s dating life, now that Marvel has summoned Mephisto and ham-hoofedly, retroactively annulled his marriage.

Never mind that. Peter Parker’s personal life isn’t the reason people lined up, shops sold out, and hucksters shilled the issue on ebay. No, we all wanted to see how Spider-man would interact with the One– or the Two, since the story brings him face to face with the president and an evil duplicate. Can Spider-man determine which is the real Barack Obama?

Can he? Can he?
Are you kidding?

High Point

The issue features some momentarily bright spots of Spidey-humour. He claims, for example, that Joe Biden holds a grudge because the web-slinger once mistook him for the Vulture. The lead story, meanwhile, starts with an appearance by a former American president– Lex Luthor.

Actually, since Luthor belongs in the DC Universe, it’s not Luthor, but a supervillain wannabee who resembles pointedly the “Battle Armor” version of Superman’s #1 foe. We never learn his name, but he allows us one of the few moments of superhero action in a Peter Parker-oriented issue, and reminds us how much this issue has to do with DC2.

Low Point

It seems inevitable that Spider-man would meet Barack Obama. But did the story have to be so bad? And did it have to take a backseat to a tale that seems ripped from the pages of Archie? And did Marvel have to create an entirely artificial frenzy by printing so very few Obama covers?

That’s right– Spider-man meets America’s history-making president, and the Chief Executive doesn’t rate mention on the cover of most issues. A handful promote the historic team-up, and these were sought after by frantic collectors. The rest advertise what Marvel Comics apparent thought most readers wanted: a “Special tribute-to-dating Issue!!” Picture this: the web-slinger spies on his alter-ego, Peter Parker, who here resembles a grown-up version of America’s Favourite Teenager. He peers smugly out at the reader, his arms around two equally comely, lovestruck lasses. “Action is his Reward!, proclaims the cover. And, in an echo of his first meeting with Mary-Jane, ol’ Pete announces, “Sorry Web-head, I’m taking the night off! Face it, cougars, you’ve just hit the jackpot!”

I, for one, would have found the issue far more amusing if this scene had actually occured, followed by the sort of reaction two twenty-something woman might have had to being identified as “cougars.”

The Scores

Originality: 3/6 The issue delivers little new, apart from an appearance by Barack Obama– and conceptually, that’s nothing original to comics.

Artwork: 4/6 The first story’s art looks okay. The Obama tale is inconsistently drawn. Obama’s face changes in appearance as much as any shape-shifter’s.

Story: 3/6 The first is dull, and the second contrived and brief.

Characterization: 3/6 Peter’s characterization in the story fluctuates between the nerdy guy he’d been in high school and the more polished character he grew into later. With Marvel’s head honchos resetting Spidey’s life, no one’s really clear who he’s supposed to be.

The Chameleon has always been emotionally unstable, but here, he gets written as a moron.

Spidey’s current supporting cast-members fare slightly better.

Emotional Response: 2/6

Flow: 4/6

Overall: 3/6

In total, Amazing Spider-man #583 receives 22/42

Notes

You may see a scan from the issue here.

1. Other have noted that the famous Spider-man quotation itself echoes Luke 12:48.

2. Consider, that, at the same time Spidey was crashing Obama’s inauguration, DC was killing their most popular character.

Yes, a comic-book universe away, the [Batman] died, apparently gone in Batman: R.I.P., actually alive, but then reduced to a charred corpse in Final Crisis. They killed Batman, a character known and loved even by those who don’t read comics– and all the press went to a mediocre back-up story in Spider-man.

Let’s face it. The media has grown cynical of headline-grabbing comic-book tricks. The readers have grown even more cynical. When Supergirl and the Flash died back in 1986, it made mainstream headlines. Supergirl, of course, was replaced by a series of pretenders and, since they had declared that she retroactively never existed, they finally reintroduced the original version, though with an updated personality and an out-of-date stripper outfit. Various (frankly, more interesting) individuals took on the role of the Flash, as Barry Allen remained the one character fans could point to who had died and remained dead. Then, for no internally meaningful reason, they brought him back. Superman died in ’93, and it made major news. Of course, everyone knew from the get-go he would be restored to life. Recently, Marvel killed Captain America, but everyone knows he’ll return. Death rarely takes in comic books. Heck, the Big Two can’t even keep Bucky Barnes and Jason Todd in the grave. Batman’s death received comparatively little attention. We know how this will turn out. And so, Marvel cashed in on Obamamania and drew all the attention. Clever marketing, I grant– but I doubt many people will start buying Spider-man because of it.

I am indebted to Scott Slemmons for his comments and our discussion on recent developments between DC and Marvel.