Best Shots Extra: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600

BSE: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #600

Amazing Spider-Man #600

Written by Dan Slott, Stan Lee, Mark Waid, Marc Guggenheim, Bob Gale, Zeb Wells, and Joe Kelly

Art by John Romita Jr., Klaus Janson, Mike McKone, Andy Lanning, Marcos Martin, Colleen Doran, Mario Alberti, Mitch Breitweiser, Derec Donovan, Max Fiumara

Colors by Dean White, Morry Hollowell, Javier Rodriguez, Andres Mossa, Jose Villarrubia, Frank D'Armata, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Antonio Fabela, Chris Chuckry

Lettering by Joe Caramagna, Chris Eliopoulos, Jared K. Fletcher

Published by Marvel Comics

Released July 22, 2009

There goes the neighborhood.

This is pretty much the tagline for Dan Slott and John Romita Jr.'s single-issue graphic novel, which makes up the bulk of the enormous Amazing Spider-Man #600, as Doctor Otto Octavius makes a last stand in the city of New York. And while the book doesn't do anything particularly earth-shattering with it's main event -- the wedding of May Parker and J. Jonah Jameson Sr. -- it's a great story that shows both sides of Peter's life with humor, action, and a surprisingly solid conclusion.

Whatever you might say about the Spider-Man Brain Trust, you have to admit that Dan Slott really has a sense of who Peter Parker is, and how to use continuity to his advantage. The book opens with a nice hook, delving through Dr. Octopus' history by examining how many times he's been given brain trauma, and it doesn't stop from there. We quick cut to a cameo with Daredevil, who gets to shut down the supervillain hideout known as the Bar with No Name using a clever twist that's deeply rooted in Matt Murdock's character -- I won't give any spoilers other than a chuckle-worthy gag where a villain called Blindside tries to use his vision-impairing talents on Daredevil. That is, before Daredevil tosses him out a window.

In a lot of ways, I think despite it being an anniversary issue, this is definitely a good jumping-on point for new readers. Dan Slott breaks down this story by examining not just Spider-Man as a character, but by showing his entire supporting cast, whether it be his job at the Front Line, "New York's little paper that could," the New Avengers (as Wolverine threatens to "pop a claw in his ***," a gag I shouldn't have found as amusing as I did) and the Fantastic Four, or his relationships with Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson Jr., the penny-pinching Mayor of New York. (And speaking of Jolly Jonah, there's another amusing gag where Jameson tries to bump up the economy "by bringing hardworking American swimsuit models to our city!" When the first response he gets is "four more years! Four more years!," well, I'm still chuckling.)

But front and center for this issue is Peter Parker, the Amazing Spider-Man. Whether it's cracking jokes at friend and foe alike (his cracks at Doc Octopus, ranging from "Doc Ock and a Half" to "Ten Arms, Two Legs and a Pizza Face" are right-on) to his personal life (especially with a great scene with his "very platonic" roommate, Michele), this is a character who we know, at his deepest levels, is a good guy, just trying to make his way in the world. Yet he has a strength of character that is mythic, and Dan Slott cleverly uses this to ward off Doc Ock's plans of literally running the city. Cap this all off with the return of a long-awaited character (at least for me), and, despite having a few pages that I think could have been trimmed away, I have to say that this book is definitely a high point for our friendly neighborhood Web-Slinger over the past few years.

Regarding the art, I have to say that I was so enthused to see John Romita Jr. coming back to the Spider-Man franchise. His Peter Parker is really one of the seminal visions of the character, as gives equal attention to action and emotion -- seriously, this guy turns leaping and wall-crawling from an art to a science, and his depiction of Otto Octavius is simultaneously creepy, sad, and burning off the page with sheer willpower. Sometimes his inker, Klaus Janson, goes a little overboard with some of the extra detailing, but that's more of a personal preference thing for me -- it never interferes with the storytelling or the emotion. Meanwhile, colorist Dean White makes some interesting choices with his end of the art duties, especially at the end of the story in Doc Ock's lair. When he sings, he really sings, making Romita's Spider-Man a really dynamic figure who pops the page.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the extensive extras in this 100-page book. Most of them provide an interesting anthology look at the Spider-Man franchise, such as Stan Lee and Marcos Martin's look at Spider-Man's entire history in "Identity Crisis." Once you figure out that this story is less of a story and more of an examination of how crazy Spider-Man's life has been over the past 600 issues, it's a light but nicely illustrated desert after the full-course meal of the main issue.

Meanwhile, Mark Waid also contributes to a short story, which looks at the Peter-Uncle Ben perspective in reverse. It's a sentimental take that Waid manages to get some mileage out of, even if I found Colleen Doran's art to be a little too detailed and shadowy for my tastes. Unfortunately, two other stories -- Bob Gale's take on "If I Was Spider-Man" and Zeb Well's snarky but unsatisfying take on the Spider-Buggy -- kind of felt forgettable, probably due to the fact that there was so much other good stuff going on elsewhere in the book (especially the tongue-in-cheek "Covers You Will Never See" by Mike McKone).

The only story that I felt needed to be really retooled was Marc Guggenheim's story about Aunt May visiting Ben's grave before the wedding, which Dan Slott more or less one-upped in the main feature. But that said, it is definitely made up for by Joe Kelly and Max Fiumara's final extra, "Violent Visions." Taking a page from the Johns-Morrison playbook, Kelly gives us a tantalizing vision of what is to come over the next year, with Max Fiumara really knocking this five page preview out of the park with a dynamic style that reminds me of a cleaner Paul Pope or Alex Maleev.

All in all, this 100-page giant of a book really represents Marvel's ambitions for Spider-Man done right. While some of the special features seemed a little needless, Dan Slott's main feature, as well as Joe Kelly's excellent tease for the next year in Spidey comics, really won me over. If you've been looking to get back on the Spider-Man train, run -- don't walk -- to your local comics shop for Amazing Spider-Man #600, and get ready to enjoy one heavy book filled with humor, action, and best of all, a happy ending.

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