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SFX Issue 81 review

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August 2001

Comic review:

The Amazing Spider-Man

Publisher: Marvel
Writer: J Michael Straczynski
Artist: John Romita Jr Price: $2.25
Reviewer: Dan Abnett

The architect of Babylon 5 finally makes his much-anticipated debut as the writer of the flagship Spider-Man title. Straczynski’s writing credentials are unquestionable, given the fact that Babylon 5 ’s greatest strength was the dramatic solidity of his overall plot arcs, and neither is his ability to write an entertaining comic. However, the bulk of his comic writing thus far has been on titles he has himself created as a vehicle for his own stories. With Amazing , he is put to the real test: to show what he can do with a long established and beloved comic icon. The pitfalls, one might anticipate, are the lack of creative room such well established continuity might afford him, and the fact that his dialogue-reliant approach might seem too slow for such a fast-moving and action-oriented character. The comic itself looks as splendid as one might have expected with Scott Hanna providing superb inks to JR Jr’s always magnificent art, wrapped up with top grade colouring and lettering. Together, these talents would make even a mediocre script look good, and indeed would carry a poor one on the strength of the art alone.

Straczynski’s script is not poor, nor is it mediocre. Whilst maintaining a narrative approach that is characteristically his own, he has managed to make Spider-Man as good a read as it has ever been. It’s perhaps a little slower moving and contemplative than in the real heydays, but none the worse for that. It has certainly avoided all the problems that have plagued the Spider books for a long time: lifeless, by-the-numbers retreads of the classic scenarios. In this first issue alone, Straczynski begins to take the character of Peter Parker into new and credible areas of continuity without crudely banishing what has gone before. Furthermore, he pulls off the thing that always made Babylon 5 so appealing: a tasty, but enigmatic hint at what is to come that leaves you begging for more. Ultimately, he shouldn’t be judged on the strength of one single issue. He is a series writer, and his true strengths will unfold as this series continues.

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