The plan set in motion by the “Spider-Man Brain Trust” has come to an end, now that “Character Assassination” has wrapped up, but, as editor Steve Wacker tells us, there’s a whole lot more in store for your favorite wall-crawler now that the first phase of Brand New Day has reached its conclusion. New characters, the return of some old favorites, fresh blood to the Spidey writing corps.
Like, for example, Fred Van Lente.
And in Van Lente’s first installment of what will surely be a series of thrilling contributions to the Spider-Man mythos, he gives us a one-shot story about one of the greatest foes the web-slinger will ever face: the menacing, the devious, the truly lascivious…Spot.
Okay, the Spot may not be one of Spider-Man’s a-list villains, or even b-list, or, well, I could keep impressing you with my knowledge of the alphabet, but let’s go ahead and skip right to the end. Admittedly, the Spot is really a z-list villain. And that’s the whole point.
Van Lente brought the Spot back to semi-prominence (Wait, what’s lower that z-list? Do we start with Greek letters, or maybe just go with #$@!-list?) in his fun “Modok’s 11” miniseries from a couple of years back, and the story in “Amazing Spider-Man” #589 follows up from the dangling Spot-related plot thread from that comic.
The Spot has returned from the weird spot dimension — returned with a vengeance. Seriously.
Fred Van Lente absolutely makes it work by grafting a Punisher-style storyline into a Spider-Man comic and putting the Spot in the Frank Castle role. I know that sounds ridiculous, and it is, but that’s why this is such a good issue of “Amazing Spider-Man”: Van Lente takes a handful of conventional comic book moments and mixes them up into his own unique blender. We get the Russian mob, an innocent child, a supervillian turned vigilante, a guy who can shoot webs from his wrist bands and stick to walls, a Christian Bale impression, and more. All in a single, done-in-one Spider-Man story.
Even when Van Lente homages other comics — as he does here with the Spot’s confessional diary, which recalls “The Coyote Gospel” from “Animal Man” #5 almost beat by beat — he fits it smoothly into his own story, and part of the fun here is seeing what comic book moment he will playfully add to the narrative. Yet it’s not all inside jokes and allusions. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Spider-Man or superhero comics would be able to enjoy this issue. It doesn’t require any outside knowledge, and yet it doesn’t insult the reader who has it, either.
Paulo Siqueira’s an excellent artist for this story, by the way. He draws a Todd McFarlane-esque Spider-Man in world populated by characters who look like they’ve popped out of a Tony Harris comic. He grounds the more absurd parts of the story in a kind of realism while still keeping it fast-moving and loose. From McNiven to Martin to Romita, Jr., this era of Spider-Man has had some fantastic artwork, and Siqueira is a fine addition to the roster.
“Amazing Spider-Man” #589 is a fun, maybe even poignant, comic from a writer who has established himself as among the best Marvel has in its stable today.