Amazing Spider-Man #648

The issue is clearly designed with new readers in mind, using its increased page count (42 pages, plus backup) to take a tour around Spidey's current status quo. It makes his position in the Avengers (one often ignored by the solo series) explicit. It shows Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson Sr. married. It reminds readers of the status of his entire supporting cast, including Jameson Jr., Norah, Flash, Felicia, Betty, MJ, and new girlfriend Carlie. Almost everyone you need to know about in order to read Spider-Man turns up here, one way or the other.

At the same time, some of the "Brand New Day" elements are rotated out - Front Line and Michelle are apparently consigned to history, while Harry - an almost permanent fixture in the "Brand New Day" era stories - is nowhere to be found following the events of last issue. To compensate, some old favorites like John Jameson and Phil Urich return. The latter's appearance references Phil's brief stint as a heroic Green Goblin, suggesting that he might be of some interest to the "Goblin Cult" which is beginning to appear. That's one of many balls Slott starts rolling.

Admittedly, this issue isn't quite a clean break from the past, but at the same time, it's easy to argue that Marvel is constructing this issue so as to provide a perfect jumping on point while retaining the "Brand New Day" regulars. In particular, the story gives a certain section of the audience something it's been crying out for: a Peter Parker who isn't a loser. There are the beginnings of a few major stories here, and they feel almost as fresh and well-constructed as "Brand New Day" did the first time around.

You've probably noticed the "almost." That's because it's not quite as enthusiastic a kick-start. On top of all the new story elements, status quo changes and supporting cast members, Slott crams in a succession of classic Spidey villains, although few actually do anything. As a guide to Spider-Man's world, it's good. But as a story, there's a little too much going on. It never quite comes together in its own right, cutting to an epilogue before we see Peter sort himself out properly. Perhaps we'll be introduced to Peter's new living situation in the future - or perhaps there's more to it - but it's fair to say that his inability to bunk in Avengers tower doesn't ring true. Most of the Avengers already know his identity, it's hard to see where the change of heart came from with respect to revealing it to the remaining few.

It helps the story that Ramos' artwork is looking better than ever, though it does depend on how much you like Ramos' style in the first place. Ramos' kinetic, expressive figures do work well for the majority of the book, with action sequences an obvious strength, but Ramos' cartoony expressions and interesting panel composition make the quieter moments wonderful to look at and interesting to read. It's not hard to see why he was considered a good fit. Perhaps it could be subtler, but then arguably, a superhero comic is the wrong place to expect subtlety.

With a Spider-Girl backup rounding out the page count, there's a lot of story here even for a $3.99 book. Whether the change is drastic enough to win back the readers who left is debatable but, at the same time, if you've been enjoying "Brand New Day," there should be nothing here that turns you off. It's a strong start to a new chapter in Spider-Man's life, and one I'm glad to be here for.

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