Amazing Spider-Man #661

"Avengers Academy" scribe Christos Gage brings his charges over to Spider-Man's friendly neighborhood for a team-up and cross-marketing push that sees both books release this week, both penned by Gage. Gage and regular "Amazing" writer, Dan Slott worked together on "Avengers Initiative," the precursor to "Avengers Academy," so it only makes sense that the two would collaborate at some point. Right?

From that point, it just so happens that Giant-Man happens to be around when the Future Foundation are in action, mentions that he is in dire need of a substitute teacher for a day and - bam! Spider-Man is dropped into the classroom with Hazmat, Mettle, Reptil, Finesse, Veil, and Striker. Those characters - the main cast of kids from "Academy" - are given worthy introductions and then dropped next to Spider-Man to see what clicks.

On occasion, I've compared the recent work on this book to that of classic "Marvel Team-Up" stuff from yesteryear. This issue feels like one of those issues of "Team-Up" that just doesn't click: the guest star isn't all that interesting, the villain is one-note, and the story just meanders because of it all. Unfortunately, there's a "Part Two" to this issue's story. This issue is passable and readable, but not memorable or exciting. Gage has a firm grasp of his own kids from the Academy and he writes a free-wheeling Spider-Man, but this story doesn't click in all the right spots for me to be an issue to come back to and re-read.

Gage does bring some chuckle-worthy bits to this issue, including a new citation for the standard of "with great power comes great responsibility," and a dig at the Spider-Mobile. His interactions between Thing and Spidey are fun, but his dialog between Spidey and the kids borders on painfully droll. I realize Spidey shouldn't seem hip with these kids, but for Spider-Man to be considered a "pal" for the Future Foundation kids and a totally untouchable, outmoded individual for the Academy kids within a span of pages comes across as forced.

Some of Reilly Brown's artistic choices are heavy-handed and somewhat forced, too, as we first meet the Academy kids in the classroom and Mettle is depicted as way too close to a wall, which he should be familiar with at this point, I would think. Other choices of Brown's seem awkward. It appears as though Carlie and Pete's "date" is a brisk speedwalk through a desolate park. Brown's technique and style are solid. Polish will come with time, but the storytelling needs to be refined a bit.

All in all, I really miss Dan Slott and Stefano Caselli. I realize that with a twice (thrice?) monthly book, there will be a need for fill-ins/breather issues, but if this issue is a sample of what to expect, it appears as though absence will indeed make the heart grow fonder. Or maybe we just need to see Gage and Brown give it another go with some other characters.

Paul Benjamin and Javier Pulido provide a "silent" day in the life story of Spider-Man that is fun and loose, filled with lively visuals and stunning heroic-level coloring by Matt Hollingsworth. I suspect this part of the issue will remain in my mind far longer than the first segment of this issue.

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