You know, these thing used to have a different name. Meant the same thing as "Once a Year." Can't remember it off the top of my head.
I was going to skip reading this comic, despite enjoying the Brand New Day stuff by and large, because it seemed like a shameless cash-in, and I generally try to avoid those like the plague. Also, Joe Kelly and Chris Bachallo doing a Hammerhead story? Not my idea of a draw.
But then I saw that Marcos Martin drew one of the stories, and was all "Aw hell! So much for that idea. Here's my $5, Marvel!"
I actually read this thing back to front, because I already told you why I bought the thing already, but let's cover the thing sequentially.
Kelly and Bachallo's lead piece is actually pretty solid work, introducing old school Spidey villain Hammerhead to the Brand New Day cast. Kelly turns out an interesting script, which plays up on the idea that Hammerhead's a pathological liar who bases his identity off of fictionalized accounts of Al Capone and other movie gangsters and generally tells people what they want to hear, giving him no real identity. So, for a villain piece, that's an interesting hook. Bachallo's hyper stylized art more or less works here; it's at least readable, and that's all you can ask from him.
Hammerhead's being set up as new big bad Mr. Negative's henchman, which will either placate or freak out old school Spider-fans who get all huffy when they don't run through the Sinister Six quarterly. I really have no idea, and I moderated CBR's Spidey boards for 4 years. Of course, that's why I mainly ignore comic boards now. That and blogs filling all the needs that board crawling used to, with much better writing, even if do miss message board lumminaries like PunisherDBZ420 and SPIDERBATSHAZAMHULKIRONMAIDENMAN69. Those guys could really find a different perspective on the gayness of things.
The second piece revolves around Peter attending Harry Osborn's birthday party, and how spectacularly wrong that goes. It hits all the right notes given the brevity, thanks to Zeb Wells' fun script at Patrick Oliffe's nice pencils. It's not a classic, but it's an above average story for a comic like this. You know, something you used to be able to get annually. As contrived as it is, I'm glad to have Harry back. As great as the DeMatties/Buscema story that killed him off was, I've always found him exponentially more interesting than Norman.
Marc Guggenheim, who's probably written my favorite story in the weekly Spidey experiment thus far, teams up with Marcos MF Martin for the capper. It's an interlude to a story that has yet to be published, but it allows Guggenheim to show off all the law research he did for Eli Stone. He also gives good banter between Matt Murdock and Spider-Man. But really, Martin's the draw here, and he delivers in spades, even for what's a talking head story.
This was really good for a not-annual. None of the stories sucked, everything had a point, and most importantly, none of it could fit in a full length issue of ASM. So, hey, extra points for this being more than a cynical cash grab. None of its absolutely essential, either (I'm sure the Martin story will be in the trade for the arc its trailing), but it's a pleasent reading experience, which all I ask from a Spider-Man comic.