Before I get into the review, I feel compelled to mention: I haven't actually bought a Spider-Man comic in roughly three years.
Not since "Sins Past" - and I originally liked "Sins Past" too; but then for me, the story seemed to fall apart in my hands with each time I re-read it. And then the "events" kept piling on, and so I kept waiting for the story where I could jump back on board and resume enjoying one of my favorite superheroes of all time.
Should I even be surprised that Peter David was the guy to make that possible?
Even in an increasingly dark, editorially driven and incredibly contrived period in mainstream superhero comics, leave it to Peter David to be one of the few writers to really make the most of the present atmosphere. Considering the many readers out there who feel that Peter should not have unmasked himself back in Civil War #2 - never mind those who feel Peter NEVER WOULD have done something that risky - David took that one event and, in the pages of "Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man," consistently gave us grounded stories that not only entertained, but rang true. It was as if he were saying, "Okay, sure - whether what happened makes a lick of sense or not, it happened all the same. Now, let's take a look at what you could expect to happen next."
And as you would expect, the eye of this storm could only be at the offices of the Daily Bugle, and as you would expect, it would all come to a head when J. Jonah Jameson fired his longtime editor-in-chief and friend "Robbie" Robertson for calling Jameson on his vendetta in the previous issue. Now for the main event...the biggest thing you'd expect from Spidey's unmasking: Peter Parker vs. Jameson!
And Peter David delivers as only he can. A story within a story, told with the style, wit and humor that is vintage PAD. I won't spoil the details of the confrontation between Peter and Jonah, save that it is a classic. You can feel the emotion in the pages; between PAD's dialogue and Todd Nauck's artwork, you can feel the years of resentment, anger, betrayal and humiliation spilling out of both parties. They've been dancing this dance for a long, long time. Even though only 10 to 12 years have passed in Marvel time, these two go after each other as though it's been brewing for all 45 of our years.
Perhaps the one problem I might have with FNSM #23, is Robbie's summation of Jonah's story...which in turn jolted me out of the fun I was having with the issue, and reminded me of the one problem I have had with Spider-Man's portrayal over the last few years.
I wouldn't presume to speak for anybody else, but I am SICK TO DEATH of reading Spider-Man-as-angst-laden-whipping-boy stories. I'm sick of seeing Spider-Man getting the crap kicked out of him physically, emotionally, psychologically, to the point where I don't even care to stick around long enough to watch him beat the odds. I'm sick of Spider-Man being portrayed as the "lovable loser," which I've heard him referred to any number of times by this editor or that writer. I'm sick of waiting for the fun to return to his adventures; the moments where you can
see why it's worth it to stay in the fight. Sure, tragedy is a huge part of the Spider-Man mythos. So is regret and even a little guilt. but they're not the only part, and certainly not in the gargantuan levels as have been in Spider-Man's stories of late.
Personally, I'd like it if someone at Marvel could take a moment to realize that Spider-Man is also about growth, about triumph, about the highs that balance out the lows, and give you the ability to move forward with some kind of anticipation for whatever may be around the corner. That's why his main title is called The Amazing Spider-Man. That's why he's also been called Spectacular and Sensational, to boot. And even in this particular book, he's not your Guilt-Ridden Spider-Man - he's your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.
And that's who I continue to wait for, and I'll be honest - even with all the announcements made in San Diego, I'm not convinced that "Brand New Day" is where I'll find him. I just want to thank Peter David, Todd Nauck and company for giving me a little something to enjoy after so long.
Gregory M. Guity is an aspiring writer and comedian currently living in Riverdale, NY. He also doesn't envy the poor city workers who have to clean up dried webbing residue on a daily basis. For samples of his funny, check out www.myspace.com/gregmanuel.