Bland New Day or
It’s Déjà vu all Over Again






Marvel’s answer to those who didn’t like “One More Day,” or its successor “Brand New Day.”

Dan Slott would argue that I’m taking the accompanying picture out of context and he'd probably be right. Nonetheless, that’s what many Spidey fans felt was being said to them when the highly unpopular move of tanking the last 20 years of spider continuity and rendering Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson’s marriage as a “never was,” occurred. I know all of the arguments Marvel has given that “everything except the marriage (and subsequently Mary Jane’s pregnancy) happened,” but anyone familiar with Ray Bradbury’s classic short story “A Sound of Thunder,” knows that you don’t remove one element from the course of history and expect everything to unfold as before. However, the purpose of this article is not to chronicle all of the events that would never have occurred had Peter and MJ not married, or how the Clone Saga, for example, would have been affected, because other folks are doing that, and probably better than myself. Rather, I am going to TRY VERY HARD not to dwell on the events of “One More Day,” or how this rather spiteful, petulant, and disingenuous reboot occurred, and instead focus on the first few stories of what is being called “Brand New Day,” looking at them at stories, and not articulations of Marvel’s philosophy on what makes “Good Spider-Man.” I’ve already savaged One More Day as quite possibly the Worst Story in Spider-Man History , so I feel that there is nothing to be gained by revisiting that particular travesty. That said, this article will review the following:

As listeners to the Spider-Man Crawlspace Podcast know, I order my comics from an online service due to the lack of comics retailers in my immediate area, using the monthly shipping option. Therefore, I did not have a chance to read “Brand New Day” until the first 3-part story was complete (no, this time I didn’t Byrne-steal), which I considered to be positive since reading and reviewing comics one part at a time is a less than satisfying experience due to the proliferation of decompressed storytelling these days. And, as a result of Marvel’s notorious shipping delays in 2007, I had an order backlog that gave me a veritable potpourri of pleasure (uh, reading pleasure that is). As I sifted through the stack, I kept putting “Brand New Day” aside because of the conflicting emotions surrounding it. Would I be able to read and evaluate it as a stand alone Spider-Man story? Or would I judge it in the context of all of the baggage surrounding it? Would I enjoy it and thus be disappointed, because part of me wants this new direction to tank and for Marvel to suffer an excruciating embarrassment, or would I revel in its awfulness - if awful it was? Or would it actually be the worst of all possible worlds - that is neither really good nor really bad – not good enough to justify the upheaval required to get to this point, but not bad enough to definitively state that getting to this point wasn’t worth the aforementioned upheaval?

After reading everything else in the box, I was down to Amazing Spider-Man #546-548, and the “Swing Shift” Directors’ Cut (another entry into the “let’s use a heavier stock cover and charge $3.99 for it”). I didn’t get the original “Swing Shift” when it was available on Free Comic Book Day because I didn’t want to burn $6 worth of gas to pick up a “free” comic book.

And so I inhaled deeply, and cracked open Amazing Spider-Man #546. And the verdict?

It didn’t suck. But, it wasn’t very good, either. The two story arcs that followed were o.k. – but that’s it – they were o.k. The stories being just average is exactly what I feared would happen. Not only that, but I got an incredible sense of déjà vu – like this had played out once before, many years earlier…

Let’s Turn the Wayback Machine to…
Now, I’m sure that most good Spidey fans have been following the debate during the last few months over Spidey’s status, and if you haven’t been – well then you’re probably one of the smart ones who’s paying attention to the more important things in life, that’s for sure. But for those of us who live our lives vicariously through superheroes – let me toss a few quotes at you from the powers that be:

Who said this?

(a) Joe Quesada in 2007

(b) Steve Wacker in 2007

(c) Dan Slott in 2008

(d) Tom Breevort in his “manifesto” in the Swing Shift Director’s Cut, or

(e) Howard Mackie in 1998.

The winner is…..

Drum roll please…..

HOWARD MACKIE IN 1998!

Yes, that’s right boys and girls. The first three quotes were from the November 1998 issue of Marvel Magazine, and the latter three were from the Wizard Spider-Man Special issued around that same time, 10 years ago!.

Oh, and let’s try this on for shits and giggles:

That, my friends was from John Byrne, in the same aforementioned Wizard special.

But I’m not done dredging up the past yet. Lest you think that I’m itching for a Spider-Man version of Bartlett’s Quotations, let’s look at the actual events that occurred in the Reboot of 1999, and contrast those to the Reboot of 2008. I think your sense of déjà vu will be as great as mine.

The primary difference between the Reboot of 1999 and the OMD/BND Reboot of 2008 is that for 2008 Mary Jane was dispatched immediately, while it took 13 issues to do so in 1999.

So folks, this is not a bold and exciting “new” direction for Spider-Man, regardless of what Marvel says. This is just a rehash of all of the gimmicks THAT DIDN’T WORK in 1999. That’s why Marvel doesn’t really want long time older readers because we remember things like this. They want the audience to cycle out every so often so that they can recycle stories and concepts with the new group that comes in, and no one is the wiser. “Brand New” day my ass.

Now let’s look at some of the topics resulting from Brand New Day:

Amazing Spider-Man 3 times a month.
Love it. A long overdue idea. While I am sure that there are going to be some glitches here and there due to the sheet task of managing four, if not at times, five creative teams, and yet trying to maintain a singular direction for the titles, I’m more than willing to give this a shot. It’s great to receive my monthly shipment and be able to read an entire story, rather than just chapters of three or four different ones. And if a writer drops a turd on one story, next month we’re onto a different writer and a different story, meanwhile giving the former writer time to regroup before his next installment. Plus, I will confess a certain glee at having the fast approaching Amazing Spider-Man #600 as soon as mid-2009, with other milestone issues every three years, if this experiment lasts that long.

Harry’s back?
Although the “wipe away the marriage by a deal with the devil gimmick” was known by virtually everyone months ahead of the revelation, Harry Osborn’s return was a genuine surprise and was only leaked when Marvel subscribers got their issues. Yet, it’s not the same emotionally fragile Harry Osborn that died back in Spectacular Spider-Man #200 (May 1993 – that’s right – 15 years ago). This is a smug earring wearing punk who’s been married and divorced three times (Marvel Editor Tom Brevoort has stated that one of the ex-wives is indeed Liz Allan, and that Harry does have a son – so little Normie wasn’t rectconned out of existence). I wonder if Norman’s seen the earring. Probably not, because knowing Norman, he’d have ripped if off Harry’s ear, and taken the ear with it.

I was never in the camp of believing that Harry needed to be brought back, even though I have always agreed that it was a mistake to kill him in the first place. Harry’s death was probably the ultimate example of how the most logical ending to a story arc is not necessarily “right” for serial fiction. Ultimately, Harry’s story, the tragedy that it was, could only have one conclusion. It made for a great, but sad ending when Harry’s last act was saving Spider-Man from a fate he himself had engineered. But while Harry’s story didn’t continue, Spider-Man’s did. Losing Harry, and not replacing him with another friend, deprived the titles of a major protagonist. With his tortured psyche, his status as the head of a multinational conglomerate, his marriage to one of Peter Parker’s oldest acquaintances, and his relationship to his best friend’s greatest enemy, Harry Osborn was a character rich in potential storylines. And as much of a purist and continuity fanboy whore that I am, I have to admit that it probably was a good idea to bring him back as long as he’s used wisely and in a way that makes at least his part in this whole crappy “It’s magic – we don’t have to explain it” scam worthwhile. Unlike many others, I’m not worried about where it all “fits,” such as how did Peter and Mary Jane not getting married result in Harry still being alive? Marvel may explain it - and they may not.

Still, it just seems to me that the conflict between Peter Parker and either Harry or Norman Osborn is accentuated when one of the Osborns is dead (or believed to be). And, since Norman has been publicly exposed as the Green Goblin, one of the sticking points in Peter’s not being able to take Norman down - the impact it would have on Harry – no longer seems valid. Still, it could be interesting to see the Osborns do their twisted father-son dance again, with Peter Parker, the son that Norman always wanted, in the middle of it. That is, if Norman still feels that way after watching the loser that Peter Parker has become in Brand New Day.

But being married and divorced three times? Is that going to go anywhere – or is that just a “look kids how things are different! This isn’t you’re daddy’s Spider-Man.” And we’re all supposed to oooh and aaah over Marvel’s brilliance. Besides, my father didn’t read comics. What you say? I’m the daddy in the reference? Oh maaaaan…

But having Harry as the owner of the Coffee Bean is a great idea. I guess that all kinds of hip YOUNG people hang out at coffee shops – and by golly we’ll get to meet them. Anyway, it gives our characters a common place to gather and is a nostalgic nod to a classic period of time.

Is Jackpot Mary Jane?
To be perfectly honest, this is one of the things about the Reboot of 2008 of which I really don’t care. It’s apparent that she’s a model that she’s a relatively new hero, and she uses the term “Tiger.” Well, it would be too obvious, right? In the “old days,” I wouldn’t have minded a story arc where Mary Jane temporarily obtained super powers and had to learn first hand the burden that having them creates, which would cause her to walk a mile in her husband’s shoes, although now that I think about it, that sounds rather lame. Like I’ve said before, good thing I’m not a writer. But it won’t disappoint me is Jackpot is Mary Jane, neither will it bother me if she isn’t. I suspect she’s not.

But overall, Jackpot just seems to be a silly superhero with a silly, nonfunctional costume with her “777” belt, her bell bottom pants, and her gloves that are missing fingers.

Tom Breevoort’s Manifesto
I’ve always reserved some respect for Tom Breevort because he refused to allow Mary Jane to miscarry at the end of The Final Adventure during the Clone Saga, but here he’s just giving us the party line. I don’t want to spend a lot of time knocking the manifesto, which was printed at the end of “Swing Shift,” because it’s an informal memo and probably not something that was originally written with publication in mind. That said – there are still some things that really stand out that I can’t believe he’s saying. First of all, I just love how Marvel collectively, and Joe Quesada specifically always likes to talk about how Spidey got off track over the last few years – but – weren’t you there, Joe? Tom? What was it about J. Michael Stracyznski’s run on the title that now you say took Spidey off track, all the while it was happening shilling and praising it to the skies? Who o.k.’d the whole Ezekiel-Shathra-Morlun-totem- mystic spider crap? Who let Brian Bendis make him an Avenger? Who let Paul Jenkins give him organic webbing? Were you silent because sales were good, because JMS had more than doubled Mackie’s sales and New Avengers was often a #1 seller, largely because of Spidey and Wolverine being members? Who fed us a line of bullshit during Civil War talking about all of the story possibilities represented by the unmasking, while considering that Breevort’s manifesto is dated 9-18-2006, the stage had already been set for reversing it? It’d be one thing if a new management was coming in and making these statements, but these are the guys that have been at Marvel for years claiming that Spidey is broke – when they themselves had all this time to fix him! Maybe if he was really selling that well (and I do realize that the “other” titles did not sell that well – but 3 times a month Amazing could have been done at any time) then maybe not that much was wrong, at least not enough to trigger a “magic reboot.”

I like “Peter lives and behaves like a young 25 year old” followed by “Spider-Man doesn’t grow up.” I’m sorry to say this, but at 25, you should be grown up. At 25 I was married and had a job. And so did a lot of other people. Yes, I know that many people don’t grow up and remain a perpetually adolescent Peter Pan (what’s the equivalent of an immature woman?) – but I also have no desire to read about those people. I don’t want to read a character one year, and he be the exact same character five years later, with no growth, no additional maturity. Life is a process, not a destination. What – are you saying that I shouldn’t be reading the character for more than five years – that I should give up and do something else? Fine – just who is going to take my place? Anyway, is this what Marvel thinks the average person in their 20’s is like – directionless and vapid? I’d be insulted if I were you. “Like many twentysomethings, he hasn’t quite worked out what he wants to do with his life long term, and he’s been too busy on the treadmill to really be able to ponder it.” Since when is this feeling proprietary to twentysomethings? I’m in my 40’s, and yes, while I do have a sense of direction, I also know that I’m not where I really want to be or doing what I really want to do because, frankly, we ALL are on the treadmill. Peter can be 35 years old and feel no different or better about himself than at 25. I know – I’ve been there.

But there are good points to the manifesto as well. Breevort explicitly wants to stop repeatedly doing homages to such events as “girl falling off bridge” and “lifting big heavy thing off his back to save Aunt May.” Funny – because JMS did them both. But needless to say, Breevort gets a cheer here.

And Breevort asks “does it make sense for Peter to take still photos of himself with what’s available in today’s technology?” Bingo – it doesn’t. Which is why a lot of us liked the teaching job because taking photos of himself for the Bugle burned itself out – not only that – but geez louise – how long does the guy have to take “exclusive” pictures of Spidey that no one else gets from really weird angles before the whole world puts two and two together? Duh. Breevort mentions taking videos with a digital video camera – but to me the thing that makes the most sense is to put him on the Bugle’s web site, which could probably give him flexible hours, keep him around some of our favorite supporting characters, while introducing us to other young, hip, eccentric people down in the computer room with him.

But time’s a wasting – let’s get beyond the theoretical and go to where the rubber meets the road (I’ve been to Cliché Central myself) - the stories.

Swing Shift – the Director’s Cut
While just a one-shot, it is actually the chronologically first story of the Brand New Day era, and a rather ordinary one. Spider-Man has been out of action for weeks, letting the registered superheroes clean up New York, and presently he’s taking home a birthday cake to May, promising to be home within an hour. Of course, that’s another promise he doesn’t keep as a speeding car barrels by, and rather than letting the other costumes that are crawling all over New York (and who have been VERY conspicuously absent during this series –save for Jackpot and a nobody called the Blue Shield) handle it, Peter decides to become Spider-Man again. As Spidey confronts the driver, known as Overdrive, and BRINGS HIM TO JUSTICE, we meet several supporting characters for the first time, including the aforementioned new superhero with flowing red hair, Jackpot, Mr. Negative, for whom Overdrive is working, and New York cops Alan O’Neil and Vin Gonzales. Naturally, Peter misses May’s party and as she comes home and finds him sleeping, she ponders on how he has just never grown up and how she wishes that she and Ben had taught him how to be more responsible.

While not a classic, the story was o.k. until that last line, as it represents a seismic shift in how Peter is apparently going to be portrayed in this Brand New Day era. Aunt May was always one of Peter’s strongest supporters, thinking the world of him when the rest of the adult world (usually the doctors who were treating her) thought of him as unworthy of her. The original Peter Parker was incredibly responsible, and even though May didn’t always know exactly why, she knew that her nephew was made of good stuff. Now, she thinks he‘s a slacker. I don’t like this at all.

Issues #546-548
This first one takes the longest to set up: Spider-Man has been out of action for several months, with the exception of one brief sighting (a reference to “Swing Shift”), not counting the mugger who’s running around New York wearing a Spidey mask. His inactivity still hasn’t mellowed J. Jonah Jameson’s tirades, even though the lack of Spider-Man coverage has resulted in the Bugle’s circulation dipping to an all time low. While “Daily Bugle in trouble” stories have become all too frequent over the last several years (beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #103 (December 1971) when Jonah blamed the idiot box – television – for the decline, and hatched the Savage Land trip to rescue the Bugle) – it really does match the precarious state of the print media over the last few decades, a state that’s not likely to improve anytime soon.

Anyway, Peter is slumming at Aunt May’s because he can’t find a job or an apartment, and May is on his case to find the former, and his good friend Betty Brant helps him with the latter – if he can come up with the first month’s deposit. Of course, he can’t get a job because his previous track record at showing up to previous jobs is less than illustrious (and there is a reference to his “last teaching assignment” so this bolsters Marvel’s contention that the past few years really did happen), and his photography has never been of Pulitzer Prize quality (another tiresome plot point – you’d have thought he’d have gotten better by now – but that’s right – he never grows up nor gets better at anything). The now alive Harry Osborn and his new girlfriend, Lily Hollister, daughter of a NY politico, invite Peter out for club hopping (because that’s what cool young people do) and drag along Carlie Cooper, the cliché “smoking hot girl who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot, but she is because smoking hot girls are the only type of girls that writers and artists will let our hero hang out with – God forbid she have some curves and junk in the trunk like the majority of American women – so they can try to fix her up with Pete.

Meanwhile, a new crime lord, a guy with a real exposure problem, Mr. Negative is plotting a takeover of the New York underworld and plans to do it with a poison that targets only those with the genetic code of the two prominent crime families, wiping them and their families out them out entirely. Spidey saves the day, but of course, causes so much mayhem that everyone is on his case – not to mention the small fact that dead bodies are showing up with spider tracers on them, leading the police to want to drag him in for questioning. To make matters even worse, when Peter storms into Jonah’s office demanding what he’s owed for the Bugle reprinting Spider-Man pictures, the combination of that and the stress from rival Dexter Bennett’s takeover attempt of the Bugle causes Jonah to have a massive heart attack. While the jolly one is incapacitated, his wife Marla figures this is all too much for him and sells the paper to Mr. Bennett.

And it turns out that Mr. Negative is actually Mr. Martin Li, the billionaire benefactor of the soup kitchen that Aunt May volunteers at – and Mr. Li seems to have some genuine affection for May Parker, although not on the Doc Ock level, of course. Complications, complications.

This first arc of Brand New Day is by far the weakest, and was the most disappointing considering who the author was. It didn’t even have a fraction of the natural charm and humor that Slott’s other Spider-Man work has had, such as the Spidey-Torch mini, or his guest appearance in She Hulk #4 some years ago. The primary reason this story was weak was because it took all of the clichés about why there is a Brand New Day in the first place and beat them into the ground. However, I don’t expect much of what was wrong with this story to be repeated because I truly think Slott is too good of a writer, and too self aware, to repeat his mistakes.

Ultimately (no pun intended), this story felt like a distilled cliché-fest to give the impression that he’s young! Young!

In fact, it seems that just to emphasize the slacker point again, Aunt May bursts in on a sleeping, unshaven Peter telling him to go out and look for a job! Since when does Aunt May have to tell Peter to look for a job? Peter is ALWAYS looking for a way to make money, always looking for a way to help Aunt May out with the bills, even when he’s not taking photos. So, since he stopped being Spider-Man he stopped doing these things as well? He hasn’t become a slacker any other time that he quit being Spider-Man – and it can’t be because he’s in a depression about the loss of his marriage, because of course, he doesn’t remember that he ever was married! And then, as to emphasize some sort of conflict with May, Peter refers to her as a “crabby aunt.” Aunt May has been many things in all of the years of the Spider-Man titles, most notably a senile old fool, but she could never be characterized as “crabby.” Peter has always had to walk on eggshells so as not to worry her or get her upset as emotionally delicate as she was portrayed prior to the Straczyinski era. Peter has tolerated a lot out of May because of the love and gratitude he feels for all of the sacrifices that she and Ben made in raising him as if he were their own. He might as well have been thinking “I wish the old biddy would lay off me about getting a job.” In the Reboot of 1999 era, he was washing dishes and sleeping on the street before he would crash at Aunt May’s. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that portrayal is any more valid than this current one – but which is he? Trust me, if sweet old Aunt May is nagging you to go out and get a job, then you’re a stupid, creepy loser. Unfortunately, I can’t claim ownership of the above line, but have to bow to my Spider-Man Crawlspace compatriot “Morbius,” who described Peter as such on one of the latest podcasts. Peter comments that he doesn’t have a computer to post his resume, but don’t public libraries have computers where you can set up online accounts and receive e-mail or post resumes? And in the following story arc he is able to send an e-mail to a police officer as Spider-Man using some fancy computer skills – so he couldn’t do the same on a public computer to look for a job?

Speaking of May, however, unlike the Reboot of 1999, which returned her to the days that she was a sickly, senile Spider-Man hating twit – this May has more on the ball. She recognizes street slang for example, and only pretends to be an old twit as a means of disarming people. And serving as a volunteer to help the homeless and hungry is 100% in character for a woman who lives to take care of others.

And then there’s the “Parker Luck” which we get hammered with more than once. Strangely enough, the “Parker Luck” is relative. After all, it’s supposed to be bad, particularly where getting laid is concerned, but what’s so hard luck about being part of the Harry Osborn Entourage, where Harry is dragging you to hip clubs with hot women, buying everyone drinks, and then loaning hundreds of dollars to you without blinking an eye. This opens up opportunities that many nerds simply don’t have – I’d say the Parker luck is pretty good! Johnny Storm once did, remember? But Peter was unrelatable because he was married to a model. Yeah.

And he has webshooters again - but the damn things turn out to be a problem in not one, not two, but ALL three of the first story arcs. Each has elements which rely on the webshooters being empty, broken, or jammed. Enough – we get the point that he doesn’t have the organics anymore. And everyone seems to have easily forgotten how cheaply Ben Reilly made web fluid back in Sensational Spider-Man #0. Since we’re talking about the same scientific genius here, it’s hard to believe that Peter couldn’t come up with a solution for less than $2,000. Though in all honesty, believing that he would need $2,000 is easier than believing he could whip up a batch for $30.

And then in another whopper of an overwrought moment, Peter loses his shoes because he was chasing the guy who stole his wallet and doing some wall crawling, but he happens to pursue the guy right into the soup kitchen where May works. Martin Li thinks Peter is homeless, and then extrapolates that’s why May volunteers at the kitchen, because of his situation. Mr. Li fits him with some used shoes, after which Peter schleps out of the kitchen with his hands in his pockets, looking like he’s Shaggy from Scooby Doo.

Well, did I like anything? Not much, I’m afraid, but I will admit that I’m actually intrigued by Mr. Negative. Crime lords seem to be a dime a dozen these days and everyone in New York seems to want to be a crime lord at least once during their time there. Still, I hope that we find out that the soup kitchen isn’t just a cover, but that there is a core of decency and humanity in Mr. Negative, but somehow he has been warped into something so brutal and evil that he would have no compunctions about killing the women and children of mobsters. Not that he has to be a sympathetic villain – but a complex and unpredictable one.

And I actually liked the backup tale “Harry and the Hollisters,” even if this is a different Harry than we are used to. I am really curious about Zeb Wells’ contributions now that he will be a regular, as I’ve liked most of his Spidey stuff that I’ve read, particularly his look inside J. Jonah Jameson’s psyche in Tangled Web of Spider-Man #20.

Issues #549-551
Well, here we go – our first mystery villain of the new era – Menace, a Goblin wannabe with the slight frame of a female, so go figure – and since there hasn’t been a female Goblin in the original continuity yet (remember, although Norman had a costume for her, Sarah Stacy-Osborn never suited up) that’s my guess. Menace is committing a string of crimes, which brings out New York’s newest registered superhero, Jackpot, who tells Spidey that Menace is her arch nemesis. By this time we’ve met Jackpot briefly a couple of other times, in Swing Shift, and in her own backup story at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #549. Jackpot and Spidey get in each other’s way, exchange quips, and Spidey asks if she’s Mary Jane, which of course she denies. Spidey persists in asking for her name, which she finally gives as “Sara Ehret.” Menace’s activities culminate in the kidnapping of a mayoral candidate for unspecified reasons, who is later accidentally killed by Menace’s errant glider. At the end, Spidey visits Sara Ehret,” but not only does Sara play dumb, but there seems to be some mystery to her that may or may not even be related to Jackpot.

Unlike many others, I am un-intrigued by Menace, which is yet another mystery Goblin, following the classic Green and Hob varieties, as well as Green V which was a cool mystery until it was trashed in the Reboot of 1999. In an episode of the Crawlspace podcast, Steve Wacker indicated they were going to the well again because a mystery Goblin was iconic in the Spider-Man mythology. There is one line of thought that Menace is actually a bad version of Mary Jane, with Jackpot the good version (Menace and Jackpot, get it?) Another theory, by our good friend Morbius, is that the name “Ehret,” as in Sara Ehret, the name that Jackpot gave Spidey as her secret identity is really an anagram for “three” which would mean that quite possibly Sara is either Jackpot or Menace, or all three are related somehow. Frankly, I wouldn’t waste a whole lot of time worrying about it – if only because the revelations of the past, such as Green Goblin V and the original HobGoblin reveal, were busts. In fact, if you look at it, the revelation of the identity of the first Green Goblin was probably a bust since it was a character introduced only two issues earlier. Only the revelation of Professor Warren as the Jackal was a stunner, and frankly, that could simply be my 12 year old naiveté talking.

This issue was a lot less heavy handed than the last one about Peter’s youth, single status, and slackerhood, although more so on him not having any webbing, but I’ve made that point already. Spidey’s idea that Jackpot is somehow partially responsible for the Councilwoman’s death is very dubious, as if Jackpot proved her inexperience by leaving the Councilwoman unattended to rejoin the fight against Menace. Spidey has saved and dropped off numerous civilians himself before quickly going after the bad guy again, so why is Jackpot doing it a rookie mistake?

Issues #552-554
A junkie that everyone called “Freak,” who hung out at the homeless shelter where May works, tries to steal the donations to the shelter. Chased by Spider-Man, Freak stumbles upon what he believes is a drug lab, complete with fully loaded needles for shooting up. Well, you have to realize that we’re not dealing with an Einstein here, because he really stumbled into the lab of one Dr. Curt Connors (who the world may not realize is the Lizard in this new fractured reality, apparently, which may not be a bad thing). This dumbass injects himself with one of Curt’s experiments, which not only turns him into a monster, but also gives him the ability to cocoon and regenerate into other and more deadly forms (as his body always learns from the mistakes of the previous incarnations). Meanwhile, while Dexter Bennett is proving to be more fair in his dealings with Peter Parker than Jonah was, he not only slants the news where Spider-Man is concerned, but also unlike Jonah, he slants the news where EVERYTHING is concerned, as the “DB,” becomes more of a sleazy tabloid than a newspaper. Speaking of Jonah, Spidey visits him in the hospital, bringing him cigars, and the news that the Bugle has been sold out from under him (which had been kept from JJJ), prompting yet another heart attack (a few more and Jonah will be up there with Aunt May for the record number of heart attacks for a character). Peter Parker also meets officer Vin Gonzales for the first time – which is worthy of note because apparently these two are going to have a somewhat acrimonious relationship in the near future.

His ability to regenerate into different, deadlier forms notwithstanding, Freak is still pretty much a generic bad guy, one that can (and likely will) keep popping out of cocoons for a Super Spidey Smackdown, although I thought it was an interesting twist that even as a monster “Freak” was still addicted to drugs, particularly smoking crystal meth. Not even bashing Spider-Man got in the way of that craving.

Dexter Bennett’s constantly getting names wrong, particularly Peter’s, worked fine for an issue, but by the third arc it has become very old and I hope someone pulls the plug on it soon.

As if to re-emphasize the “creepy stupid loser tag,” Peter is now wallowing in the mud with Bennett. I was very uneasy with Peter climbing up a tree to take pictures of the murdered Councilwoman’s privatefuneral – which is even more ironic because during the same time, Bill Hollister refuses to discuss a potential mayoral bid at the funeral out of respect for the deceased woman. On Bennett’s orders, he also takes deliberately unflattering shots of mayoral candidate Hollister, which make him seem more like a radical preacher than a thoughtful candidate (this was on Bennett’s orders as he supports Hollister’s opponent). While yes, in the case of the latter, Peter was threatened with his job in the event he didn’t get the pics, and he has faked photos before (such as in the classic Amazing Spider-Man #9 where he makes it look like he is both Spider-Man and Electro), but in the past he has always been portrayed as someone who subscribes to a higher ethical standard. This issue makes him seem like nothing more than common paparazzi.

And to have yet another full page of Peter (this time as Spider-Man) giving mouth to mouth to Jonah was too much. The whole “looking like a gay kiss” thing might have been funny the first time – but it seems that the credo of the Brand New Day era is to beat everything into the ground.

Long time Spidey fans, will however, appreciate the contributors’ list at a fund raising event for Bill Hollister, including a very cheap Tom Breevort, and a more generous “N. Hammond.”

Betty and Peter also have a moment in this story, where through some reverse psychology on Bennett, Peter secures Betty the organized crime beat. I wouldn’t be seriously stressed if Peter got involved with Betty again, because there’s obvious chemistry between the characters, as demonstrated here. So far, nothing has clicked between Peter and the other girls in a believable way. Of course, this is more of the talking out of both sides that Marvel does about Peter’s luck with women. He could easily have had Carlie Cooper in the first story arc if he had said something, for example. He doesn’t have any trouble, nor has he really ever since he left high school, getting dates – he just simply tends not to show up for half of them. Also, Peter’s thinking that Lilly Hollister, Harry’s girlfriend, may have the hots for him makes me think that the reason Marvel is so anxious to have a single Spider-Man is so they can live vicariously through him. He’s a nerd, but by god, it seems all of these good looking women want him.

Conclusion
The stories have been a mixed bag. The most disappointing was the first story arc because it was written by the guy I was expecting the most out of, Dan Slott. The causes of my complaints with the first arc, though, did somewhat diminish as the series wore on. However, NONE of these stories required a single Peter Parker, except for the parts where he’s all alone feeling sorry for himself. “That’s the point” you say? Well, were any of these stories better as a result? No. In fact, these felt very much like stories from the 1970’s instead of Spider-Man stories for the 2000’s. One reason for Gwen not coming back, Tom Breevort explained, was so it didn’t seem like 1968 all over again. And 1978 is better?

Obviously, there are many differences between the Reboot of 1999 and “Brand New Day,” without the whole deal with the devil and warped continuity. For one, all of the spider-eggs aren’t being put in the same creative basket, using one writer who had earlier admitted being tapped out on Spider-Man. This time, we have four writers on a rotating basis. Still, this is the third time in little more than a decade that Marvel has tried a reboot. I wonder what makes Marvel’s “vision” for Spider-Man the right one when it hasn’t taken before. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your perspective, the threshold of success is actually pretty low. In the last few months before One More Day, the three Spider-Man titles sold around 200,000 copies a month, and that is probably an inflated sales figure because of the heavy Civil War tie in, and then the hype surrounding “One More Day.” So, even if the three issues of Amazing Spider-Man sell an average of 65,000 apiece, Marvel can declare the Reboot of 2008 a smashing success, regardless of the level they hoped the titles would sell.

COMING UP IN 2008: You can look for the 2007 Year in Review, and the concluding parts of my Goblin Prince series – timely eh – although it looks like there will be a different ending!


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