Nathan Kiehn is the author of over 100 blog posts on his family website Keenlinks and "The Gray Guard" ebook fantasy trilogy on Amazon.
The third part of Brand New Day: Complete Collection: Volume 1 contains the third Brand New Day volume, written by Dan Slott and Bob Gale and illustrated by Marcos Martin and Mike McKone. Once again, these talented creators are tasked with continually introducing new facets within Spidey’s world as well as weaving back in old ones. As shall be seen, perhaps the biggest facet brought back up is a certain red-headed Mary Jane Watson, the not-so-anymore-Mrs. Parker supermodel.
Dan Slott takes the writing reins for the first arc here, a three-issue story that primarily introduces Mary Jane and also adds a few new villains for Spider-Man to tackle. One of these is Screwball, a parkour supervillain who live streams her crimes over the internet. Agile like Spidey, she gives him a nice chase to kick off the story arc. While never featured really prominently in any stories, she'll appear to bother Spidey on more than one occasion.
Slott seemingly has a lot on his plate here, and he handles it all fairly well—introducing new villains like Screwball, exploring the future of Harry Osborn after his sudden return from Europe (part of the explanation for his “death” after his stint as the Green Goblin), pulling in actor Bobby Carr (and his “mysterious girlfriend”), and turning Peter Parker into a paparazzo at the behest of his boss and new owner of the DB!, Dexter Bennett. Seriously, this guy makes you grate your teeth. Jonah Jameson’s a jerk, but he’s a lovable jerk, but Slott and other writers make this guy a full-fledged scumbag with a side of ugh. Now, of course, turning Peter into a paparazzo makes him persistently tail actor Bobby Carr, which leads him to “interacting” with Mary Jane as Spidey, so it all fits into Slott’s story. Still, having Peter glimpsing into other people’s private lives is an awkward action for the clean-cut Boy Scout and, while it serves story purposes, seems not to jell with his inherent character. Then again, everyone can act contradictory to how they normally are, so I guess Peter can do this.
This, however, is a good example of how comics oftentimes handle “character change.” I place that in quotes for a slightly sarcastic emphasis. As much as I tend to complain about Dan Slott, by no means is he the only writer I would accuse of doing this. I get that it’s hard to pack a main story, side plots, and characterization in 22 pages once per month (though, in Amazing’s case at this time, it’s three times a month), but it definitely leads to stories that feel too fast-paced and have huge developments in character with little foreshadowing and pretty abrupt alterations. Also, goofy changes to the characters themselves can happen, such as swapping their mind for that of their arch-nemesis, but that’s for later. Whatever the case, in this instance, it feels like an abrupt and easy way for the story to get told, so I think the plot here is a bit goofy. What am I saying? It’s comics; they’re all goofy.
The saving grace, however, is Marcos Martin, the illustrator. If I were to make a list of ten favorite comic book artists in general, and Spidey artists in particular—and I might just do that one day—Martin would be on the list, along with John Romita Jr., Tim Sale, and probably Steve McNiven. Martin exudes fun with every stroke of his pen, and the colorists that usually aid him add to that aspect tremendously. Like Chris Bachalo and Zeb Wells, Martin is an artist Slott turns to time and again, as will be seen throughout some of Slott’s other Amazing arcs during the Brand New Day era as well as Slott’s own run on the book. Martin’s work leans a bit closer to the cartoonish side of comic book art, especially when the colors utilized are bright. However, I think his stuff is enjoyable because it really pops. The action scenes are better defined, the characters feel alive…perhaps a sense of reality is pushed to the side, but it’s replaced with energy that crackles across each panel.
Swinging back to Mary Jane (spider-pun, ftw), her involvement is tangential, but it fits with the story. It makes perfect sense that the writers would want to avoid a full-blown interaction between her and Spidey. In the tale, Spidey saves Bobby Carr from Paper Doll, a rabid fan turn full-blown murderer who can make her body two-dimensional. Spidey's assisted by a "mysterious voice" that turns out to be MJ, so while the two don't meet face-to-face, this is their first interaction following the events of One More Day. Slott does hint that Mary Jane still actually knows Peter’s identity as Spider-Man, an exception to the Mephisto deal that Spidey doesn’t know
Admittedly, there are times where this vibe can seem a little off-putting. Brand New Day comes as so new, so fresh, so 60’s-era Spidey, that it’s difficult to picture it coming right after Straczynski’s grounded, more mature, yet deep and hilarious take on the character. So seeing strands that he left loose being pulled together here feels strange. Yet, the writers do it the best way possible. They’re subtle, which is rare in an artistic medium with two-page spreads, splashy colors, and goofball characters.
To his credit, Peter eventually comes to his senses and realizes how creepy it is for him to stalk famous people like Bobby Carr--especially by using his spider-skills of crawling and climbing--and says so to Dexter Bennett's face. It's one of those great moments where a character sticks to his guns in the face of something morally reprehensible, which is a core characteristic of who Peter is. "With great power..." and all that. He gets fired as a result, unfortunately, but he does the right thing. That's what important.
Amazing Spider-Man: Brand New Day, Volume 3
Bookies and Bashers
After this story, writer Bob Gale and artist Mike McKone take the reins to tell a two-part story focused on a character named the Bookie. Though a minor character, the Bookie pops up multiple times throughout the Brand New Day era. He runs an illegal bar for super criminals, cause even the bad guys need a place where everybody knows their name…or bad guy nom de guerre? He also lets his clientele place bets on hero-villain fights, because we all know that gambling with supervillain dough is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.
Because it isn’t. It’s really not. Because, for example, let’s say that the supervillains find out that you fix a bet by hiring someone to dress up as Spider-Man and trounce a Tier 4 villain. Just a hypothetical argum...oh, no, wait. This actually happens.
This is the Basher. I don’t know his real name, I don’t know his origin, I don’t know the extent of his powers. Assumedly, it’s to “bash” superheroes. Guy’s clearly a savant. Besides having the laziest supervillain name in all creation, he agrees to get trounced by “Spider-Man,” a stunt that gets foiled by the real Spider-Man. Sounds pretty dumb on the Bookie’s part.
Because it is. It really is. Dude gets himself kidnapped by the Enforcers—Ox, Fancy Dan and Montana—guys who have no superpowers yet find themselves pitted against Spidey time and again. Spidey then has to team with his greatest sidekick ever: the Bookie’s dad! Together, the two discover the Enforcers in their secret, abandoned amusement park hideout, where they’re subjecting the Bookie to funhouse-themed punishments for his underhanded dealings.
It’s as bizarre as it sounds. Comics, man.
Long story short, Spidey saves the Bookie. The day is saved. Hopefully, this means that the Bookie will learn his lesson about taking unnecessary, stupid risks when dealing with bad guys.
(that’s called foreshadowing, people)
Other than being amusing and offering a tiny hint of foreshadowing, this story does little to add anything to the Brand New Day world that’s being crafted. And with that last issue, the first volume of my Complete Collection is, well, complete. Overall, it’s a heck of a volume, kicking Spidey from the Straczynski era into a brand new one. There are bunch of great stories, new characters, fun plotlines, cool scripts, and fantastic art. And did I mention I got this volume in England? Yeah, so that adds a bit of special into the mix. Cheerio.
What's In a Name?
© 2017 Nathan Kiehn