Amazing Reviews: “Origin of the Species” (Amazing Spider-Man 642-647)
Ladies and gentlemen, we have done it. We’ve reached the end of Brand New Day. It’s been a pretty crazy, thrilling ride, hasn’t it? The Web-Heads have taken newly single Peter Parker/Spider-Man on a roller coaster of adventures, introducing new supporting characters and villains, revamping old enemies, giving us a couple of harsh deaths, and basically making Peter’s life as insane as it’s ever been. A team of talented writers and artists have joined forces to reconstruct Peter’s world, and they have done so incredibly well, with a few minor weaker tales along the way.
But the end is near, and Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta give us one final tale before Dan Slott takes over as primary writer, a position he’s held until today. Waid and Azaceta work to give us a story that’s been laid to the side for a while, namely, that of Menace’s/Lilly Hollister’s unborn child. We haven’t seen Lilly since before The Gauntlet, during the American Son storyline, where it was revealed that she’s been carrying Norman Osborn’s child. Well, it looks like Lilly’s come full term, because she comes crashing through the window of Harry’s recently opened Coffee Bean, ready to give birth at any second. It turns out Mary Jane, Carlie Cooper, and Peter are all there, too, having some friendly bonding time together. Well, Peter’s really there because he wanted to meet up with Carlie, but any potential dating is demolished like the front picture window Lilly smashes through.
What's Up, Doc Ock?
Fortunately, there’s a doctor in the house. Unfortunately, that doctor is Otto Octavius, Dr. Octopus, who, um, is actually a scientist and not an obstetrician. Oh, and he’s also evil. Oh, AND he’s only delivering Lilly’s baby because he thinks the combined DNA of Norman Osborn/The Green Goblin and Lilly/Menace will lead to this child being the first of a race of super-powered individuals, perhaps one that can even cure him of his failing health. To that end, he’s hired a bunch of super-criminals—everybody from Sandman, Electro, and the Rhino to Diablo and the Spot—to hunt the child down. It’s Tombstone and Shocker who find Menace first, leading Doc there for the blessed occasion of delivering the infant.
But Spidey appears on the scene, snatching the baby away from Ock and leading him and his band of baddies on a merry chase. Right after The Gauntlet, one would believe readers would be tired of Spidey confronting a host of supervillains, but it’s one electrifying moment after another that Waid brings. Literally, in some cases, as Spidey battles Electro right off the bat, the electrical villain stationed at a hospital Spidey was hoping to bring the baby to.
It’s a clever story, not just having Spidey confront his enemies but doing so while he’s trying to protect a newborn infant without its mother or food. Spidey, as he often is, feels completely out of his element, protecting this baby from guys like Electro, Sandman, Mysterio, the Rhino, the red version of the Vulture, and Freak while also trying to figure out where he can get formula or a diaper for the kid. As I said, Waid continually gives us the action and also his brand of wit and humor through Spidey’s running monologue.
Waid also delivers a variety of tethers to the previous Gauntlet storyline. Electro has his upgraded abilities intact; Sandman joins Ock's squad so Ock can help him get his daughter back; Spidey eventually convinces the Rhino to back off by invoking the memory of his deceased wife Oksana. Waid does a great job showing us that The Gauntlet wasn't just a one and done deal. The writers may be moving on, but they haven't left the past behind completely. As I said multiple times during those reviews, The Gauntlet was a game-changer, not just for Spidey, but his enemies too. Waid keeps that legacy moving on nicely.
A Harry Situation
Harry eventually pops up, taking the child while Spidey fends off the red Vulture and Freak. Returning to Harry, Spidey discovers Harry in tears because the baby, this newborn brother of his, has died. The stress has been too much, and he’s gone.
Spidey goes berserk, hunting every villain who was or could have been involved in the child’s pursuit. He’s had a heck of a time lately, and just when he thinks things are gonna get better, he’s dealt another bad hand. What he doesn’t know is the baby is actually alive and well and in the possession of, not Harry Osborn, but the Chameleon disguised as Peter’s old friend.
Except not for long. All of a sudden, the Lizard comes by and snatches the Osborn baby, hiding away in his secret tunnels. Like Ock, the Lizard believes the baby’s possible mutagenic blood can be helpful to him. Eventually, Spidey learns that the baby isn’t dead and heads into the Lizard’s lair. Sadly, Doc Ock has the same idea, and the three of them tangle over the fate of the child. Spidey eventually saves the kid as Ock falls prey to the Lizard's new mind-altering ability, leaving the two of them to duke it out.
The whole story is like The Gauntlet shoved into a smaller story arc. It has villains featured prominently in The Gauntlet—including Electro, Sandman, the old Rhino, the Vulture, Mysterio, and the Lizard—but lobs them at Spidey at a breakneck pace. The pace never settles for a second. Just when Spidey defeats Sandman and Electro, the Rhino tries to stomp him. Just when he thinks he reaches Avengers Mansion, Mysterio is waiting for him with a trap. Just when he believes the baby is safe, the Chameleon fakes the child’s death before the Lizard steps in. It’s a crazy series of issues, and Mark Waid writes it well. His frequent Spidey collaborator, Paul Azaceta, wields his pencils wonderfully, bringing the same vibe to this story as he did with the Electro and Vulture arcs during The Gauntlet.
The tale ends with the baby rescued and returned to Harry, who Spidey discovers is not the brother, but the father of the child. Harry, Mary Jane, and Carlie had just survived an encounter with Menace and Tombstone, so the news is good for Harry after such a tense day. It’s also a fantastic moment for the guy; over the past year or so, readers had seen him uncover OsCorp secrets, discover Lilly’s identity as Menace, disown his father after a heated confrontation, and struggle to run a coffee shop. The guy needed a break, and he got one!
The Brand New End to Brand New Day
The final issue in this collection—and thus the final issue of Brand New Day—unites Fred van Lente and Max Fiumara that brings in a few interesting elements: first, Vin Gonzales is out of jail. Following his incarceration for the “Spider Tracers” incident Marc Guggenheim outlined in his Election Day story, Vin is back. He doesn’t do much—he’s pretty much gone after this issue—but it’s a thread that gets wrapped up here. The other piece is Carlie Cooper. For such a long time, writers had been teasing a burgeoning relationship between Peter and Carlie. A variety of stumbling blocks had gotten in the way—Mary Jane’s return, the Black Cat’s appearance, the Chameleon’s interactions with Michelle Gonzales—but those had been laid to rest. With Quesada’s One Moment in Time bringing peace to Peter and MJ, Peter apparently had her blessing to pursue other relationships. Now, van Lente can bring that together.
As a send-off for Brand New Day, it works. It’s not a mind-blowing, awesome work of art, but it does a nice job bringing back some of these elements and corners of the Brand New Day universe and wrapping them up. It’s like van Lente is saying the Web-Heads are done, their work is finished. They told the stories they needed to tell, and now their time is over.
For the last story within the Brand New Day era, it feels satisfying that Waid and Azaceta should take it over. Sure, writers like Dan Slott and Marc Guggenheim wrote more scripts than Waid did (and Slott takes over the book as solo writer following the end of this arc), and more artists contributed than Azaceta did (like Mike McKone and Phil Jimenez), but Waid and Azaceta really came in at the end and did some masterful work together. They made a fantastic team, and their Electro and Vulture stories were really well-done, so it seems right they get to finish it up together.
And with that, we move on to a long-running, and rather controversial, writer on the book: Dan Slott, solo writer of the Amazing Spider-Man, from here until the present day. Let’s see where he takes us, and how much we enjoy ourselves after a couple of years of multiple writers.
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Amazing Spider-Man: Origin of the Species
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© 2018 Nathan Kiehn