American Son

Though I read comic books, I rarely get the chance to purchase them. I’m on a pull list at my local comic shop, but I only pick them up about once a month. That’s why, when I went this past Sunday, I was greeted with one hell of a surprise in the form of everyone’s favorite wall-crawler.

Tucked within my bag I found four issues of the Amazing Spider-Man, comprising the first four chapters of the ‘American Son’ storyline. Since the Spider-Man relaunch in ‘Brand New Day’ I have been very wary of the direction the character has taken. Marvel took a lot of liberties with Spider-Man, bringing him back to “his roots,” as they referred to it. But, to be honest, I wasn’t feeling it. I enjoyed the relationship that Peter Parker had with his wife, Mary Jane. I liked that Peter had become a teacher for a short time, and that he actually had to deal with a sense of personal responsibility for once. I felt that the ‘One New Day/Brand New Day’ sequence of events was a cop out for changing the things that Joe Quesada didn’t like about the character. And it showed in the resulting storylines. None of Spidey’s classic villains made an appearance, with the exception of a couple. Instead, Spider-Man faced off against some new bad guys, like Freak, Paper Doll, and Menace. While some of them were exciting, most of them were just dull. Even the storylines were unexciting, like Eddie Brock’s transformation into Anti-Venom. What the hell was that?

I was really beginning to lose my patience with the entire Spider-Office over at Marvel. Right up until I read Amazing Spider-Man # 595. The issue opened with an interaction between Peter Parker and Harry Osborn. Not since Harry returned at the beginning of “Brand New Day” have these two characters had such an intimate conversation, one that really belies the true friendship that they hold. And from there, the story gets better.

Later in the issue, Spider-Man has a heart-to-heart with Wolverine, in which he laments his decision to not kill Norman Osborn, despite the fact that he has had many chances over the years. This confession adds so much more intensity to Spider-Man than all of the stories over the last two years. Since the 1960s, Spider-Man has been one of those heroes that will not kill. He has seen a lot of death, and many of these deaths were caused by his inaction. Spider-Man has been given many chances and many reasons, but in the end, he chooses humanity over finality. So when Spider-Man confessed this regret to Wolverine, it really brought a lot out of him.

Not only this, but through the storyline, we see how far Spider-Man will go to expose Norman Osborn, who has become the most powerful man in the Marvel Universe, for the criminal that he is. (There will be spoilers coming up, so you may want to turn away if you haven’t read the story yet.)

Peter Parker is giving the idea to go into the depths of Osborn’s plan by going undercover. So he asks Reed and Susan Richards to create a suit that will mimic the powers of Venom, who is currently posing as Spider-Man on Osborn’s team of Avengers. After taking out Venom, Spider-Man slips into Avengers tower and Osborn’s plan starts to unravel itself. Until the Avengers realize that Venom is not really Venom.

Spider-Man is caught, and Norman reveals his plan to him, moments before he is set to kill him. However, Harry Osborn rushes in to save Spider-Man despite the hatred he feels for the hero. What’s spectacular about the rescue is that by doing so, Harry fulfills Norman’s plan by donning a suit of Iron Man-type armor made especially for him.

This story takes place in five chapters, and I have already read four of them. I cannot wait for the final part to be released, to see how this story ends. There have been a great many awesome writers and artist work on Amazing Spider-Man since Brand New Day, but never once have I been this enthralled by a storyline. I have to thank Joe Kelly for an excellent story that creates deepens the nature of a character that has been around for almost 50 years. This is a tough thing to do, but Mr. Kelly manages to make it happen. I also need to thank Phil Jiminez for the beautiful art throughout the series. Many artists have a tendency to draw things so dynamically that the action becomes difficult to follow. But Mr. Jiminez keeps everything straight forward, and still manages to keep the story exciting. It just shows that you do not need a hundred different angles within one page of story. And if you do, they you better know what the hell you are doing so you can pull it off correctly without making your audience puke.

I’ve never been one for trade paperbacks. I realize that they serve their purpose in that they collect a number of issues for people to catch up on a storyline. I’ve bought a few in the past to read stories that I missed. It also greatly annoys me that publishers have their writers write for trades. One single storyline that wraps up neatly after issue six will sell well as a trade paperback. I am a collector. When I buy an issue, I see no purpose in purchasing the trade. However, I might neglect that policy once the ‘American Son’ trade hits the stand. This is something that I would like on my bookshelf, instead of being buried within my collection. I will likely pull this story out every couple of months, and re-read the fantastic story put forth my Joe Kelly and Phil Jiminez.

For a while, I wondered how Marvel would bring Spider-Man into the folds of the Dark Reign. Sure, one of his oldest enemies is running the show, but the entire idea just seems beyond Spidey’s scope. Now, I see how the braintrust in the Marvel Offices works, and they managed to pull one big, beautiful, white rabbit from the hat once again.

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