By Bob Gale (writer), Barry Kitson (pencils), Mark Farmer (inks), Avalon’s Hannin & Milla (colors)

Wow, talk about invoking mixed feelings. This issue of Amazing Spider-Man does just that in spades. After abandoning The Order (which I’m still bitter over), it’s nice to see Barry Kitson turn up with some outstanding pencil work. One of Kitson’s strengths is that he can draw all kinds of people, not just “the standard build” with a different face (which most artists are guilty of doing). And because this issue features tons of pedestrians, Kitson’s artistic talents are showcased at a high level. In fact, everything he draws in this issue is painstakingly detailed and beautiful.

Bob Gale’s script is harder to gauge. His use of word bubbles with Peter Parker harken back to the classic days of Spider-Man, but in this modern age, they feel out of place. Curt Connors’ self-pity is also Silver Age inspired, yet feels unrealistic (by today’s standards). The Freak, I’ll get into in a moment. And while the return of Menace almost feels annoying, the possible revelation behind his character may end up redeeming him as a villain. Because other than Mr. Negative (who has been keeping a low profile since the first Brand New Day story arc), and that crazy Mayan god, the new villains introduced thus far have been pretty weak.

Okay, so the Freak… Good concept, crappy character. He was created for one simple reason: To lose to Spider-Man in humiliating ways. Why do you think they gave this guy “unlimited lives”? Because he’s a stoner, and stoners are stupid. Nothing illustrates this point more than his death in this issue. I mean, come on – going for Spider-Man’s obvious headfake at the end? Are you serious?! No one in their right mind would fall for that. It’s like being in the middle of the fight and you saying to your opponent, “Hey, look over there,” and then sucker punching them. That’s what Spidey did this issue, and the whole scene was just stupid.

The rest of the issue (I know, it seems like I’ve covered it all, but I haven’t), is filled with some good moments. The crowd reactions to Spidey’s fight with Menace are entertaining, the scene with the snipers is spot on, and Aunt May has a glorious moment that actually made me laugh out loud. There’s also some silly narratives scattered about that come off as entertaining, but all in all, this issue just would have been better had it not dealt with The Freak. Please don’t bring this guy back. (Grade: C+)

– J. Montes

A Second Opinion

Funny, I seem to have the exact opposite opinion as Jay. In this issue, we finally get a satisfying ending to the story of Freak. Or do we?

Before that, we trudge through several problematic scenes with this Brand New Day storyline. First, we see that Peter is feeling guilty for wanting to move out and leave his poor old aunt all by herself. How many times has he moved out before? Don’t tell me they all got retconned away too. Likewise, I think he is more than old enough to live on his own. Later on in the story, we get another confrontation between Spidey and Menace, who I have yet to be convinced is not just another Goblin copycat. Making this scene worse, we are given some of the cheesiest mid-battle quips that Spidey has had in a while.

The last half of the issue is where Gale and Kitson finally deliver as Spider-Man once again faces The Freak, and his jokes become funny and smart. Likewise, Kitson is great at displaying the action in this scene as well as the humor (especially in the facial expressions). The Freak, is without a doubt, the best character to come out of Brand New Day. While is extreme addiction to drugs should be saddening and pity-worthy, Gale writes it so that it is humorous, while at the same time giveing another “Stay away from drugs” lesson without brow-beating the reader. So, to anyone not pleased with Brand New Day, the first half of this issue certainly won’t make you feel any better, but the second half definitely entertains. (Grade: C+)

-M. Staples