By Dan Slott (writer), Marcos Martin (artist), and Javier Rodriguez (colors)

I’ll not mince words, I’m a big Mary Jane fan. She is the person most meant for Peter Parker. I know I’ll hear it from the Gwen fans out there, but that’s okay. No one’s been there more for Peter than MJ, and do I hope that we’ll eventually see the return of their marriage.

With that out of the way, I’ve got a strong suspicion that Amazing Spider-Man #559 sets the stage for Mary Jane’s return. The pretext for her return will most likely be linked to Peter’s new gig as paparazzi photographer for the Daily Bugle – a job he comes into with this issue. The job’s trashy, despicable, and shady – Peter knows this, but he also knows that his talents are perfect in this arena, and the money’s too good to pass up. With Peter stalking a high profile male celebrity, it’s almost too predictable that he’ll cross paths with MJ when it’s revealed that she’s dating said celebrity. But whatever, if it comes to that then so be it. Just bring her back already!

As for the rest of this issue, it’s incredibly strong. Dan Slott returns to the book again with a new story arc and artist (Marcos Martin) in tow. Slott does a brilliant job of packing the pages with story – moving the plot faster than perhaps the last two or three story arcs combined! We’re also introduced to two new female villains: Screwball and Paper Doll.

Like The Freak, Screwball is an interesting concept that just doesn’t work. She’s a woman with incredible agility who broadcasts her crime capers via live streaming on the Internet. This idea fails on several levels because it relies too much on defying realism. A girl this gifted – I don’t care who she is – should not be able to best Spider-Man in any way. Spidey’s got too much experience and tricks under his belt to be shaken up by a newbie. Also, why her idiotic accomplices aren’t arrested or pursued makes no sense. It just doesn’t work. Yes, I know I said this issue was strong, so why am I complaining? Because as stupid as the idea is, it still managed to entertain on some level. I’ll just admit it, Dan Slott knows how to make a bad concept seem fun.

As for Paper Doll, she is the complete opposite of Screwball. In fact, this villain seems more suited to Runaways than a Spidey book. She’s creepy, brooding, and supernatural. As odd of a fit she as she is to this title, of all the new Brand New Day villains introduced thus far, I think she’s got most potential. Slott and the other Spider-Man writers just need to keep her mysterious and twisted for as long as they can. I’m really digging this character.

Lastly, the art. Marcos Martin’s work here is unrivaled. It’s the best art we’ve seen since Brand New Day started – and yes, it’s better than Chris Bachalo and Steve McNiven’s stuff. Martin’s style may not appeal to everyone, but his storytelling, his action, and his panel work are out of this world. Dan Slott said Marcos Martin’s style is a cross between Steve Ditko and Tim Sale, and he’s absolutely right. This issue is outrageously gorgeous and a technical wonder to behold.

Despite my misgivings with some of the story elements, these imperfections ultimately end up as the contributing factors that make this issue so damn fun. Oh, and the Starbrand Coffee ad is a nice easter egg. Give me more, I say! (Grade: A-)

– J. Montes