By Joe Kelly, Zeb Wells and Marc Guggenheim (writers), Chris Bachalo, Pat Olliffe, and Marcos Martin (pencils/colors/art), Tim Townsend and Serge LaPointe (inks), Antonio Fabela, Rain Beredo, Javier Rodriguez (colors)

This feels like an annual more than anything – but with longer stories. Spider-Man: Brand New Day – Extra!! is essentially a packed, double-sized issue consisting of three stories that revolve around Brand New Day related characters or plots. Maybe Spidey’s “brain trust” of writers finally realized that some of the under-developed subplots needed more attention. If that’s the case, then they’re correct. It’s quite silly how a near weekly title can lag so badly on its multiple subplots but it has. And while these stories aren’t resolved in this issue, they certainly serve as a nice primer of what’s to come down the line.

Story #1: Hammerhead
One of the sillier Spider-Man villains, Hammerhead, finally gets his past unwrapped by Joe Kelly with Chris Bachalo on art chores. As usual, Bachalo’s art is beautiful and his storytelling awful. The monochromatic choice of colors also works against the story. I understand why the choice was made (there’s lots of blood spilled), but the gray tones hamper the story due to the fact that (at many times) it’s hard to distinguish who’s who. Still, while the fleshing out of Hammerhead’s character is an odd choice, it’s well presented. The way Mr. Negative enters the scene and changes everything reminds me of Frank Miller’s Robocop 2. Anyone else feel that way?

Story #2: Harry Osborn’s Birthday
Let’s face it. Ever since Harry Osborn’s returned to Peter Parker’s world he’s been nothing short of a douche. I prefer the older Harry, but whatever, we’re stuck with this one. The story starts off a little hammy, and if you look closely, you might even catch an (almost) sexual joke regarding Peter getting some gunk in his hair. As you can expect, things start off with Harry in usual douche mode, but by the end he surprisingly redeems himself. Zeb Wells does a good job turning this story around and displaying the comradery between Peter and Harry. Pat Olliffe is the perfect vehicle for this pedestrian tale and it really makes me miss the fun work he did on Spider-Girl.

Story #3: Spider-Man on Trial
Finally! Spider-Man goes to trial for the Spider-Tracer killing! And who better to represent him than Matt Murdock. Marc Guggenheim goes into Eli Stone mode with this story, throwing out laws, codes, and legal jargon that’ll either have you interested or bored out of your mind. This story is completely dialogue driven and Marcos Martin does a wonderful job keeping the story rolling and fresh. I didn’t like how things were overcolored at times (let’s face it, Martin’s art looks better with flat colors), but we can’t win ’em all. The story is actually not predictable, and the way it concludes has left me wanting more. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

At $3.99, this book’s worth every penny especially when you compare it to similarly priced books from the Marvel line (Spider-Man: With Great Power, anyone?) – no silly cardstock covers or gimmicks – just good stories. Check this book out, and don’t let the awful Greg Land cover deter you. (Grade: A-)

– J. Montes