By: Story A: Fred Van Lente (writer), Javier Rodriguez (art), Muntsa Vicente (colors), Joe Caramanga (letters); Story B: J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Val Semeiks (pencils), Dan Green (inks), Chris Sotomayor (colors) & Dave Sharpe (letters)

The Story: The era of “all you need to buy is Amazing Spider-Man” comes to an end as Web begins its first ongoing, Peter Parker story with The Extremist in Story A.  Meanwhile, in Story B, we catch up with what Ben Reilly has been up to.

What’s Good: Both of these stories are quality, but the star is The Extremist by Van Lente.  In this, we are introduced to a titular pseudo-hero claiming that his mission is to take on the purveyors of moral ambiguity (mostly the media and politicians) who sometimes tear down heroes and attempt to understand the motives of the villains.  “No more of this nonsense”, says The Extremist.  He wants the public to know who the good guys are!

Of course, is there a more maligned hero than Spider-Man?  It would seem that this Extremist dude would be a real help to Spidey, but…c’mon…this is Peter Parker.  Nothing works out that well for him.  So watching how Peter’s sense of responsibility can’t just allow this guy to help him.  All Peter would have to do is…nothing.  And Spider-Man would be more popular with the public.

This story is clever on many levels.  Beyond really capturing Peter’s essence (he is too noble for his own good), it ties in very nicely with the heroic age: We need to know who the heroes are AND who the bad guys are.  It also has a very neat solution to Peter’s employment problem and that causes all sorts of problems with his roommate (who I love).  It’s just great… Go read it.

The second story follows Ben Reilly as he tries to make a new life for himself in Italy.  I’m a professed non-lover of the clone crap in the Spidey books, but if we must have it, this is the way to do it.  Stick him on the other side of the world and let Ben have an adventure.

The art is really good throughout this issue, but Javier Rodriguez steals the show on The Extremist.  The entire story is really well done and there are a couple of splash pages that are really super.

What’s Not So Good: I’m a little annoyed that Web of Spider-Man has to be required reading.  Remember the promise when Amazing Spider-Man went to trice monthly: ASM would be the only book you had to buy to stay current.  Well… that is out the window.  I guess the cynic in me knew it wouldn’t last, but really…they couldn’t have shoehorned The Extremist into a title that had five issues in the month of March????  How long before a story crosses over?  Although I really liked this issue, I know there will be lulls.  My only hope is that if Web is going to be required reading, that ASM can stick to 3X/month and not have any more 5-issue months.

My only other quibble is that I’d love to see Marvel use this title to give some non-mainstream creators a shot at Spidey.  This would be a really good opportunity to see if any of those folks could do a short stand-alone story.

Conclusion: Publishing issues aside, this had a good story to tell.

Grade: B+

– Dean Stell