By: Dan Slott (writer), Stefano Caselli (art), Edgar Delgado (colors), Joe Caramanga (letters) & Stephen Wacker (editor)

Power Man back-up by: Fred Van Lente (writer), Reilly Brown (pencils), Victor Olazaba (inks), Andres Mossa (colors), Caramanga (letters) & Wacker (editor)

The Story: Peter Parker settles into his nice, happy life and some arthropod-themed villains have a grudge against J. Jonah Jameson.  Imagine that…

What’s Good: I like seeing happy Peter Parker.  It’s amazing that it was only a couple of story arcs back that his roommate, Michelle, had sold all of his clothes (except for one ugly sweater) to help pay the rent.  How luck can change!  Here we see a Peter who is at ease, enjoying spending time with his family and new girlfriend, Carlie Cooper, while enjoying a dream job that rewards his creativity.  I guess all of these elements were in play during Slott’s first arc of his run on this title, but they didn’t quite sink in as much because of the mayhem going on with the Hobgoblin.  Even though this happiness is certainly temporary, it is well earned.

Peter’s love life has always been an important facet of any Spidey story and Carlie has really grown on me.  Step back to January 2010 with MJ back in town, Peter having drunken hook-ups with his hot roommate and even flirting with Betty Brant and I wasn’t too enthused about him “picking” Carlie, but she is really the perfect match for Peter.  She’s smart, funny and way more comfortable in her own skin than MJ has ever been.  And I even like MJ in this “special friend” role where she can be a sounding board for Peter because she knows everything.

But, ASM is not only a slice-of-life comic, so Slott also brings the action in the form of Spider-Slayer and the new/old Scorpion.  This leads to an great action scene that ends with Jonah making a very surprising request of Spidey.  The crazy thing about Spidey and Jonah’s relationship is that Peter/Spidey is close with just about everyone in Jonah’s world, except for Jonah.

ASM has had awesome art for the last hundred issues or so.  It is really amazing how they are able to shuffle artists due to the frequent release schedule and maintain a high level of quality.  Caselli keeps the ball rolling with some great work here, but I especially like how he draws Carlie and MJ.  IMHO, Carlie needed to be made a little more attractive than she had been drawn.  I mean, Peter picked her over some pretty hot women and the way Caselli draws Carlie helps you understand his decision.  [Note to the kids at home: I’m certainly not implying that looks are everything, but they had to at least get Carlie into the same ballpark with the other ladies.]

What’s Not So Good: Gotta be honest….I’m a little tired of Spidey having to save Jonah.  This is a bit of a unique spin on it in that the bad guys are only after people close to Jonah (so he can suffer), but I still wouldn’t mind seeing the whole Jonah/Spidey relationship put on the shelf for a few months.

I am also shocked that I didn’t love the back-up written by Fred Van Lente.  You can’t win them all and while there were some very funny little moments in this story, it just didn’t grab me that much.  But, I also think that following a Slott story is just difficult.  For lack of a better word, Slott’s writing is very “loud”.  So, it is really easy for a back-up story to seem quiet and meek and that’s kinda what happened here.  In Van Lente’s defense, I think there have been a few delays on ASM of the understandable nature (illness, etc.) and he might have been whipped into action on a moments notice.  Or maybe this was an inventory story?

Conclusion: Dan Slott is off to a really good start to another story arc on ASM.  Life is just happier when ASM is snappy and good.  And what a battery of artists they’ve had on this title?!?  Talk about not missing a beat!

Grade: B

-Dean Stell