By: Dan Slott (plot), Fred Van Lente (script), Stefano Caselli (art), Edgar Delgado (colors), Joe Caramanga (letters) & Stephen Wacker (editor)

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

The Story: Spidey needs a little help to foil the plans of the Spider-Slayer.

What’s Good: Lots of cool guest stars in this issue of Amazing Spider-Man as the New Avengers show up as well as a certain uber-bad guy.  You know what?  The Avengers SHOULD show up sometimes in Amazing Spider-Man since Spidey is an Avenger.  This is the kind of story-making that makes the Marvel Universe feel like a universe where everything is touching and interconnected.  And, their appearance is done is such a way that you don’t need to read New Avengers to understand things.  Sure, there is an inside joke or two that you might miss if you aren’t aware of the distinction between New Avengers and plain old Avengers, but this is a case of interconnectivity being a plus.  We need more of this kind of thing in Marvel comics.

The writing in this issue is really smooth.  The credits indicate that the script is actually by Fred Van Lente and that’s never a bad thing.  His writing style and sensibilities aren’t that different than Dan Slott, so it isn’t a jarring change.  If you follow Van Lente on Twitter or read some of his creator-owned projects (Action Philosophers or Comic Book Comics) you’d realize that he’s a really bright and well read guy and that intelligence really shows through in everything that he writes.  2011 should be a big year for Van Lente.

Also, I love Peter Parker’s boss and that they’re writing him like he’s actually intelligent.  Ya know….smart people would start to figure out that Peter might be Spider-Man so this story angle makes a lot of sense.

The art is overall quite good.  The layouts and storytelling are all very strong and I like how his Spider-Man looks like a man wearing a mask where you can see jaw muscles and the like under the mask.  He also draws a really good Squirrel Girl.  I’m sure Caselli isn’t going to put “esteemed Squirrel Girl artist” on his business cards, but he does draw her really well.

What’s Not So Good: Not a big fan of Spider-Slayer as a villain and this issue is a good example of why as he launches into a long monolog about how he’s going to have his minions kill everyone while he stands dramatically aboard his plane in front of a huge video monitor.  Honestly, won’t villains ever learn?  That never works….

I also thought there was a bit of a missed opportunity to play with the Spider – Ms. Marvel romance angle that has been noodling around for awhile.  I thought for sure that was going to come up and screw with Peter’s head now that he’s officially happy with Carlie.  Oh well…

There was a little bit of art I didn’t personally love.  Ms. Marvel was a little funny looking (which is odd because Squirrel Girl looked so great) and some generally odd faces here and there.  Caselli has a generally realistic style and that makes this title tough for him.  With a realistic style he just doesn’t have much margin for error and I’m sure the production of these issues is relatively rushed due to the art style.  Still, I hate to ever criticize art in ASM much.  It would be like correcting someone’s grammar and spelling on Twitter.  For a true sample of an artists work, a biweekly book probably isn’t the fairest place to look.

Also, why was Iron Fist back in a green costume?  I thought it was sticking with the fancy white threads?

Conclusion: Great use of the Avengers backing Spidey up.  I love seeing a Spidey who is a more important (and powerful) member of the Marvel Universe.  Fun story and writing by the Slott/Van Lente team.  ASM continues to impress!

Grade: B+

-Dean Stell