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

Venom back-up: Dan Slott (writer), Paulo Siqueira & Ronan Cliquet de Oliveira (pencils), Siqueira, Roland Paris & Greg Adams (inks), Fabio D’Auria (colors), Caramanga (letters) & Wacker (editor)

The Story: Spidey deals with a threat to his secret identity while fighting the Spider Slayers.  Oh, also  someone dies.

What’s Good: “Another fast paced and romping issue of Amazing Spider-Man”….  That has been a solid descriptor for every issue since Dan Slott took the reins of this title in issue #648.  Again, this issue is action packed and uses a blend of Spidey’s superhero and scientist sides (with a clever twist on the secret identity).  Slott has really embraced this role as hero/scientists and the series is better for it.

Another thing that I love about ASM is how much it feels like New York.  As much as I love fictional places like Gotham, there has always been something neat about being able to imagine a NYC with Spider-Man in it.  Both Slott and Van Lente are New York guys, so it makes sense that they’d nail it.  Perhaps it is “east coast bias” on my part, but I enjoy the authenticity of a NYC setting way more than stories that are vaguely set in the Pacific NW where it rains all the time.

There is also a chance that we’re going to see some lasting change in J.Jonah Jameson.  Something HUGE happens to the guy in this issue and you can’t help but think that it could change how he views the world.  Let’s just hope that it is a change that sticks.  Jonah is such an important supporting character and it would be nice to see him stretch his legs a little bit.

The art is solid and tells the story very well.  I do honestly prefer some of the other artists we’ve had on this series, but this is perfectly fine superhero art done under hurry-up conditions.  I just don’t feel its fair to harshly judge artwork that you don’t LOVE on ASM because of the release schedule.

We also get a bonus in the back-up feature, which finally reveals who the new Venom is going to be.  The identity of the guy in the symbiote was spoiled by Marvel (thanks for that you schmucks!) a few weeks ago, but the set-up for what kind of story Rick Remender will be telling wasn’t and it promises to be very cool.

What’s Not So Good: My biggest bugaboo with this issue is the death.  Comics have so ruined “death” that I wish writers would find a different story-telling tool to do things with characters.  I don’t want to spoil who dies, but this isn’t a case of a character of someone who will be coming back in a year.  Let’s just say that it is hazardous to a character’s health to be a C-list supporting character.  It seems like a big deal when they die, but it isn’t really.  Even though the characters in ASM only exist to tell Spidey’s story (are thus expendable), the cynic in me yells when this happens to a character who is big enough that you know who they are, but aren’t big enough to really be an important character.  Oh well….

The only other issue is some warning signs from a timeline standpoint.  We could almost have a “terrorist threat level”-style color-coded system for how threatening the shipping schedule of ASM seems to us fanboys.  Marvel seems very committed to cranking this out, but there are a few warning signs: shared duties on the main story and two pencilers + three inkers on an 8-page back-up feature.  I don’t understand why the back-up art had to be rushed like this if “they” knew the story months ago.  And why not let Remender/Moore tackle the back-up?  I think it’s more important for ASM to be “good” than “on time” (within reason) and leave it at that.

Conclusion: This arc isn’t as strong as the initial Hobgoblin story, but it is still a very solid Spidey-story with good action and a very cool twist on Spidey’s secret identity problems.

Grade: B-

-Dean Stell