By: Dan Slott (writer), Marcos Martin (art), Muntsa Vicente (colors), Joe Caramanga (letters) & Stephen Wacker (editor)

The Story: The Spidey characters deal with the death of Marla Jameson.

What’s Good: Tour de force!  The opening two pages of this issue say it all.  I don’t think it’s too much of a Spoiler to discuss it, but you’ve been warned.

If your spouse died, would you remember to turn off their alarm clock?  When do you pick up the book they were reading?  What about their toiletries?  When do you stop wearing a wedding band?  The emotional opening pages allow Slott and Martin to address this void in Jonah’s life, but instead of showing the man sobbing or tearing his hair out, they tell the whole story with silent panels.  A lot of what a person leaves behind are things like alarm clocks set for 7:00 a.m. and toothbrushes.

The entire first half of the comic is a silent panel-by-panel depiction of Marla’s funeral.  Very moving.

From there, the story drifts into a psychedelic dream of Peter’s as he visits with his dead loved ones and grapples with his guilt over the deaths he wasn’t able to stop.  Again, this section has its very emotional moments such as when Peter’s parents appear faceless because he can’t remember what they look like but he can remember the face of the guy who killed Uncle Ben.  It also explores the age-old comic question of, “Why doesn’t Batman just kill the Joker?” Or in this case any of Spidey’s rogues gallery?  Do associates of Spidey’s like Punisher and Wolverine possibly have the right idea?

I personally think the phrase “kills it” is used way, way, WAY too frequently to describe art.  It’s kinda like calling everything awesome.  But, know this; this issue has wonderful art.  I’m a huge fan of guys like Greg Capullo who pour all kind of intricate detail into a panel, but I still LOVE this work by Marcos Martin.  His lines are so clean and simple.  There is almost no cross-hatching.  And, it works so well because it keeps us focused on the storytelling aspects of the art.  There isn’t a single panel in this comic where there wasn’t full consideration given to the size, shape and placement of the panel.  And a couple of the panels reminded me very much of something that JH Williams would have done in Promethea where the entire splash page is basically a collection of borderless panels.  The colors aren’t quite flat colors, but it is nice for a change to see a panel colored for the emotional reaction that the creators want you to have rather than due to what color they think an object would be colored in real life.

What’s Not So Good: A very minor nitpick, but I didn’t love the final bit of dialog mostly because I don’t know what it means.  Is Spidey going to start killing the bad guys?  Or is he going to show even more commitment to savings innocents?  Doesn’t he already show a huge commitment to innocents?  I was felt that after all the emotional stuff in this issue, that it could have used a little better final bit of punctuation.

And why didn’t you guys have a bookmark sticking out of Marla’s books?

Conclusion: Stick this issue off to the side because it should be on a LOT of “Best Single Issue of 2011” lists and it is going to highly piss me off when those lists are all comprised of issues that came out in November that can’t carry this issue’s jock strap just because people have short memories and don’t keep notes.  Slott and Martin have collaborated to make an issue that is emotionally touching and drills right to the center of who Peter Parker is.

Grade: A

-Dean Stell

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  • finally got around to this. I’ve been catching up on ASM lately. this is a classic story. Inspiring art too. the artist has a real designers eye. I’m gonna go see what else he has worked on.

  • Dammit Dean! I finally, FINALLY bring myself to drop ASM to save myself four bucks, and then you go and drop a review like this on me? Not cool, dude. 😉

    Obviously, I’ll be making a weekend trip to the LCS to pick this up. Not sure if it’ll be enough to get it back on my pull list, but this is clearly worth a look.

  • dennis

    Are you kidding me this is the same story we have heard time and again. Are you working for marvel or what. They have go to do something about this book i have read spiderman for 20 p;us years and i can tell you they are just rehashing old stories time and again and then praising themselves. This is the kind of review i expect at wizard who is in the marvel pocket. But you should really look at past spider books and see this has been done about 4 times already.

    • In fairness, just because it’s a story that’s been told before doesn’t make it BAD. Hundreds of thousands of stories like this have been told. But one of my literary heroes, Neil Gaiman, has a saying, “an author’s job is to tell it new.” If Dean’s review is any indication at all, Slott succeeded in doing exactly that: telling an old story in a new (and poignant) way.

      • dfstell

        That’s exactly what it is. It is a well told story. And it isn’t so much even that the story is good AND the art is good. To execute a silent opening to a comic, the writer and artist have to be in sync like they’re doing ballroom dance. You see creators try that from time to time and they rarely pull it off so well.

    • dfstell

      Hey Dennis…..I never said it was original. I said it was well done. There really aren’t any “original” stories anywhere in fiction. There might be fresh takes on old stories, but after 650+ issues, expecting an original story from ASM just isn’t want I’m into. You’ve gotta understand, if you’re reading any of these long term Marvel/DC franchises, you are watching a hamster running on a wheel. I happen to enjoy the watching the hamster, but that’s all this is. Ditto for Avengers, X-Men, Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, etc., etc.

      If you want something fresh, you have to go beyond Marvel/DC where they’re more willing to take chances because they don’t have such valuable characters.

      And, I assure you. I buy my comics just like everyone else and get zero pay for doing these reviews in the wee hours. 🙂