For an era that generates so much discussion, surprisingly little has to with the actual stories. And I suppose I understand that; this was a major status quo change for the character and, as just about anyone not employed by Marvel will admit, it was done in almost the worst imaginable way. Still, the stories that followed were actually pretty good. Maybe not great, but at least pretty good to very good in most cases with a few clunkers and gems in the mix as well. Here is a recap I wrote and I am happy to hear any feedback:
#546-549---A solid start to the BND era with a very entertaining script from Slott and dynamic art by Jiminez. The intro to the BND era’s greatest new villain, Mr Negative is the high point and the completely unnecessary “macking” (what a horribly out of place term too!) first panel is the easy low point. B+.
#550-551---Guggs’ debut as writer and also the intro of Menace. Though Menace never felt quite so, well, menacing as one would have expected, the scripting is pretty great throughout. LaRocca’s art is fun and colorful though not nearly as good as Jiminez’. B-
#552-554---Intro of both Bob Gale and Freak. Blecch to both. I started to lose a wee bit of faith in the new direction here. C-
#555-557---Wells and Bachalo’s debut brought us the “Deity” story---known as “Sometimes It Snows In April”. Lots of people point to this as one of the greatest stories of the BND era. While I am not one of them, it is still very good and, though I am generally not a Bachalo fan, his layouts are undeniably accomplished and his style strangely fits the tone of this story. Solid B.
#555---A Gale/Kitson one-shot (“Freak The Third”). Not much here to report ; it felt tacked-on to me at the time and a re-read didn’t help much. C.
#559-561---Ah, the sometimes controversial “Peter Parker: Papparazzi” arc! While the plot point (dispatched in this very arc, mind you) of Peter being a paparazzi brought some outcry from the faithful, it is not what I remember this story for; Slott brought us a great arc featuring the debut of Paper Doll (love her!) and the first post-BND appearance of MJ (just enough to be tantalizing)----oh, and the ASM debut of the absolutely incredible Marcos Martin on art!! B+.
#562-563----Ugh. “The Other Spider-Man” by Bob Gale. I don’t mean to sound like a Gale basher but this arc was the undisputed low point for me on the entire BND run (narrowly beats the pretty lousy # 622 stolen blood issue only ‘cause this was 2 parts!). Just really weak and the cover to #563 should’ve warned me to keep away. Especially disappointing as it followed the excellent prior story by Slott. D.
#564- “Three-Way Collision”----a sort of a “jam” by the team of writers that also showcased Paolo Siquera on art…..one of my favorite new artists to come out of the era. A not very eventful issue but well-written and very well illustrated. Solid B.
#565-567---“Kraven’s First Hunt”. Here’s where the web-heads really hit the throttle and never looked back. A fantastic Guggenheim/Jiminez arc that not only debuted Ana Kraven in a foreshadowing to “The Gauntlet” but had some great mistaken ID moments and a great role for Daredevil as well. A-.
#568-573---“New Ways To Die”---Slott and the return of JRJR to the title combined for the most eagerly awaited arc of the new era. A very solid story that, for me, only lost points for the limp final chapter. I was expecting a return of Eddie as Venom rather than Anti-Venom. Still---the Peter/Norman/Thunderbolts scenes were well-done and there was a good (if not epic) Spidey/Goblin battle; Slott also shows here again that he has the best grasp of the entire supporting cast as well. B+.
#574—“Whatever Happened To Flash Thompson” by Guggs. Wow. Just Wow. An outstanding stand-alone story that ranks right up there with the best one-and-done stories ever told in ASM. For those who argue that it’s not a Spidey story, re-read it and tell me that the inspiration of Spidey is not a co-star with Flash during his heroic moments. Classic. A+.
#575-576---Joe Kelly and Bachalo bring the thunder in this great slobberfest two-parter featuring Hammerhead in probably his best role since the 1970’s. Great fun and fantastic covers. B.
#577---This Punisher one-parter felt like one of those “inventory” issues thrown into the mix to keep the book on schedule. Not a bad story but not great and it broke the great string that we had going since KFH. Still----it had great artwork by Paolo Rivera, one of the rising stars in the title (and industry!). B-.
#578-579---Waid and Martin get us right back on track (no pun intended) with the amazing “Unscheduled Stop”. For me, this is the pinnacle of the BND run. Outstanding story by Slott that captures everything great about Spidey, introduces JJJ Sr and has arguably the best use of The Shocker to boot----plus, for my money, this is the best Marcos Martin’s art has looked ---at least so far! A+
#580----A one-issue fill-in by Roger Stern, “Fill In The Blank” does not do Uncle Rog justice; still, a solid enough story but it’s placement in ASM at this time just felt off----much like his great Juggernaut sequel would in the midst of “The Gauntlet” later on. B.
#581-582----For me, Slott’s low point on the title. An unsatisfying info-dump explains Harry’s return a year after the fact and a Molten Man story that we have seen a hundred times before----though McKone’s art is pretty enough. Not much to see here, folks….move along. C-.
#583---Waid/Kitson’s “Platonic” issue one-shot better known as the Obama cover issue. The story was just a bit above average and the hastily-constructed backup featuring Obama’s inauguration reads like a really bad 1970’s outtake. C+
#584-588----Guggs and JRJR team up for the mega-arc “Character Assasination”. I recently re-read this it’s a bit better than I recall the first time around. Pretty satisfying conclusions to many of the sub-plots that built to that point. The savage showdown with Menace and the jailed Spidey scenes were very well done. B+
#589---Fred Van Lente writes the best “Spot” story ever and one of the best one-shots on this title with the great Paolo Siquera on art. Just a fantastic issue! A.
#590-591---“Face Front” by Slott/Kitson is an arc that still gives me pause. The whole “psychic blindspot” ID thing is awkward and having a whole arc essentially devoted to it and exploring Spidey’s friendship with the FF (done many times before and much better) is a head-scratcher. I guess this arc just suffered from Marvel’s dragging their feet with OMD explanations; redeemed by the great last few pages where Spidey returns and reacts to the news about JJJ! Classic moment right there! B-
#592-594---“24/7” by Waid/Kitson: I enjoyed this better than most people I have spoken with; I really don’t mind the new Vulture and thought this arc was handled well and showed a good balance of the effects of Dark Reign on the Marvel U as well as the supporting cast. Pretty covers by Joey Q too. B.
#595-599---“American Son”---Joe Kelly’s crack at a mega-arc and he delivers! Though I hate the look of the American Son armor, it’s the only gripe about this arc that felt truly epic. Lots of great scenes and none better than when Spidey breaks into Norman’s HQ disguised as Venom. A great, fun read. A-