THE TOP TEN SPIDER-MAN: BRAND NEW DAY ARCS . . . AND THE FIVE WORST

I don’t know how many of you actually read my pieces about comic books, but I keep plugging away at them. For years now, I’ve been telling you all to read Amazing Spider-Man.  I also seem to be the only guy in the world who thought Brand New Day was a great idea.  I know lots of people love the JMS work, and I’m not saying that isn’t great, but the character of Spider-Man had gotten so far from his roots as the bookish nerd, and the stories had become more fragmented than Wolverine’s stories, what with there being half-a-dozen books with Spidey in them each month.  He needed a rebirth, and he got it.  A focused editorial team, a single title, and some of the best talent in the business on writing and art chores, rotating each story arc to keep it fresh.  A brilliant idea.  And to all the continuity hounds who lamented the disappearance of the MJ marriage, I say: It’s comic books.  I don’t want Hulk to get old.  I don’t want to wonder how Batman can still kick a guy’s ass when he’s chronologically older than Clint Eastwood.  I just want good stories about timeless characters.  Sure, continuity is great, but let’s not let time pass for them.  Moving Peter Parker from High School to College after about 15 years of Spider-Man, that was okay.  Moving him out of college and into the professional world was fine, too, because College took him over a decade.  But beyond that?  It’s enough.  Personally, I think the entire Marvel U could turn back the dial and not get hurt (that’s kind of what Ultimates was about).

But I digress.

Brand New Day is officially over.  Dan Slott will eventually take over as the single Spider-Man writer, and the book will move to bi-monthly, but not before the great and talented Mark Waid finishes Origin of the Species.  I’m not sure why they’re “ending” the thing—it was still a top-ten seller for Marvel—but hey, mine is not to reason why, mine is just to read and buy.

So how did it all go?  Well, O.M.I.T. was a piece of . . . Unnecessary retcon . . . In which it is Doctor Strange and not Mephisto who wiped out everyone’s memories, after all.  Or maybe that was just the false memory that Mephisto put in the heads of Peter and Mary Jane?  I dunno.  Honestly, the art was crap and the story wasn’t much better—it was dragged out, confusing, and sloppy (although the final few pages redeemed it somewhat with a very emotionally honest conclusion).  In all, the fantastic revival of Spider-Man went out with a whimper, not a bang.*  It’s too bad, because as a result of the influx of talent, we saw some of the best Spider-Man tales of all time . . . And you can buy them in trade!

*(Ironically, the actual “Brand New Day” story was also pretty lame.  It’s probably rare that a great series is bookended by two bad story arcs.)

THE TOP TEN AMAZING SPIDER-MAN STORIES SINCE BRAND NEW DAY

10.  Scavengers (623-24). Maybe the most fun thing about BND was the way it allowed new jack writers to revive, rejuvenate, and reinterpret classic Spider-Mythology.  In this tale by Waid and Azaceta, the new Electro frees the New Vulture from prison, who promptly turns JJJ into a damsel in distress.  Granted, this is the storyline that led Peter Parker to do something completely out of character (and get fired for it), but it was an otherwise terrific story.

9.  American Son (595-99). Is it an overhyped commercialized Dark Reign tie-in?  Yes!  Is it awesome?  Yes!  My only problem with this is that Wolverine was right: Spider-Man should have taken down Osborn by punching him in the face until he was dead.  Or damn close to it.  Other than that, this was a great tale of father versus son, with action-packed appearances from Venom and the T-Bolts and lots of great Spider-action.

8.  Character Assassination (584-88). Mark Guggenheim and the legendary John Romita, Jr., introduce the Hobgoblin knock-off “Menace.”  The story had a lot of elements borrowed from other books (particularly the “Spider-Man in jail” part of it), but it was the kind of arc that made the 1980s so great: A well-plotted crime story, skillfully developed side characters, lots of opportunities for web-and-joke slinging, and Spider-Man being helped and hindered by the NYPD.

7.  Rage of the Rhino/Endangered Species (617 and 625). Not officially a two-parter, but a complete tale by Joe Kelly with unusual, wonderful art by Max Fiumara.  Basically, the original Rhino is being hunted by the new Rhino (under the control and direction of Kraven the Hunter’s daughter, the architect of The Gauntlet/Grim Hunt).  Most “I’m bad but I’m conflicted” stories are boring, but Kelly hits the characterizations out of the park here.

6.  New Ways to Die (568-73). Dan Slott teams up with my favorite Spider-Man artist of all time, John Romita Jr., to tell the tale of The Thunderbolts hunt for Spider-Man (one of the better Dark Reign arcs), and to redeem Eddie Brock Jr. as “Anti-Venom.”  So, you’ve got old Venom, new Thunderbolts Venom (who used to be Scorpion), Norman Osborn, and Spidey vs. Bullseye.  If you’re asking for more, you’re just greedy.  Oh, and at the end Mark Waid brings Stephen Colbert into the series.  And surprisingly, it isn’t completely stupid.  Much better than the “official” Dark Reign tie-in (American Son, see above—not that that storyline sucked).

5.  Unscheduled Stop (578-79). A two parter by Mark Waid, the all-new Shocker holds a subway train hostage underground, and Spider-Man must lead everyone to safety.  Kinda like that Stallone movie in the tunnel, only with webs and electro-blasters.  Very cool, and lots of fun.

4.  Keemia’s Castle (615-16). A beautifully executed tale that repurposes Spider-Man’s most conflicted foe, Sandman, for Brand New day.  Touching, surprising, and fantastic.

3. The Snow Stories (555-57). Zeb Wells and Chris Bachalo are a writer/artist team that are perfectly suited.  In these three tales, New York is hit with a blizzard, and Spidey (with Wolverine) goes into the snow for some of the most artistically beautiful work I’ve ever seen in Spider-Man.  Plus, the story is a stand-alone that also features Doctor Strange.  Spider-Man stories don’t get much better than this.

2.  24/7 (592-94). In the single most “fun” BND story arc, newly minted mayor J. Jonah Jameson hires a specially outfitted (by Norman Osborn, naturally) SWAT team to hunt down and capture Spider-Man so, in retaliation, Spider-Man goes on a three day vigilante spree, fighting crime around the clock while JJJ’s father prepares to marry Aunt May.  Funny, exciting, and even the new villain is cool (Red Vulture).  From the brilliant mind of Mark Waid.

1.  Shed (630-33). The team of Well and Bachalo return to reimagine . . . The Lizard.  This is simply one of the greatest comic books of all time.  It’s got everything: Action, pathos, amazing art, Spider-Man’s wisecracking, and a classic villain taking an action from which he will never be able to recover.  And, it’s got a death.  It moves the overall Spider-story along but is completely new-reader friendly at the same time.  If you’ve only got enough dough for one BND story, this is the one to get.

. . . AND THE FIVE WORST SPIDEY BRAND NEW DAY ARCS

Avoid these at all costs!

5.  Who Was Ben Reilly? (608-10). Who cares?  This was more Clone Saga crap.  When they erased everyone’s memory of Peter’s secret I.D., they couldn’t have done away with this, too?

4.  Anything with The Black Cat (606-07, 621-622). In the single-biggest failure of the BND run, Joe Kelly (and then Mark Waid) tries to bring back Felicia Hardy in a story that . . . Isn’t worth talking about.  And why was MJ so mad when she saw Pete kissing the Cat?  She dumped Pete!  They were on a break!

3.  Something Can Stop the Juggernaut (627-29). I’m very sad to put this on my list, as “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut” (Amazing Spider-Man 229-230) is one of my favorite books of all time.  But the build up didn’t match the sequel.  Juggy and Spidey barely even fight.  They seem to be friends!  Ugh.

2.  Face Front (590-91). Sadly, this was written by Dan Slott who is usually pretty good.  This story made no sense.  Spider-Man just recently went through all kinds of hell (literally) to restore his secret identity, and then he pops his mask off to the Fantastic 4.  Terrible.  Oh, and the “adventure” itself was also stupid, pointless, and unnecessary.

1.  O.M.I.T. (One Moment In Time) (638-41). As noted above, the “series” comes to a close by retconning its own retcon.

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