I went into serious comic collecting because of Spider-Man when I was reading his reprinted stories in Marvel Tales back in 1984 and I dropped out of the hobby also because of Spider-Man when Marvel introduced the Spider-Clone storyline. I knew then how my mother felt when they brought Bobby Ewing back into Dallas. It was that "WTF?!" feeling that just turned me off from the whole comic collecting hobby. And it was Spidey what did it! Man, did that fact hurt. It was like catching your best friend sleeping with your girlfriend or worse, seeing him treating her with respect. It was a sin most unforgivable. When I started reading collected editions of comics in 2005, I picked up a lot of titles but no Spider-Man. He was still untouchable. Oh, I picked up an Essential or two and I also bought that Red Sonja team-up book but trades of his monthly titles were passed by on the bookshop shelves with nary a glance. I'm a sad individual, I admit. Love me, don't judge me, okay?
So why did I check out Spider-Man: Brand New Day, Spider-Man's latest hardcover collection of his now three times a month comic book? Well, mainly because of curiosity, boredom and some good word of mouth from the cybernets regarding the new direction Marvel's taking Spidey to. I know all about the hoopla that went on with One More Day. There were fanboys who were burning their copies of Amazing Spider-Man, guys tearing off the pages and wiping their butts with it and I could see why they were upset. So was I. It was not the fact that Marvel's Joe Quesada thought that Peter Parker was stuck in a rut and some major overhauling had to be done to make him interesting again. It was the manner that Marvel took. Break off Peter's marriage with Mary Jane in order to save Aunt May's life, how? With the help of Mephisto, Demon Divorce Lawyer, of course! Gee, what a neat message to send to the kids. Got a problem? No sweat, just make a deal with the devil. That's what Spider-Man did! Frederick Wertham was right!!
Anyway, all that was so they could start fresh with Spider-Man: no wife, no girlfriend, no money, terrible luck, living with Aunt May and best friend is still a very much alive Harry Osborn. That would suck hard if not for one new rule: all new villains. I'm not sure how long the "no-old-rogues" ban is imposed on the book but I hope it stays there for a while. There are just two major villains in this hardcover edition which collects Amazing Spider-Man #546-#551: Mr. Negative and a menace called Menace who looks to be the new Goblin. Mr. Negative is exactly what his name describes. He is a monochromatic mob boss wannabe intent on taking over the entire city's criminal operations. He is also later revealed to be Aunt May's co-worker (supervisor? boss?) at the homeless shelter she volunteers at. I actually prefer him over the new "Goblin" or Menace (not really his name but since he's a menace that's what they call him). I prefer Mr. Negative because Spider-Man's famous villains aren't so much the mad scientist bent on world domination but rather the street gangsters and the hoodlums who want to take over New York, one borough at the time. Plus, enough with the Goblins already! In this book, Mr. Negative's attempt at eliminating the entire Maggia family is foiled by Spider-Man but the hero has to give a sample of his blood in return for a gangster's kid's life. How this ransom will be used by Mr. Negative in the future will be a most interesting development to read.
Menace on the other hand just wants to kill the candidates running for mayor. See? Boring, though it's unfair to say so at this juncture since practically nothing is yet revealed about Menace's plans.
There's also a new mysterious heroine, Jackpot, who is used by Marvel to jerk around the fans on whether she is or not (Mary Jane, that is). On the job front, Peter is still freelancing for the Daily Bugle but it's no longer called that. Now it's the DB! after Mrs. Jameson sold the company to Dexter Bennett when J. Jonah Jameson ended up in hospital due to a Peter Parker-induced heart attack (he had it coming, in my opinion).
Do I like it? Yes, I do. I didn't want to but I do and lying about it would just be petty. I stayed off reading Spider-Man for more than ten years so I don't know whether this new direction is any different in tone from say, the JMS-penned stories. Was Spider-Man still the wise cracking hero under him or did JMS make him more brooding and introspective? I enjoyed Dan Slott's run on She-Hulk so seeing his name in this book made me go all gooey. Slott can do no wrong...so far. He shares writing credits with Marc Guggenheim who takes over the second half of the book and Marc's stories are ever so slightly darker than Slott's but in a good way.
I like the introduction of all new villains for Spidey and I sincerely hope that some if not all of them are well written enough to stay on in his rogues' gallery for years to come. I loves me some Venom and Electro but these guys are so overused it's not even funny anymore. Besides, isn't Venom in Thunderbolts now? Yeah, keep him there.
Spider-Man: Brand New Day is a great jumping on point for new readers and for old fans like me who stopped reading the Spider books years ago. Fans who never left the book may grumble and gripe about the deal with the devil and the consequences to twenty years of continuity but really, at the end of the day, it's just a comic book about a mid-twenties man with the proportionate strength of a spider swinging all over New York City punching costumed villains. And that's what we all want from our superhero comics: unadulterated fun.
That's not to say I think the marriage break up was necessary though. In fact, I don't see the point of the retcon other than to gain publicity and boost sales because none of the Brand New Day stories could not have been written if Peter was still married to MJ. They're works of fiction. Just work around the marriage, writers.
Oh, well. I'm not Editor In Chief of Marvel Comics so what do I know? Joe Quesada wanted a single Peter Parker so now we have a single Peter Parker. For what it's worth, Marvel has regained one long lost Spidey-fan who left in the mid-'90s. Let's see how long I'll stay this time.
Damn you, Joey Q!