I’m officially starting to worry about “The Amazing Spider-Man.”
After an unprecedentedly great run of books for over a year, lately it’s started to lag. “American Son” has been an uneven and disappointing story, too mired in the rest of the Marvel continuity for its own good and plagued by inconsistent art. I was excited for an Annual, though, especially after the great Jackpot story last year. That one provided some surprising emotional resonance and tied up a long-standing mystery of the series at that point: the identity of Jackpot. This year’s Annual, though, has neither.
While I’ve loved J. Jonah Jameson, Sr. since he was introduced months back, and I love the development of his relationship with Aunt May, this story only serves to reinforce how kick ass he is, but we already knew that. This isn’t even their Wedding (which would have been a great call back to a classic "Amazing Spider-Man Annual"). I guess they had to split the big stuff between this and coming-very-soon #600. Sadly, the Annual got the fuzzy end of that lollipop.
Artist Pat Olliffe has a wonderfully unassuming style that I personally became quite fond of during his installments on “52.” It’s a very classic look, reminiscent of Sal Buscema in a lot of ways, so seeing him on a Spider-Man book is a welcome treat.
Unfortunately, as an Annual, it doesn’t pack as much punch as I was hoped. I came up on the best Annuals: The days of Evolutionary Wars and X-Babies. Annuals were a big deal. This is simply a longer than average Spider-Man story. If the “return” of Ben Reilly is supposed to be a big enough deal to carry a whole Annual on its back, then I’m probably the wrong tree to be barking up. I was pretty non-plussed about it, especially since the villain his misdeeds has apparently spawned is pretty lackluster. (He has the powers of a Velociraptor. ‘Nuff said, as they say.)
Along with the disappointing “American Son,” I feel like “Amazing Spider-Man” is spinning its wheels a little bit. Everything I’ve seen out of 600 so far looks like a great return to form, but until then I expected more from an Annual of what used to be most anticipated book of the Every-Other-Week-Or-So.