Every time I write about an "Amazing Spider-Man" issue in recent months, I end up saying something like, "this is a great artist showcase," and "this series really brings great artistic diversity to the Marvel mainstream," and "it sure looks pretty."
Well, I could say the same kinds of things this month. Because Paul Azaceta returns to the series with issue #623 and, this time, he has a story that offers a bit more variety. It gives him a few more interesting things to draw. Azaceta, who worked with Mark Waid on the Electro-as-Glenn-Beck story a couple of months back, illustrates a story about the return of the new Vulture. But it's about much more than that. And, yeah, it sure looks pretty.
As yet another installment of the larger "Gauntlet" story running through this series, we see the resurgence of another classic Spider-Man villain. But, in this case, the Vulture has been recently revamped anyway -- reborn as a younger guy with creepier mandibles. He's half-vampire, half-Jeff-Goldblum-as-the-Fly. You've probably seen him before, even if you haven't read any of the issues in which he appeared. He has that air of familiarity about him.
Electro busts him out of prison here, as part of Lady Kraven's uber-plot to, I don't know, make Spider-Man's life more annoying.
But the real charm of this issue is seeing how Azaceta shifts his style from the chiaroscuro of the Ryker's Island interior at night to the daytime of antics on the streets on New York as Spider-Man "battles" Simple Simon, the not-so-notorious pie burglar. Yes, that really happens in this issue, and Spidey quips, "Look, I'm in no mood to star in your little Electric Company skit." Turns out, it's all part of a reality show. Or a kind of reality show audition, and the mayor has somehow approved of it.
The mayor is J. Jonah Jameson, let's not forget.
So Spider-Man is after Jonah, and the Vulture is after Jonah -- once he "finds out" that Jonah is behind his transformation into a drooly monster-dude. And that's the issue.
But the way Azaceta gives Spider-Man a sense of dynamic movement and nonchalance as he fends off the Vulture? That's golden. Azaceta is also particularly skilled at giving each page a physical presence. His characters feel like they inhabit actual locations -- the backgrounds have depth and solidity. It grounds the action, which is what you need for a comic about a blue/red man-spider and a villain with a sad Predator face.
"Amazing Spider-Man" #623 continues to prove that this series is one of the best classic superhero serials on the stands. No matter how "new" it looks.