When the recent revamp of Spider-Man began at Marvel Comics, the second-most talked about aspect (the primary topic being, of course, Peter and Mary Jane's marriage getting wiped off the map) was probably the new superhero Jackpot. Based on her looks and dialogue, the insinuation to the reader was certainly that Mary Jane Watson had found something else to do with all that free time, and that something involved dressing up in a disguise and fighting crime. Now, some months later, the truth is revealed about Jackpot. And the truth?
Well, as it turns out, the speculation was far more interesting than the actual execution. I'll admit that "Amazing Spider Man Annual" #1 was my first exposure to the revamped book, but based on this I have to say I'm not terribly impressed. Marc Guggenheim's script feels fairly leaden and joyless, a connect-the-dots, by-the-numbers revelation about a character that never felt terribly clever or even exciting. The strange thing is that if you look at it strictly in terms of "these are the facts about Jackpot," it feels like something that could work -- but not all compressed into a single Annual like we got. As a result, Guggenheim's script feels hamstrung and constricted by the story format that it was dictated into. Had we seen this take up a month's three issues (now that "Amazing Spider-Man" is published three times a month) I can't help but feel that Guggenheim could have used the additional pacing and space to really knock this story out of the park.
On the bright side, Mike McKone's pencils look as fluid and graceful as always, and it's definitely one of the nicer parts of this comic. I like how he draws ordinary characters like Sara Ehret in her home, on the phone, or Reed Richards squinting at a container of neurotoxin while wearing a white lab coat. McKone's been one of those treasures of comics that deserves superstar status, and I'm always happy to see him drawing a comic that I've read. He has a strong sense of storytelling, and his characters manage to look attractive and realistic at the same time.
In the end, "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #1 is just a little too rushed and too plain to intrigue. (And before you ask, I have no idea why this annual was renumbered #1 when the regular series itself isn't renumbered. The fact that there's also a #35 on the cover just makes me all the more confused, to be honest.)