"Amazing Spider-Man," since its Brand New Day revamp, has been trucking along quite nicely. A case could be made that it not only started strong, but that the series has been getting better and better with each passing month. Between the Slott/Romita, Jr. arc and the Waid/Martin two-parter that rounded out the second half of 2008, "Amazing Spider-Man" was racing toward the top of my reading pile.
Issue #583 is probably just a speed bump, but it sure is a painful one.
This comic has two stories in it -- the highly publicized, wait-in-line-for-a-"rare"-copy, Barack Obama meets Spidey back-up story, along with the main story about Betty Brant's relationship with Peter Parker.
The main Betty Brant story is decent enough. It feels like something from an issue of "Spider-Man Family" more than it feels like an issue of "Amazing Spider-Man," but it's a sweet little slice-of-Peter's-personal-life tale. Mark Waid throws in a few jokes about Peter Parker's out-of-date hairstyle and attire (which is extra-funny, I suppose, if you get that the Brand New Day philosophy is an attempt to purposely return the character to the way he was in an earlier era.) It's not Waid's best work, but it finishes much stronger than it begins, and offers a fresh perspective on how Peter's unreliability affects his friends.
Barry Kitson's work is just fine too, and since I much prefer his version of Betty Brant to his version of Peter Parker, I think he was a good choice for this particular story. The Brant to Parker ratio is pretty high.
And if I were reviewing just the main story, I might give it three stars. A small baby step beyond completely average.
But I'm not just reviewing the main story, I'm reviewing the entire issue, and the Obama back-up story is one of the most embarrassing Spider-Man stories I've read in a long time.
The letters page mentions that the story was a one-week rush job, but that doesn't make the story any better to read. Written by Zeb Wells, with art by Todd Nauck (and to make matters ever worse, colored by Frank D'Armata, who over highlights everything he gets his stylus on -- take a close look at how he colors Obama's face in the third panel of the third page of the story and see his hideous brand of coloring in action), "Spidey Meets the President!" has all the wit and wisdom of a Twinkie ad and about half the laughs. It's a slapstick, wacky episode involving Obama, Spidey, and the Chameleon, and if this is Marvel's way of bringing customers into comic shops to buy more comics, I think they've done a lot more harm than they realize. Reading this embarrassing story couldn't possibly make any new reader want to come back for more. The Obama story is so bad that it might make a new reader give up on Spider-Man, and maybe even the Democrats, forever.
It's a good thing all those people lined up in the cold probably only bought it for the cover.