Ever since Spidey’s recent reboot, Marvel has steered the Spider-Man ship confidently, with an undercurrent of ongoing sub-plots occasionally bubbling to the surface to take prominence in major arcs. It’s a modern take on a more traditional style of superhero comic book writing, and despite all the controversy, it has undeniably re-invigorated the character.
The current arc, “Character Assassination,” takes a brief ‘interlude’ this week to deal with the fallout of one of the series’ more major revelations. In a rare move, Spidey himself doesn’t actually feature in any major capacity, as the action instead shifts to Harry Osborn and his girlfriend, Lilly Hollister.
For careful readers, the identity of Menace was a fairly simple one to deduce given the character’s motivations and appearances, especially if you made the logical leap that Menace’s gender might not be immediately obvious. It’s perhaps for that reason that the mystery of Menace’s identity was given fairly little page-time over the last year, with the writers only throwing in an occasional half-hearted suggestion that it might be Harry.
While the lack of intrigue surrounding Menace’s true identity doesn’t actively work against the revelations of this issue, it certainly means that it isn’t quite as satisfying a plot twist as it could’ve been. Even so, by focussing on the questions of “why” and “how,” rather than simply “who,” this issue redeems the plot somewhat, segueing a fairly traditional “who’s under the mask?” plot into some decent character conflict for Spidey’s supporting cast -– a welcome development.
Calling this issue an “interlude” is perhaps a little misleading, and seems largely designed just to give Romita a one-issue break so that Kitson can take over. After all, it does contain some fairly important expository scenes essential to the arc, and it seems the idea is mostly to excuse the fact that it doesn’t feature Spidey. Even so, it doesn’t seem necessary -- I'd hope that readers are smart enough to know that a “Spider-Man” comic doesn’t have to feature Spidey himself in order for it to be about him and his world.
It’s a satisfying read, and itself largely justifies the return of Osborn, retaining the character’s past while using him in a new way. If there are really any Spider-Man fans out there still staying away because of “One More Day”, then maybe it’s time to swallow that pride and give the series a shot -- you're missing some classic issues in the making.