[16 January 2012]
PopMatters Associate Comics Editor
In recent years, The Amazing Spider-Man has been a title that has reconnected with its melodramatic roots. This turn has refocused the adventures of everyone’s favorite wall crawler, giving his action filled life a firmer backing. Much of this is due to the very capable storytelling of writer Dan Slott. Now, for one issue, Slott takes a backseat to the near legendary pen of writer Mark Waid. With issue 677, readers are treated to a small crossover with The Man Without Fear Daredevil, who’s current exploits are also being written by Waid. The convenience is obvious, so too is the result.
Just as Slott has revitalized Spider-Man, Waid too has seemingly brought Daredevil back from the dead. While the new volume of Daredevil is a far cry from the legendary work of Frank Miller, it is a neo-throwback to the type of superhero comics fans have been clamoring for in recent years. But this is not a behind the scenes story of old guard versus new guard. It is a tale of consistently well conceived plots and strong characterization.
This is true of the opening chapter to “The Devil and the Details”. What sets Waid apart from so many current writers is his firm grasp of character traits expressed in movement and dialogue. He understands the characters he writes. That ability makes these pages of Amazing Spider-Man #677 delightful.
Here Waid has an opportunity to strengthen his grip on Matt Murdock by examining him through the eyes of Peter Parker. The pacing, dialogue and reactions in each scene are spot on, presenting a fun dynamic between the two urban heroes in a manner that is neither obnoxious nor groan inducing. The two superheroes are competitive, yet complementary in their tights and masks. It is as close to downright playful as major comics have been of late.
Waid may be the current writer behind Daredevil, but that doesn’t mean this issue of Amazing Spider-Man becomes Murdock centric. Rather the issue is very much about Spider-Man. The real set-up comes from Peter Parker’s post break-up pity party. That motivation plays into the sequence of events that brings to the center Peter’s love life, in turmoil again. If Peter is looking for a rebound, then someone with bad luck powers like Black Cat is the wrong place to turn.
This plot, suffice it to say, isn’t just a one off set-up for an issue of Daredevil, which will conclude this two-part story. Waid continues the advancement that Slott has been playing with for the last several issues. In that, Waid has done Slott a favor by giving him time off to recoup after a successful summer/fall event (“Spider-Island”).
The plot is also not high concept, which for most is a welcome break. As in most comics, it’s the execution that makes this issue of Amazing Spider-Man well done. Part of that is due to Waid, but the other part is the experimentation from artist Emma Rios.
Rios, a newcomer to Marvel, brings a European style to this comic that gives it a more indie feel as opposed to the straight up muscles and brawn of contemporary superhero comics. This also has the effect of creating a very sexy Black Cat without having her chest pop out into another dimension (or causing perceivable back problems) – a welcome change-up. Her other work, particularly for Marvel, has been tremendously influenced by Steve Ditko, and that influence can be felt in these pages. However, the extent to which Rios plays with angles and backgrounds offers a tempered amount of experimentation for a mainstream comic published by a large corporate entity.
The combination of Waid and Rios is a charming partnership. Sadly this partnership will not carry over to the closing installment of this story in Daredevil #8. Too bad, as the pairing offers the best of the old and the best of the new (which is in some ways a variation on the old, as aesthetic trends go).
Of the artwork presented in this issue, special recognition should be given to colorist Javier Rodriguez. The washed out color pallet Rodriquez chooses to work with fundamentally alters and enhances the pencils of Rios. Without them, who knows which direction this comic would have gone? Too often color artists are ignored, yet their work is as much a contributor to the overall visual presentation as anyone else.
Amazing Spider-Man #677 is not the fallout from a game changing tragedy. It is not the kick-off to world shattering event. It is not controversial. It is not tame. It is a well executed comic with playful dialogue, convincing characterizations and a fun plot. It‘s damn good. So many other comics should be too.