While I’m currently mostly focused on collecting the X-Men trades (because of the very complex storylines over all the involved characters), I decided to pick up the first two volumes of Brand New Day because they were in my local shop’s Buy Two, Get One Free hardcover section. Since it may be a while before I get Volume 3, 1 thought I’d take a look at how well these two volumes fit together within the larger arc of Brand New Day — especially since they were rotating writers at the time. It’s the first attempt at something I’ve been wanting to do here on CP! between POW! entries —go back and look at entire arcs and see how that changes how I view the individual issues. Well, let’s get started!
This volume starts out with an introduction to Spider-Man — what’s changed and what’s the same starting with Brand New Day. The result is an interesting mix of retaining the old and starting over. It seems a lot like the status quo of Batman in the new 52 DC Universe. I would actually have preferred to have had a page like this that explains what’s the same and what’s different instead of having to guess at what’s still canon. Of course, in Spidey’s case it was a spell that was used to allow the new status quo of getting Spidey’s ID secret again as well as nullifying his marriage. I still haven’t read that issue, but I know I was initially very annoyed to hear about it as I hear others were as well. However, it WAS one of the best ways to reboot a character without having to start again and without having to confuse everyone about what’s canon and what isn’t. DC REALLY could have taken a page from Marvel on this and let us know what’s going on with those characters that weren’t rebooted. For example, with Superman, it’s starting over so nothing from the old canon is still there. (for the most part) While Batman has pretty much all the same canon except on a compressed time schedule that means some of the stuff didn’t happen. It’s only really important when it comes to the relationships certain characters have with each other — not so much in which villain was punched when.
Anyway, back to Spider-Man — reading the inside flap clues me in that this is when Mr Negative is first introduced. I’d have to say that for anyone who’s just getting into Spider-Man for the first time or, like me, hadn’t read Spider-Man since the 1990s needs to start here. The previous volumes are probably a great read and will be fun to read in general, but if you want to know what’s going on now, start here.
One last thing before I get into each issue, I have to say the ONE thing I didn’t like from the “what’s different” spread is that they say “the past is past —look to the future” which is essentially asking a comic book reader not to be a comic book reader. Something about the way they say it just put me off a little. Oh well.
Each issue individually:
Spider-Man: Swing Shift (2007 Free Comic Book Day issue):
So this is a great first issue for Brand New Day even if a lot of people might have missed out on it since it was a free comic book day comic. It establishes that the registration act from the events of 2005’s Civil War are still in effect. The only main difference, as was noted in the opening two page spread for the trade (and was probably well known at the time), is that Peter’s identity reveal has been wiped from everyone’s head. Dan Slott’s humor is also put right out there from the beginning – Spider-Man calls his enemies “bad guys” — usually a term we outside the comic book world use. It’d be more realistic for him to say nemesis or rivals or something like that. But Dan’s always straddling the Fourth Wall. (See my Spider-Island Epilogue selection for Week 2 of Comic POW!)
Again, he does this with Spidey ending his “with great power” catch-phrase with yadda yadda. Outside the comic book world, no one would really repeat a catch-phrase like that over and over. I know some people that come close, but it’s usually to others, not to themselves. Skipping over the introduction of the new Big Bad (in Buffy-speak), we get even more of Slott’s brand of humor. The henchman who’s the villain of this issue is a huge fan of Spider-Man. He has all this Spider-Man junk in his car and at the end of the issue even wants to keep the “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” paper. Skipping over a few other details I’ll get to in a minute, we finally get a bar where New York City’s super villains hang out. This is one of those Slott jokes that straddles the absurdity line — almost like a wink towards Silver-Age type jokes. On the one hand, it’s silly for all the villains to be hanging out in one place. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense. They need a place to socialize and hang out without being harassed by heroes and cops. Back to the first hand, they could just do it out of costume like the heroes do, but back again to the other hand, at least it’s a place where they can brag about their villainous exploits. And take bets on whether Spider-Man defeats his villains!
Going back earlier in the story, this issue is also, as far as I know, the first introduction to Mr. Negative. There’s always a tension in comics between the old and the new. On the one hand, since most villains (and heroes to some extent) have a gimmick, it can get really boring for them to fight over and over. On the other hand, new villains need more explanation of their back-story which gets away from the main story for the arc. Old villains give you shorthand that lets you get on with the story. At any rate, Mr. Negative was one of the main villains up until just before Spider-Island so now I can get a bit more history on his involvement with Spider-Man and his back-story.
I love the debate between the cops about vigilantism versus heroism. The Civil War storyline was Marvel getting their comics in line with reader expectations in a post-Watchmen and post-The Incredibles world in which we would be more suspect about heroes. Of course J. Jonah Jameson has always had that sentiment, but it was played for laughs since most people were on Spider-Man’s side. However, now the world has swung in Jonah’s favor which leads to a GREAT scene where he laments not being able to blast Supers now that they were all registered. J.J.J. has always been one of my favorite characters because of how fun it is to see him portrayed with all his (mostly) impotent rage.
I enjoy this art better than the current, more cartooney style, although the newer style did fit well with the mood of Spider-Island.
Finally, this issue introduces the new heroine Jackpot and tries to get you to believe it’s Mary Jane Watson. Is it? I don’t know. I’m guessing it’s probably a misdirect because MJ seems to be experiencing being a hero for the first time in Spider-Island. (Or that may just be special because she had spider-powers) I guess future issues will tell.
Amazing Spider-Man #546
As the first proper issue of the Brand New Day story arc, this issue does a great job. It introduces Pete’s situation — he’s poor, out of work, and living with Aunt May. At some point in the past he lost his job with The Daily Bugle. And it introduces Carlie who was at least one of his love interests until Spider-Island 3-4 real-life (our world) years later.
The issue starts in media res, one of my favorite techniques. We see Parker kissing some girl at a club and then “rewind” to see the previous 24 hours before swinging past that at the end of the issue. I always love seeing how the protagonists will end up in the situation we saw at the beginning of the book, comic, movie, etc. It goes along with studies that have shown we enjoy a story more if we know where it’s headed.
While this is a first issue of an arc, it doesn’t feel like the usual boring first issue of an arc. Part of that may be because Slott is introducing quite a few plots at once and part of it may be the fact that I don’t have to wait to get to the next issue. One of those new plot threads involves a guy (or guys?) dressing up as Spider-Man and mugging people. We don’t get closer on it, but the fact that the guy steals one of Parker’s web shooters may end up being important. We also get to see more of Mr. Negative and that he’s one of those criminal masterminds that operates on honor rather than double-crossing.
Another plot point is that Peter needs to find a job. I love the job hunt jokes. They are another great moment of Dan Slott humor in which he refers to past issues, continuity, etc For example, referring to the fact that as a teacher (back around Civil War time) it wasn’t as easy for him to go do Spider-Man stuff as it was as a reporter. Or referring to his trick of getting photos of himself as Spider-Man.
Carlie’s introduction is great because she’s not instantly in love with Peter or anything contrived. In fact, when they first part ways she thinks he’s an idiot for chasing a mugger with a gun. That leads to Mr. Li’s introduction. I love the huge dichotomy in how he acts as Mr. Li vs as Mr. Negative.
I also love the bombshell ending of Peter giving Jameson a heart attack. As a long-time Spider-fan it’s great schaudenfreude. I’d have really enjoyed reading this issue when it came out.
Amazing Spider-Man #547
This issue kicks off right where the last one left off. J. Jonah Jameson had a heart attack and Pete’s giving him CPR.
This issue proves that Dan Slott knows how to modulate the humor on his issues as it takes a more serious turn. At the time of publication we didn’t know whether or not JJJ was going to make it out of the hospital. Ever since Brand New Day started, Jameson’s been trying to head off a hostile takeover of The Daily Bugle. However, his wife, pissed off that it led to his hospitalization as she’d predicted, sells all his shares while he’s comatose. Those of us in the future know that he’s going to end up Mayor of NYC, but at the time it must have been a pretty dramatic turn.
The rest of the issue deals with the crime families meeting and Mr. Negative’s plans around the tablet he had stolen a few issues ago. We get some fun humor with the gangsters as they show that they’re in a different class of criminal than super villains. We also get a bit of humor in Mr. Negative’s surprise that Spider-Man has no idea who he is and has been ruining his plans by accident. Again, my kind of narrative!
Finally, the last panel of this issue is another hilarious fourth-wall leaning by Dan Slott.
Amazing Spider-Man #548:
This issue seems to be the end of the first arc in which we meet Mr. Negative. So it’s a lot of action coupled with some tidying up. Of course Spidey didn’t die last issue because the poison is DNA specific. We also gain some Carlie characterization as we see her do some police work. We find out her dad was some famous cop.
While Spider-Man didn’t succeed in saving the mafia heads, he succeeds in having the mothers and children in the always-hilarious trope of “this is real, not a performance. But I’m on a stage so no one believes me!” So Spidey has mafia gratitude — has that ever paid off or is it yet to happen in the future?
Mr. Negative also gains the ability to kill Pete with that DNA poison, but we learn May is safe because she’s not a blood relative — Uncle Ben was. And we get our reveal that Mr. Li and Mr. Negative are the same guy. Then we get three mini-stories.
Park Avenue Interlude:
The authors are still dedicated to convincing us that MJ is Jackpot. Again, I think that’s too easy and I can’t wait to see what they actually have up their sleeve.
The Astonishing Aunt May:
Has a hilarious scene where she plays dumb to save a homeless guy from another dude.
Harry and The Hollisters:
I love the art in this short story.
We also get some good character progression on Harry Osborn in this Brand New Day. We also learn about his girlfriend and her dad, the DA. Harry still has some baggage from his dad’s reputation.
Overall, it was the weakest issue so far. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t as awesome as the previous ones.
Amazing Spider-Man #549:
We switch to Guggenheim as writer, but still get great humor. I love the opening Mighty Mouse reference which goes into Spider-Man song — more fourth wall stuff. The guy who’s taken over the Daily Bugle is very annoying. The whole rebranding and so on. It’s a little boring, but we find out that there’s a new Goblin. I’m guessing it’s the Hobgoblin that’s been all over Spider-Man in 2011, but we aren’t given enough clues yet.
Spider-Man runs into Jackpot and they have a great comedic exchange including calling dibs on villains.
We get more teases that Jackpot is MJ — would really have been annoying me if I had to wait week to week. And at the end, Spider-Man gets caught for the first time since Brand New Day started as an unresigstered super hero.
So there’s no Mr. Negative or anything from the first half of the book which takes away slightly from the cohesion of the book, but then again the creative team is introducing us to Spider-Man’s Brand New Day Rogues Gallery. Overall, a good, funny first arc issue.
Amazing Spider-Man #550:
Once again the issue begins where the last one left off. Spider-Man narrowly avoids de-masking and we finally get to see this new Goblin. We FINALLY find out who Jackpot is and it’s not MJ, it’s Sara Ehret. Then again, Parker gave a fake name so there’s no reason why she couldn’t have either. I wonder if it’s one of those scrambled up names that spells “fake name” or something. I’m always horrible on picking up on those.
We find out that JJJ still doesn’t know about losing his paper and Pete tries to confirm that Harry isn’t the Goblin again — who’s being called Menace. We also find out that some dude is going to sue Parker — with neck injury — looks just like the opening plot of The Incredibles.
Finally we find out that there’s more than one Spider-tracer killing.
The issue was OK. It’s the second weakest issue in this volume for me. Amazing Spider-Man
Amazing Spider-Man #551:
This is a very action-oriented issue that involves Jackpot and Spider-Man teaming up. Jackpot, who’s been shown to be very inexperienced, has to deal with her first death. The comic has a really weird ending that leaves on wondering whether or not Sara Ehret is Jackpot.
The volume also reprints Venom #1, Dan Slott’s first Spider-issue and contains the usual assortment of planning documents that these things have.
The Volume as a Whole:
This trade collection has one purpose — reintroduce the reader to Peter Parker post One More Day. The book succeeds wildly at that. The first half of the book, in particular, does a good job of balancing showing us the new status quo while also introducing new villains. The second half feels a bit disjointed the to first half. There are some threads flowing through the entire book — Jonah’s heart attack, Jackpot, and his problems as an unregistered super hero. But Mr. Negative gets his blood and then we don’t hear from him again. Carlie’s also gone for most of the second half of the book.
At the end of this volume: We still don’t know anything about this Menace. The Spider-Tracer killings thread has not been resolved. The lawsuit hasn’t happened. The Mafia hasn’t come back into the story. So this trade is clearly meant to be a huge arc that covers all three volumes before we see closure these threads, if at all.
So as this volume starts, I’d like to see things start to come together a bit more. Or, at the very least I’d like to see some more of Mr. Negative. I’d like to know the resolution to the Spider-Tracer killings and I’d like to know who Menace is. Finally, I want to know about Jackpot and if she has any ties to Mary Jane Watson. No Dan Slott in this volume. Interesting to see how, if at all, this affects anything.
Each issue individually:
Amazing Spider-Man #552:
Bob Gale takes the writer job in this issue. Freak, introduced in an interlude in volume 1, turns out to be the main antagonist. He’s the only enemy from volume 1 to appear in this issue. He steals some money from the Soup Kitchen where Aunt May works and is foiled by Spider-Man. This leads to him injecting himself with some stem cells and becoming a weird monster.
While Jackpot doesn’t make an appearance, other issues from volume 1 continue to loom large. The Daily Bugle under its new owner is becoming a trashy paper. I’m on the fence about whether they made the new owner a little too exaggeratedly annoying — he doesn’t remember anyone’s name, for instance.
One of the mayoral candidates was killed in volume 1 and her funeral leads to Lilly asking her dad, the DA to run for mayor. At an event for him Pete and Carlie starts up their flirtation.
It’s an OK start to this new arc.
Amazing Spider-Man #553:
I’m really not feeling this villain. He’s an annoying addict. So for me the best part about his issue is the tension between Pete’s loyalty to his friends and his job. The Bugle is supporting Crowne so he has to take unflattering photos of Lilly’s father. Since he’s broke, he can’t really afford not to.
This issue also has Jameson finally getting his hands on the Bugle, but it’s changed so much that he doesn’t even realize it’s the Bugle. I love that surprise reveal that he’s not mad that they’ve changed the paper, but that he’s been brought such a horrible paper.
This issue had even more of the bar with no name. Love it!
Overall, this arc is pretty boring to me.
Amazing Spider-Man #554:
This was the last of a series of issues written by Bob Gale. Again, all the non-personal life stuff for Spidey was boring for me. But I did love how JJJ finds out about the Bugle and that Spidey has to give him CPR … again!
Spidey finally gets some traction on the freak thing when speaking to Carlie clues him in to work with his old boss who was the Lizard, Dr Conner.
The personal stuff was much more interesting to me. That included a setup for a possible temporary falling out with Lilly and Osborn over the photos he’s been taking and posting under a fake byline. Also, both Lilly and Betty Brant appeared to hit on him.
Amazing Spider-Man #555:
Although I’d read Avenging Spider-Man #1, I didn’t recognize Zeb Wells, but I was VERY excited about Chris Bachalo on pencils and colors. I absolutely love his semi-cartoony work on Wolverine and the X-Men. I think for a zanier book like Amazing Spider-Man can be at times, his pencils work very well. And I like Chris’ cartoony style WAY more than Humberto Ramos’ more manga-like style in the recent Spider-Island issues. Plus this issue features Wolverine and I LOVE how Bachalo draws Wolverine, especially that mischeviousness he gives to Wolverine’s grin. I also love how he draws Carlie Cooper.
So Spider-Man and Wolverine end up teaming up after Dr. Strange warns them about something evil coming out of this snow storm. They discover some weird guys attacking some dude in the snow. After they defeat them, Wolverine leaves of Spider-Man’s insistence in not killing the bad guys. I thought they were probably Mr. Negative’s henchmen and just looked different because of Chris Bachalo’s style. In the next issue I found out I was wrong.
Zeb got all the humor just right and I really loved this issue.
Amazing Spider-Man #556:
This issue continues to showcase Zeb Wells’ great balance of humor and dark for Spider-Man. We have the issue start off with a hilarious bit about J. Jonah Jameson trying to leave the hospital while still attached to his IV. Then we cut to realizing that it’s a Mayan god, not Mr. Negative who’s the enemy of this arc. We go back to the guy that Spider-Man saved and we get a chance to see that Carlie Cooper is the only responsible person in her precinct.
At the end of this issue we get a HUGE plot twist as Spider-Man gets to the people the doctor asked him to save and go back to the precinct. If I’d been collecting comics back then, I would have been so happy that Spider-Man was being published three times a month because I wouldn’t have been able to wait for the next issue!
Amazing Spider-Man #557:
This is a mostly an action-packed issue involving Spider-Man’s fight with the Mayan god and his acolyte. Another great example of Zeb Wells’ understanding of how to balance the humor and darkness of this kind of Spider-Man story. And I love the way the story ends.
Amazing Spider-Man #558:
We’re back to Bob Gale and the Freak for this issue. Again, I don’t care for that enemy at all. Things get a little sadder for J. Jonah Jameson as his wife separates from him until he gets his act together. This issue does set up a possible return of Lizard as Dr Connors laments having only one arm. It also sets up Osborn as going back to evil, although we’re not sure if that’s why he takes the comatose Freak to Oscorp.
The Volume as a Whole:
So I started off this volume hoping to get some story-lines continuing from volume 1. The only one that was a true continuation was the story involving J. Jonah Jameson’s heart attack. While the effects of volume 1 continued to be felt in the way people reacted to Spider-Man, there was no more jackpot nor Mr. Negative (although Mr. Li appears at the end of this book). There’s also no resolution on the Spider-Tracer killings or even any work by Spider-Man to solve it himself.
This volume is essentially about Freak and the Mayan god. Freak is not compelling to me and the Mayan god seems a throwaway villain. Bob Gale does a pretty good job with Spider-Man, but he’s not as good as Dan Slott or Zeb Wells (at least the way I prefer Spider-Man to be written.
The first 2/3 of Brand New Day:
So, how does Brand New Day hold up as a mega-story arc? Of course, I don’t know how it ends because I don’t own Volume 3, but we are past the half-way point on this story. The Spider-Man brain trust set out to remake Spider-Man post “One More Day” and I think they were successful overall.
We got to see him reconnect with some old friends as well as meet some new ones. He’s back to the Peter Parker we all know and love – a little unsure of himself as things always end up spiralling out of control despite his best intentions. These writers understand well how to do his humor.
They also introduced Mr. Negative, a great new villain for Spider-Man who’s basically a more mystical Kingpin. In fact, I don’t know if this has happened between Brand New Day and Spider-Island, but I’d LOVE to see Kingpin and Mr. Negative go head to head for control of crime in New York City.
As I mentioned before, Freak was kind of a dumb bad guy to me, but you win some you lose some.
Again acknowledging that I haven’t finished Brand New Day, it seems that there are only two threads that have been dropped in this story. There was a girl early in Volume 1 who kisses Peter at a club and was after Osborn. She hasn’t appeared AT ALL since then. (Unless she was in the background and I didn’t notice) She seemed VERY menacing – so where is she? Is it an aborted story-line?
This one is less egregious than the previous one because we’re heard some people talking about it, but what ever happened to the Spider-Man lawsuit? Was it just to show how hard of a time Spidey has it or is that yet to be resolved?
Overall, it’s a great mega-arc and I can’t wait to see how it finished when I get Volume 3.