Note: This article was originally released on Dec 1, 2009.

Much has been said about J. Michael Straczynski’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man, and almost all of it is negative. And for good reason – in the last half of his run…

  • It was revealed that Gwen Stacy had twins with Norman Osborn
  • Spider-Man took on a new, Iron Man-inspired costume, and revealed his identity to the world
  • Aunt May got shot, causing Spider-Man to wear the black costume AGAIN
  • Spidey’s web shooters went organic
  • Spider-Man made a deal with Mephisto to save Aunt May’s life that ended up with the current, unmarried Spider-Man

Typing up that list, though I haven’t read all of those storylines, I’m reminded of the great, seething HATE I had for a good number of them. Still, I remember the hope I had when JMS started his run on ASM, and decided to go ahead and give his run a try again, from the beginning.

Check out my review of the first storyline, Coming Home, after the jump!

retroreview120109On the most recent episode of Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie (listen here), I spoke about needing some Spidey in my life. The current Spider-Man status quo isn’t cutting it for me, despite having tried to get into it multiple times. In fact, I can name at least six:

  • The beginning run, with art by Steve McNiven
  • The New Ways to Die storyline (#568-573)
  • The Black Cat issues (#606-607)
  • Issue #600
  • Kraven’s First Hunt (#564-567)
  • And, most recently, the beginning of The Gauntlet storyline (#612)

Frankly, other than the Steve McNiven run (which I actually did enjoy) and issue #600, I’ve not really enjoyed a single issue of the title I’ve read since then. Mostly, I seem to like when Dan Slott writes the total the most, but even then, I think the current status quo just isn’t working for me. Still, there was a recent reference to Peter’s time as a teacher (from JMS’ run) that kind of put me in the mood to seek that run out. I don’t remember terribly much about JMS’ run, especially since I think I only read about the first half of it (if that), but I do remember liking some of the things he did at the beginning of his arc, including making Peter a high school science teacher, bringing Mary Jane back into Peter’s life, and some pretty good characterization moments that all seemed to kind of get tossed aside due to editorial mandate near the end of his run.

Amazing Spider-Man #30
Amazing Spider-Man #30

But when JMS first started on the title, I was excited. I loved Midnight Nation (from Top Cow) and, though I hadn’t read some of his other comics work (like Rising Stars, or the Babylon 5 tie-ins), the Babylon 5 TV show was enough to make me a huge fan of the guy (and let’s not forget Captain Power). However, when the first issue of his run originally came out, #30, it left me a bit cold. Still, I kept on with it, and the second issue ended up being a lot better. And that’s one thing I noticed during the entire first storyline, Coming Home.

I picked up The Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Collection, Vol. I, which collects the first 16 issues of the run the other day, and read through the first storyline in one sitting. However, the inconsistency I noticed while reading the comic on a monthly basis wasn’t as obvious while reading it as one volume. A couple of weak points in the storyline end up being just that, weak points, rather than an entire month of weaksauce.

Still, there are definitely some weak aspects – a little of the dialogue reads as false. Spider-Man saying he’s never been hit harder than he has by Morlun seems a little silly, considering we’ve seen Spider-Man in worse shape. Still, despite a little bit of melodrama, the story does end up being a pretty intense tale, and we end up seeing Spider-Man as a little more desperate than we’re used to seeing him.

My favorite part of the storyline back then is still my favorite part – Peter Parker as a teacher. I think he was fired sometime after JMS’ run ended (which makes sense, considering how much he called out during his tenure), but I really loved that aspect of his character while it lasted. It seemed like a natural progression of his character, and going back to photography, or working for the mayor’s office, or whatever the hell he does now, just seems like a step backwards.

Sure, the whole “Spider-Man actually got his powers from a totem” seems stupid, but upon retrospect, it’s not that horrible a retcon. It’s not like it said that Spider-Man didn’t get bitten by a radioactive spider – it just changed the origin of the power itself. Maybe that’s blasphemy… and maybe my opinion is formed based on what’s come since this storyline.

And I’ve written 800 words already on the writing of the tale, without focusing on the one thing that can’t be disputed – this is some of John Romita, Jr’s greatest career work. While I love his art almost always, sometimes it does reek of “making the deadline,” rather than actually looking like he put an effort into it. Not so here in these six issues – his art is spectacular, helped immensely by some amazing coloring work. This is a beautiful book.

Nowadays, it’s a bit hard to find the Peter Parker we loved as kids. And while JMS’ run will be forever be tainted by the rather awful directions it took, it was pretty pleasant to remember the rather strong way in which is began. I’m going to give the second storyline, Revelations, a read…hopefully it continues the quality of this first run.