Monday, October 31, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #606-#607: Long-Term Arrangement

** (two of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "Pretty rude of him not to spill the master plan when he thought we were going to die.  I don't think he read the handbook."  -- the Black Cat, on Diablo

Spidey stops a mugger and encounters the Black Cat in the process (after her bad-luck powers short-circuit his Web-Shooters while he's swinging the mugger around town).  Spidey discovers that the Cat was in the process of breaking into Dexter Bennett's safe, in which the duo discover a guy whose intestines have been turned into granite.  (No joke.)  The body then explodes, sending explosive spikes throughout the room.  (Seriously, not kidding.)  Diablo appears and chases the duo from the apartment.  (Felicia doesn't reveal why she was there in the first place and for whom she's working.)  With nothing better to do, they wind up sneaking into an empty hotel room and, well, you know.  (They do it in the dark, by the way, so Felicia doesn't accidentally see Peter's face and remember who Spidey is.)  The next day, Spidey confronts Bennett, showing him a picture of the guy in the safe.  Bennett reveals it's an old business partner.  Bennett became a silent partner when the guy bought some material at a discounted rate, without telling Bennett beforehand.  Spidey realizes Bennett hadn't known that the guy's corpse had been in his safe.  At a building owned by the old business partner, Spidey again encounters the Cat, where they again encounter Diablo, who has frozen all the workers and is going through old files.  Diablo escapes and Spidey and the Cat realize that it was Diablo who supplied the "discounted material," which was actually steel meant to dissolve now.  The reason?  The companies in the building the old business partner built with the dissolving steel all had large insurance policies, which Diablo (presumably) bought for pennies on the dollar when the building was new.  (He wanted Bennett and the old business partner dead so they couldn't connect the material to him.)  Spidey and the Cat have a talk and decide to try to keep their "relationship" loose.  The issue ends with Kraven's daughter approaching Diablo on behalf of her mother.

The Cat is Back!  To be honest, I don't know what to make of this arc.  Some of it -- like the misogyny -- sucked.  Some of it -- like the Felicia -- was awesome.

The Good
I heart the Black Cat.  Srsly.  Actually, she's my earliest comic memory.  "Amazing Spider-Man" #227 was my first comic book, and it features the Black Cat.  She's pretty much my definition of awesome.  I'm thrilled to see her return.  However, I was a little disappointed with the way Kelly handles her here (particularly the way he handles the "sexy talk;" see below), but I do like that Kelly gets how the Cat is a calming influence on Peter.  We see him happy here, despite being in the middle of serious girl drama (which I'm also not thrilled by the way Kelly handles), and it's great to see that.

The Meh
The sex conversations between Peter and Felicia (and Spider-Man and the Black Cat) were a mixed bag.  For example, I never, ever, EVER want to hear Spider-Man refer to the Black Cat's breasts as "the kittens" again.  EVER.  A lot of their exchanges were equally badly juvenile.  (I mean, I'm not a prude.  I would've enjoyed artfully juvenile sex talk.)  To be fair, Peter has always been kind of juvenile about sex.  But, a lot of it seemed more Kelly's inability to write conversations about sex than a deliberate attempt to mimic Peter's juvenile sex banter.  That said, some of it wasn't bad at all.  I liked the last page of issue #606, with Peter allowing himself to become all body and not all mind.  I thought that represented a great moment of Peter allowing himself to be Peter for the first time in a while.  I also thought their conversation at the start of issue #607, with Felicia asking Peter to wait until the sun rose for them to be "grown-ups," was poignant.  As I said, it was a mixed bag, so I'm giving it a meh.

The Bad
1) The misogyny was a little OTT here.  Actually, it was a lot OTT.  The comment about coffee being invented so that men could deal with women in the morning?  WTF?  I don't believe for a minute that Peter would actually think that.  Kelly -- like Van Lente before -- portrays Michele as totally insane, to such a point that you wonder why she hasn't been committed.  Kelly, however, adds Norah to the "women acting insane" act, having her inexplicably burst into their apartment to deciding she urgently needs a hug from Peter since she feels like a coward for sitting on the Osborn story...for weeks.  Um, yeah.  Kelly even has Peter refer to how all the "females" in his life were crazy.  This whole "crazy, swinging Peter Parker" storyline could've been done a LOT better, with more interesting dramatic tension than "crazy females."  Both Waid, Van Lente, and Kelly need to go to a corner (as Spidey tells the Cat to do) and to think about how to write modern female characters.

2) Reading issue #606, it sounded like Felicia had re-learned who Peter was, making me wonder if it happened in yet another side-project.  I mean, she says "...The second I saw you, even though I forgot who you are under that all came rushing back."  It sounds like what happened with the Fantastic Four when, the minute Spidey unmasked, they remembered everything.  The lack of clarity comes, I think, from the ambiguous wording of the sentence.  "Forgot" is in the past tense there, so I wasn't sure if she was talking about now (referring to the ten-minutes ago past) or a while ago (referring to a past possibly depicted in a side project in which she saw Spider-Man again for the first time in a while AND then learned who he was).  It became clear in issue #607 that she meant the ten-minutes ago past and didn't know who he was/is.  She's actually fairly nonchalant about it (unlike Johnny Storm), which makes me feel like some side project addressed the fact that she no longer knew his identity.  Re-reading the last few sentences, I feel even more confused than I already was.  At any rate, we keep suffering from this sort of problem, the Mephisto deal hangover, particularly with people finding out Spidey's identity in other books and the Mephisto deal itself being complicated by some cover story regarding a mindwipe (that Peter may or may not know is a cover story).  Anyway, it's all confusing, and they need to bring this whole issue of who knows and who doesn't know to a close.

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