Sunday, December 18, 2011

Amazing Spider-Man #627-#629: "Something Can Stop the Juggernaut!"

*** (three of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "[Dead.]  Ummm...always overcoming obstacles."  -- Peter's response to the question, "Where do you see yourself in five years?," asked while he's on a phone interview AND fighting the Absorbing Man

Peter's Spider-Sense almost kills him when a huge explosion occurs over Manhattan.  It, unfortunately, happens during a date with Carlie Cooper, who confuses it with a "cluster headache" and tells him to go get some rest.  Instead, Spidey investigates the incident, following the trail of a meteor into Central Park.  There, he discovers a comatose Juggernaut.  Juggy is removed by the police; Peter tries to call in some help, but Dr. Strange and Professor X are unavailable, and no other superhero is returning his calls.  En route home, Peter stops a mugging and saves a drunk guy who's car was inexplicably placed on top of the Washington Square Arch by a "some blue-an'-white flyin' guy."  Peter later meets Carlie for lunch, telling her that he recovered from his headache enough to go and get photos of the Juggernaut; she tells him that Juggy is being kept at the Inwood Armory.  Spidey breaks into the Armory to ask Juggernaut who hurt him, only to discover the answer:  Captain Universe, who is also breaking into the Armory, though with the intent to finish off Juggy.  Universe hurls Juggernaut's body (with Spidey on top of it) from the Armory, and Spidey does his best to keep Universe distracted from killing the Juggernaut.  Mid-battle, Universe is called by the Enigma Force to repair fractures in the Earth's core, but he's distracted when Juggernaut appears.  We learn that Captain Universe is some guy who lost his job after his firm had to downsize due to the damage done by a fight between Juggy and Spidey.  In despair, the guy decided to commit suicide, changed his mind, but slipped; instead of dying, he's transformed into Captain Universe mid-fall.  Juggy calls the guy a wuss for being so devastated over such small setbacks, and Universe scans Juggy's mind, discovering that, after Spidey ended the aforementioned battle by placing him under tons of concrete, it took the Juggernaut a month to dig his way to the surface.  Universe continues to battle Juggy until, disappointed in its choice, the Enigma Force empowers Juggernaut as Captain Universe, so he can fix the fractures, which were caused by his digging his way to the surface after his battle with Spidey.  Everyone learns a lesson about power and responsibility and Peter ends the issue on a date with Carlie.

The Review
This arc isn't perfect, but it's a helluva lot more fun than "The Gauntlet," so it's a welcome distraction.  You can kind of tell its filler before we return to whatever the big event related to "The Gauntlet" is going to wind up being, but, again, I'll take what I can get if it means a return to our happy-go-lucky, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.  The story has a good pace, moving along nicely most of the time.  At times, however, particularly in the third issue, it gets pretty heavily weighed down by all the exposition and flashbacks revealing who Captain Universe is and why he hates the Juggernaut.  But, all in all, it restores a fun vibe to Spidey, so I'm giving Stern a three.

The Good
1) It's not perfectly executed here, but I always appreciate when writers show the repercussions of superhero/super-villain battles.  This new iterations of Captain Universe was born to solve the damage done during a battle between the Juggernaut and Spider-Man and the reason why his civilian identity hates the Juggernaut was born of that same battle.  It's a nice touch, particularly since the original battle appears in the first comic I ever owned!

2) I always appreciate when a writer presents Juggernaut as the complicated character he is, and Stern really excels at that here.  Despite being too exposition-y, I still thought it was fascinating to hear Juggernaut describe how it took him a month to claw his way to the surface after his battle with Spider-Man left him buried in the bedrock.  Again, we don't normally see the repercussions of huge battles, particularly from the point of view of the super-villains, so hearing Juggy describe it as a challenging trial really helps give him depth.

3) I liked how Spidey, in the first issue, kept rescuing people as he was on his way home from seeing the comatose Juggernaut.  He stopped a mugging and he rescued the guy on top of Washington Square Arch.  One of my favorite issues of all time is "Amazing Spider-Man" #314, where Peter and MJ have been evicted from the Bedford Towers at Christmas time.  Peter's feeling super-low, but he still stops a purse snatching in the park.  The woman tells him that all her money for Christmas presents was in that purse and thanks him by giving him some macaroons.  I don't know why, but that scene always stuck with me as the quintessential Spider-Man:  JJJ, Jr. might've thought he was a menace, but we all know -- and the people he saves know -- who he really is.  Peter might be distracted by his lack of a job, a crazy roommate, a stalled love life, and a mysterious entity that can take down the Juggernaut...but he still has time to help a lady not get her purse stolen.

4) The back-up story in issue #628 is pretty hilarious.  I mean, Peter on a phone interview while fighting the Absorbing Man?  Good stuff.  Also, based on the preview in #629, I am excited about the upcoming Lizard arc!

The Bad
1) The meditations of power and responsibility get a little heavy-handed here, even for a Spidey comic.

2) The Captain Universe schtick has always bothered me.  Why doesn't the Enigma Force have Captain Universe stop every earthquake?  Why was the one caused by a battle between Juggernaut and Spider-Man special?

3) Carlie Cooper, particularly in the first issue, looks about 45 years old.  Also, in terms of her character, I'm just not feeling the chemistry.  Despite how perfect Carlie would be for Peter -- a fellow science geek extraordinaire and someone who totally buys his "Um, I had to stuff..." excuses -- it all still feels forced, unlike Norah and the Black Cat, which feels more organic and believable.  I also don't think it's the writers, either, because I haven't really seen anyone handle Carlie in a way that makes me think, "She's perfect for Peter!"

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