Monday, December 26, 2011

On "The Gaunlet"

As those of you who've been reading the last few entries know, "The Gauntlet" bugged me.  After reading "Grim Hunt," I'm clearer now on why exactly "The Gauntlet" bugged me, and I figured that it probably merited a full post so that I could leave behind my baggage and focus on "Grim Hunt" itself in its own review.  So, here we go.

Before "The Gauntlet," the Web Heads (and the Spidey Brain Trust before them) had endeavored to return "Amazing Spider-Man" to days of yore, with a single and footloose Peter Parker and a funny and witty Spider-Man.  When "Amazing Spider-Man" did get dark since "Brand New Day" began, it was usually related to the Osborns.  But, because the Osborns are so historically tied to Spidey, these issues still more or less kept with the general tone of "Brand New Day," since they were evoking the same era of the late 100s and early 200s of "Amazing Spider-Man," when Spidey faced some darker battles but still kept his happy-go-lucky attitude.

"The Gaunlet," however, represented a significant departure from this overall approach.  It was more evocative of the the late 200s and early 300s, when "Amazing Spider-Man" started to get darker and more serious.  (In fact, it's the sequel to "Kraven's Last Hunt," which ran in "Amazing Spider-Man" #293 and #294, as well as "Spectacular Spider-Man" and "Web of Spider-Man.")  We (thankfully) didn't veer into the late 300s and early 400s territory here, but we did start seeing Peter face a series of personal setbacks that went beyond "the Parker luck."

"The Gauntlet," for me, was uneven, mostly because the editors failed to apply its concept as rigorously as they should have.  The end result is that the last 22 issues of "Amazing Spider-Man" have been dizzying, not just in the sense of the assault on Peter Parker, but in the sense that, as a reader, it's been difficult to keep track of all the various plot threads and which ones actually mattered.  In the end, having read "Grim Hunt," it's clear that the most significant events were:

a) the hiring of the Chameleon, Diablo, Electro, and Mysterio, due to their roles in the resurrection ceremonies during "Grim Hunt" (though Chameleon and Diablo were technically hired before "The Gauntlet" started),

b) the tragedies of the Rhino and the Lizard, which were probably the events that most shook up Peter psychologically, and

c) the destruction of "The DB!" and the firing of Peter, which were the events that most complicated Peter's personal life, distracting him from his role as Spider-Man.

Other events -- like the kidnapping of Madame Web and Mattie Franklin -- were obviously important, but could've been inserted into any issue.

The rest of the arcs (Sandman, Mr. Negative, and Morbius as well as the Scorpion and Juggernaut arcs that happened after "The Gauntlet" but before "Grim Hunt") wound up being merely distractions.  Instead of getting a steady display of Peter's deteriorating psyche -- which we would have had if they had focused on the core elements I outlined above -- we wind up going up and down.  For example, Peter seems more or less fine during the Scorpion and Juggernaut arcs.  If we would've went right from the Rhino to the Lizard, I think we would've wound up entering "Grim Hunt" with a lot better sense of Peter being just this side of broken.

In the end, "Grim Hunt" rights the ship, if you will, and makes you forgot about the more irrelevant aspects of the last 22 issues.  But, I think we still see here, with "The Gauntlet," the Web Heads losing a little control over the story they're trying to tell.  I think they correct that in "Grim Hunt," but I thought it was important to note, since I think we wind up finding ourselves in an entirely new status quo after it.

Now, onto the story!

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