Friday, January 13, 2012

Amazing Spider-Man #642-#646: "Origin of the Species"

*** (three of five stars)

Favorite Quote:  "Listen, please, I need your help!  I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm so tired, and you know how it is, right?  I just -- a diaper or some formula or --"  Spidey trying to convince a lady on the street to help out a surrogate dad

A mysterious figure convenes a meeting of almost all of Spidey's street-level nemeses, telling them to secure a package.  The winner will receive that which he most needs.  Betty Brant convinces Peter not to sell his camera equipment at a camera convention and loans Peter $50 for his date with Carlie.  Peter goes home to discover that Michele is selling his clothes to compensate for his lack of paying rent, so Peter winds up wearing a fairly bizarre sweater (in the middle of summer) for his date.  When he meets Carlie at the Coffee Bean, Harry and MJ are there, and they proceed to tell Carlie all Peter's embarrassing stories.  The fun is interrupted when Lily crashes into the Coffee Bean in labor, being chased by the Shocker and Tombstone.  Doc Ock is exposed as the mysterious figure and takes Lily's baby, wanting it to study the biological advantages the first child born of two Goblin-serum-ed parents would have.  Spidey grabs the baby and escapes, becoming the subject of a city-wide obsession as he's tailed by news helicopters and inquiring police.  (JJJ, Jr. has, of course, decided Spidey kidnapped the baby.)  Electro, Sandman, the Vulture, Freak, and Mysterio all try to get the baby, whereas the Rhino just wants to kill Spidey.  Meanwhile, Mary Jane takes Lily to the home of her producer, who has a panic room, and Carlie stays at the Coffee Bean to try to find a missing Peter.  Harry appears, and Peter gives him the baby, while throwing the Vulture and Freak off his trail.  Harry tells Spidey the baby died, and Spidey goes into a rage, swearing vengeance on all the villains involved, furious that, amidst all the tragedy that's occurred over the last few weeks, he couldn't save one little life.  Carlie tracks down Lily and MJ, but inadvertently leads Tombstone there; Lily proceeds to take out Tombstone with her glider.  Spidey learns of Doc Ock's location at the Kravinoff Mansion from the Shocker; once there, he finds the Chameleon, who was revealed to have been "Harry," who tells Spidey the Lizard stole the baby.  Doc Ock has also discovered that the Lizard has the baby, and the two go into the Lizard's lair.  While Doc Ock and the Lizard battle, Spidey escapes with the baby, who Spidey finds (taking up the Lizard's research, which he can't complete) doesn't have a trace of Goblin serum.  Lily departs, saying she's a threat to the baby, and Spidey calls Harry to Avengers Tower.  He takes a blood sample from Harry and reveals the baby is Harry's, not Norman's.

The Review
This arc tells a pretty solid Spidey story.  It's funny, with its "Three Men [or, at least, One Spider-Man] and a Baby" schtick, but it also gets dark, with Spidey striking fear in the hearts of the villains who were involved in the kidnapping of Lily's baby.  It had tons of twists and turns, making it a definite page-turner.  It also has the benefit of moving quickly, which is a departure from the last two arcs ("Grim Hunt" and "One Moment in Time"), which had a lot of narrative to process.

The Good
1) Holy crap, I didn't see a pregnant Lily bursting through the front of the Coffee Bean coming.  At first, I was immediately skeptical about why Lily would be flying on her glider in labor, but, fair enough, Waid gives us a good reason, in the form of her being chased by the Shocker, Tombstone, and Dr. Octopus.  On top of that, the whole sequence was funny while also menacing (heh).

2) OMG, finally, a villain invented a Spider-Tracer!

3) Mysterio's Goblin Baby was awesome.  I mean, it would've been awful had they actually made the baby into a Goblin Baby as I initially feared, so it was all the more awesome when it was revealed to be a ploy by Mysterio.

4) The Chameleon as Harry!  I didn't see that coming AT ALL.  Twists and turns, people, twists and turns.

The Bad
1) The main problem with this arc, and the reason why I'm only giving it a three, is the art.  I like Azaceta normally, but everything here feels really rushed.  Most of the time, the characters are almost more sketched than drawn, making it occasionally hard to tell who's who.  For example, in the first issue, I couldn't even tell it was Peter and Betty at the camera fair.  Had the art been more consistent, this arc would've really been a home run.

2) ARGH!  Michele is crazy again!  ARGH!  Why is she selling Peter's clothes without telling him if they had a truce?  Why?

3) Wasn't Freak dead?  If I cared more about Freak, I'd go research that, but, I'm pretty sure, when we left things with Freak, he was dead.

4) Why does the Lizard hate Osborn?  He says he does, but why?  It's not for something that happened during "Brand New Day," and I don't remember any reason for him to hate Osborn back in the pre-re-numbering days when I was still reading "Amazing Spider-Man."

5) Wouldn't Harry's first "kick into adulthood" have been his, you know, existing son? 

6) Despite being seen at Octopus' meeting in the beginning of the arc, we don't see Hammerhead, Mr. Negative or Morbius appear again in the arc.  We actually only see Diablo, Overdrive, and the Spot when Spidey sends the web-ball of them flying into the police station.  It's fine, I guess, but why include them in the scene if you're not going to use them, particularly since other villains who wind up appearing in the arc (like the Rhino and the Vulture) aren't in the scene?

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