Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Amazing Spider-Man #583

(Mark Waid, Barry Kitson; Zeb Wells, Todd Nauck)

Yes, that is Barack Obama on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man. That’s Marvel comics for you, always up-to-date and relevant. Of course, that’s only the variant cover illustrating the backup story. The ordinary cover is much uglier, not because of the art – John Romita can draw fine – but because of the concept: Peter Parker has his arms around two girls and is saying something lame about cougars while next to him the words ACTION IS HIS REWARD! are shouted at us. Sometimes, trying too hard to be up-to-date and relevant just makes you look a bit old and creepy. This cover is the equivalent of Marvel scraping together that bit of hair at the back that hasn’t fallen out yet, turning it into a scraggly ponytail, and going out to be the weird old guy at the club.

Spidey’s hanging around in the background, looking left out while Peter saunters off to be made into a man-sandwich, possibly thinking to himself, “Aren’t they a little young to be cougars? Technically speaking?”

It’s the ‘Special Tribute-to-Dating Issue!!’, as the cover proudly declares, and I’m glad Marvel were there to shine a spotlight on such an undernoticed subject. The issue’s main story involves Betty Brant helping the newly single Peter Parker ease back into the world of desperate singletons by taking him speed-dating. (Up-to-date!) Obama is not involved in any way. Problems emerge in the form of criminals who steal Peter’s attention when he could be busting moves on hotties. He has to waste his quips on lame villains instead. “Have you tried It’s awesome!” he honestly actually says to one of them. “Always run a virus check afterwards though.” (Relevant!) Some foreshadowing is squeezed in along the way, but it relies on Betty handing out Aunt May’s phone number to a guy she just met. I know she’s a matchmaker, but that makes no sense at all.

Apparently the timely backup strip was written in a week so it would coincide with Obama’s inauguration. It’s still better than the clumsy sitcom of the main story, which isn’t saying much. Peter is in Washington photographing the historic event when a duplicate Obama arrives and hijinx ensue. Spidey’s going to have to save the day, obviously. Todd Nauck draws this one and he isn’t the kind of artist who does studied likenesses – his Obamas look kind of like Denzel Washingtons, his Peter Parker looks kind of like David Tennant, and there's something wrong with the shape of Spider-Man’s head. Frank D’Armata colours everything with highlights galore, so that it looks like there’s been an oil slick on everyone’s skin.

Yes, it is, Denzel.

Most of the jokes work though and it’s a pleasant enough experience to go through so you can say you’ve read it. The Stephen Colbert issue they did last year was better, however.


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