Well, I'm a little behind in my reading, so I just got around to Amazing Spider-Man #541. You've all had a fair time to catch up, so I'm not going to worry about spoiling the plot. I'll just get right down to my point.
In the current storyline, Spidey is running around making big bad noises at the Kingpin, who was the guy who ordered the "hit" on Mary Jane, the one that missed and hit Aunt May instead.
Peter's mouthing off big time over the phone. Kingpin asks him "what can I do for you" and Peter says "you can die". Ooooh... scary! Then the web-head goes around putting pressure on a bunch of punks, trying to put the frights into them, before the final looming confrontation with the Kingpin.
The Fatman, however, knows better. He's not going to die. He didn't die when Daredevil had a dozen reasons to kill him, and he's not going to die now. And if he does by some bizarre chance actually "die", then it's not going to last much longer than when he was blind. At worst, he'll die for about as long as Aunt May died. A few years out of action, that's the worst that can happen. A holiday.
All this tough-talk from Spidey is just embarrassing kids stuff. Bottom line is, Spidey doesn't kill people. That's what makes him Spidey. He never crosses that line. Even when he was being "The Spider", the most he did was hand out a beating or two - and even then only to the Scorpion, who seems to have recovered just fine, thank you very much.
What that means in the final analysis, is that there no weight behind these current stories. Sure, the art's all dark, and the talk is all playground tough-man. But there's no chill in these tales. There's no edge on them. It's like Disney does "The Ring".
So who am I blaming. The editors? The writers? Well, I'm blaming the writer - J. Michael Straczynski. Sure, Axel Alonso and Joe Q drive the overall plot line. But the lack of any bite or steel in the storyline is purely the writer's fault. A good writer will make a chilly story out of whatever the editors throw them.
Don't believe me? Don't think a writer can work with whatever they're given? How about the editors say that Aunt May should open up a home for retired people. Nice warm and cuddly storyline, how can you possibly make something gritty out of that kind of tale? Well, those of you who've been reading as long as I have will know just where I'm going with this.
I'm talking about Spectacular Spider-Man #113, scripted by Peter David, back before he lost his touch - before he was crazy enough to think that guest-starring a real-world bowling champion would improve a comic book story.
In #113, Aunt May's boarding house is under siege. The SWAT team has the house surrounded, but Spidey beats 'em to it. He comes in and cleans up the bad guys. The head baddie is webbed up helpless, everything is clear for the police to just walk in and tidy up. But May's fiancee and border Nathan Lubensky isn't satisfied.
He opens a blind so that a SWAT sniper can see the bad guy's silhouette - though of course the sniper can't see the webbing. The sniper takes the shot. WHAM, instant interior redecorating with a splatter theme. Aunt May is horrified, and she splits with Nathan shortly after.
Now, I'm not saying that Spidey should go around whacking people left, right and center. Far from it. Spider-Man doesn't kill people, and changing that would be a fundamental shift in the Spider-Man mythos that probably goes further even than revealing his identity.
My real objection is simply this. Given that we all agree that Spider-Man doesn't snuff people, then this tough-guy macho "I'm gonna kill ya" posturing is entirely unconvincing. It's empty bravado and we all know it. Peter isn't going to walk the walk, so for heaven's sake stop pretending his is.
P.S. I haven't actually read #542 yet. If Spidey does actually kill the Kingpin and he stays dead, then that's a different story entirely!