In Stamford, the New Warriors have been part of a horrible incident which killed hundreds including innocent school children. Peter Parker has become Tony Stark's protege, and has recently accompanied Tony to Washington where Tony tried to speak to the Senate about their proposed Registration Act, and prevent its eventual passing.
Peter stands in his apartment with Aunt May and Mary Jane, agonizing over a decision that he has to make, which could forever change his life as Spider-Man.
Peter thinks back over the past few days, as he and Tony Stark take a jet to Stamford, in the aftermath of the tragedy. Details are still coming in about the loss of life and who was involved in the altercation. Two hours later, Spider-Man and Iron Man are on the scene, surveying the damage and the rescue crews. Tony tells Peter that the incident has changed the way that regular citizens view superhumans, and how they now hate and fear them, because heroes were involved in the tragedy, acting carelessly. Tony tells Peter that although they can't do anything more, they are there because the President wants him there, and wants to speak to Iron Man afterwards.
Three hours later, Peter and Tony are in the White House, and Tony goes in and speaks with the President as Peter waits outside. Tony comes from his meeting, and tells Peter about the meeting, that the Superhuman Registration Act is going to be pushed through and signed within a week or so. Peter asks Tony if he's going to fight this, when Tony admits to Peter that the President asked Tony if he was still Iron Man, and he admitted this fact. Tony tells Peter that things now have to change, the way they do business has to change, that it's a whole new ball game after Stamford. He explains how the Registration Act will work, and what it will mean to not register.
In their limo, Tony asks Peter if he'll stand with him, which Peter agrees with. Tony tells Peter that he's going to be taking the lead in the registration process, and that he can only do it if Peter's by his side openly as both Peter Parker and Spider-Man. Peter doesn't want to unmask, but Tony tells him that otherwise he'll be going against the law, be a wanted criminal, and that his loved ones won't be safe and will be fugitives and accomplices. Tony leaves Peter off at the plane, and returns to meet with the President once he has signed the Registration Act. He tells Peter the pilot will pick him up again if he wants to stand with Tony.
While flying home, Peter checks the full balance of his personal accounts, so he knows how much he can withdraw if he needs to go on the run. When he gets home, he talks over the decision with his family, and what is the best decision. Mary Jane doesn't want him to have to unmask, and wants to know the options if he doesn't unmask. They don't know if Tony would reveal his name if asked or not. Peter states that if he goes on the run, he goes alone, to prevent his family from being dragged into it. Aunt May gets up, and tells Peter that he should unmask, follow the law, and be proud of who he is. MJ agrees and tells Peter to stand his ground, not run, and unmask.
Four days later, Peter agonizes over the decision, thinking that he won't unmask, that he'll go on the run. He thinks about the money he can come up with, and where to go. But before he leaves the apartment, Aunt May is there, waiting for him, having stitched together a classic Spider-Man costume for Peter. She tells him that responsibility means coming clean and taking responsibility for who you are, and who did something, and that means revealing his identity for the registration act. The next morning, Peter shows up where Tony is, and tells him that he took his family in when they had nowhere else to go, and has been like a father to Peter. He tells him that he made a promise to stand by him, and that he keeps his promises, and will back Tony up all the way.
A few minutes later, Tony starts a press conference, about the Pro-Registration Movement, and introduces Spider-Man. Peter stands before the assembled press, and declares that he has an announcement to make...
This is an excellently written issue by Straczynski, because it's very intelligently and thoughtfully written, and doesn't insult the reader's intelligence. It does something which is rarely found in the Civil War crossover thus far, and really humanizes Tony, unlike some of his other recent depictions. The way that Straczynski writes these characters, its very logical and emotional at the same time, and the process which Peter goes through in weighing all his options is very typical of the Spider-Man character. Reading this issue through once more, I found it to be a very emotionally charged issue, with some real soul-searching by Peter Parker which is deftly handled by Straczynski. It's very human and a fantastic read.
However, although the writing is top notch and brilliant, the linework by Garney leaves something to be desired. The work lacks a certain polish, and instead looks like sloppy, hastily finished, scratchy linework which doesn't manage to fully pull off the quieter emotional moments of the issue. The depiction of both Mary Jane and Aunt May is considerably disappointing, especially the odd depiction of Aunt May. After all the trouble that JrJr and Deodato Jr. put into making her look younger, and with a younger, more youthful mindset as written by Straczynski, her depiction seemed to be a giant step backwards for the character's visual representation.
The only real downside to this issue is the art, otherwise it would have been a first class book all the way.
The writing and plotting is solid, and emotionally resonant, but the artwork hurts the overall package.