Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #594

Background

J Jonah Jameson is mayor of New York and, in order to cock a snook at the old walrus, Spidey has working 24/7. Every moment he spends in the limelight is like rusty nails on a blackboard to JJJ. Of course, one might ask why Spidey is reacting like this when he should probably be sorting out his personal life (he's been away for two months after all). Is there perhaps someone else Spidey should be directing his ire against? Ideally, it would be against the new criminal-consuming Vulture who has blinded our hero with his acidic spittle and is now swooping in for the kill.

Story 'Finale'

Blinded by the new Vulture, Peter panics, lashing out with his fists and his webbing. These clumsy attacks are evaded effortlessly by the Vulture, who swoops down again and again. Taking inspiration from Daredevil, Spidey composes himself and relies solely on his spider-sense. By instinct he leaps and grabs the Vulture, giving him a face-full of webbing to even the odds. The Vulture struggles in vain and then flees. Spidey has survived. For now.

Meanwhile in Queens, Aunt May and JJ Snr (or "Jay" as we're calling him now) are enjoying a romantic afternoon stroll in the park. They speak of their relationship, of Betty getting them together and of Jay and Peter's mutual dislike for Jonah. It has been a wonderful few weeks for the pair. Jay gets down on one knee and proposes to May. She accepts with enthusiasm.

Across town, Peter returns to his apartment; his vision still suffering from the Vulture's attack. He takes off his shredded costume, puts on some dark glasses and heads for the fridge. It is then that he bumps into the dark- haired girl who has been looking after the apartment in his absence. It is Vin's sister Michelle, she moved from Chicago to work on Vin's case and she's sticking around.

At present, she's not too struck with Peter: and that isn't entirely because she's just caught wandering naked around the apartment. She's been fielding messages and stacking his post for the last two months. All of Peter's friends were not in the least surprised that he had simply fallen off the planet for that time. She thinks he's a waste of space and, as it's her name on the lease of the apartment, he'd better ship up or he'll find himself on the street. Frankly, their first meeting doesn't go as well as it might have done.

After Michelle leaves, Peter puts on his spare spider-costume and swings over to the Raft to have a close and personal chat with Adrian Toomes, the original Vulture. Toomes says that the new Vulture has nothing to do with him. He has heard that the Mob did something to turn him into a hideous freak, and now he's hunting criminals for revenge. Toomes hopes that he'll kill Spider-Man. Lovely bloke, Mr Toomes.

Spidey heads back to the city. He spends the whole day foiling petty crimes and webbing criminals to walls to try and bait the Vulture. Eventually he succeeds and sets up a rematch. Moments later he has webbed onto the new Vulture and is being dragged across town by him. As fate would have it, they are both heading for Legends Day at the New Yankee stadium - an event that happens to be presided over by none other than J. Jonah Jameson.

Spidey and Vulture come swinging in and completely wreck the place. They crash through the observation galleries, throwing Norman Osborn (you may have heard of him) to the ground. Norman is tempted to call in his own Spider-Man to trounce the wall-crawler but, noting how the crowd is turning against Spidey, he decides that now is not the right time.

Eventually Spidey grabs the Vulture and wrestles him to the ground. Spidey holds on but the Vulture doesn't seem to tire, so the question is: who's got who? Then Spidey sees Osborn in the crowd and that seems to push him over the edge. He breaks the Vulture's arms to disable him, and webs him up. Then things get worse.

The crowd turns on the wallcrawler. All the good work he's done over the preceding few days evaporates because he ruined Legends Day. Spidey beats a hasty retreat under a hail of hurled garbage. The following day the headlines say it all. The city has turned against Spider-Man once again, and embraced the mayor's Anti-Spider Squad. "And so the natural order is restored," Spider- Man muses.

Spidey reflects that although he enjoyed getting under JJJ's skin, he has realised that wasn't what has been driving him over the last few days. It is Norman Osborn he has been lashing out at. He's finally won: Osborn is the most powerful man in America now, and it's all Spidey's fault. He could have taken down Norman a dozen times over the years. He could have finished this for good, but he chose to take the high road. That's going to change. Spidey's coming for Norman, and no-one's going to stop him.

General Comments

24/7 tells the story of a Spider-Man who has gone off the rails. However, this lack of lucidity is not characterised by an unstoppable psychosis as it was in the Back in Black arc. No, Waid is being altogether more ambitious than that.

What we see here is Peter's subconscious slide into being Spider-Man full time; into walking away from his personal life. Scant hours after telling Johnny Storm that being Spider-Man isn't his life, here is the wallcrawler proving just the opposite. To begin with Spidey doesn't even realise he is doing it. He justifies his actions as pay back against Jonah. He dismisses his real life as something he can get back to later on. Even catching Aunt May and Jay in bed together doesn't distract him for long.

Why does he do this? Because Peter's real life is back in the real world. And in the real world Norman Osborn is the most powerful person in America. He's the head of HAMMER; he's the new golden boy with the keys to the kingdom. It is the horror of seeing the man who killed Gwen Stacey and ruined so many other lives held in such esteem; and the crushing burden of knowing that Peter could have stopped him when he had the chance, but didn't.

That's obviously what Waid was aiming for in this story, and the fact that I realise this proves he was at least partially successful. With a little good will, and if I squint, I can see 24/7 as the story that it should have been. If I'm being objective, then what we actually have is an arc with a number of disparate elements that don't really come together in a satisfactory manner.

Spidey's obsession with Osborn was a throwaway line last issue, and the sight of him motivates Spidey to uncharacteristic violence against the Vulture in this issue. However, I don't think that enough has been done to create this dark denial in Spider-Man in the first place. Previous issues of ASM should have hammered home Spidey's growing feelings of hatred and powerlessness against Osborn. They didn't do that, and therefore Waid's plot seems as though it comes from nowhere.

The B Plot is the new Vulture, but rather than complementing the main thrust of the arc in theme, it turns out to be a rather generic fight against a new villain. A new villain who isn't permitted to say or do anything that makes him particularly interesting. Mike McKone has certainly designed an stunning new Vulture, but it's the case of the emperor's new clothes. Hopefully, we'll discover more about the Vulture in his second appearance - personally I would bet that Mr Negative and Dr Tramma had a hand in his creation. But have you noticed how we have to wait until at least the second appearance to find out anything worthwhile about any character? Three issues each month should mean three times the story, not the same story told at a third of the speed.

However, if the main plot of the arc is disappointing, the rest of the story goes some way to make up for it. Aunt May and Jay's relationship is moving at a Quicksilver pace, but perhaps that is the point. A whirlwind romance and a hasty marriage is just the sort of thing to give Peter hives. However, although Jay and May's romance has been quick, it doesn't seem forced. The pair are written in natural way, and Jay comes across as disarmingly charming. He is Waid's character, and Waid is writing him very well in this issue.

The introduction of Michelle Gonzales to the supporting cast was well done and has the potential for some interesting pay-offs down the road. The 'odd- couple' humour of Peter having to share his flat with someone like Michelle, is obviously going to be milked for all its worth by the writers. However, if they do it well, I for one won't be complaining.

Finally, I'll stick my head above the trench and say that I know nothing about baseball, and really don't see what all the fuss is about. However, I'm going to put this down to not being American, and I'll take Waid at his word that Legends Day is a big thing and that the crowd are well within their idiom to react how they did. It all just seems like a glorified game of rounders to me, but I suppose I shouldn't judge these quaint colonial customs.

Overall Rating

An ambitious attempt to examine Peter's denial and gulit over Norman Osborn. It didn't quite work, but Waid should be given points for trying. Three webs.