Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #643 (Story 1)

Background

It really doesn't pay to be Peter Parker's girlfriend. Ten minutes into your first date and you find yourself in a crumbling building, pinned to the wall by a psychotic supervillain and watching your ex-bestfriend-turned-goblin give birth to Norman Osborn's baby. It sucks to be Carlie.

Story 'Origin of the Species: Part 2'

Doctor Octopus cradles the latest Osborn baby in his mechanical hand, while continuing to hold Harry, MJ, Carlie and Spider-Man to the walls of the wrecked Coffee Bean. Spidey determines that there will be no more suffering today. Bracing his feet against Doc Ock's arm he pushes himself back through the wall and into the toilet.

This distraction is enough to force Doctor Octopus to release the others, and he stalks off into the darkness in search of Spider-Man. Spidey is one step ahead of the good doctor, doubling back behind him and seizing the baby form the villain's claw. He then blinds his foe with a quick burst of webbing (new formula!) and flees into the city. Spidey is desperate to put as much distance between the baby and the bad guys, as well as bring the infant to the nearest hospital.

Doc Ock radios his motley assortment of villains to go after Spider-Man, but these are not our heroes only concerns. He's been spotted by a the crew of a news helicopter, who immediately jump to the conclusion that Spidey has kidnapped a baby. This is all over the news networks in seconds. Channel 8 happens to be interviewing mayor J. Jonah Jameson on an unrelated matter. I'm sure you can imagine his response to this story.

Meanwhile back at the Coffee bean Peter's friends are picking themselves off the floor. Lily is becoming increasingly distraught. Not unsurprisingly, she wants her baby back. She explains that she had escaped from a cell where Norman was holding her prisoner, and she is sure that his minions are out to get her. Carlie can't believe that Harry and MJ are wasting time with Lily. Peter is missing, probably buried under all the rubble in the room! MJ tries to tell her that Peter is "fine", but a distraught Carlie can't believe that. If he's fine it means he ran out on them; she doesn't want to think of that, and so convinces herself that he is buried and badly hurt. Whatever friendship she may once have had with Lily is forgotten, and she starts digging for Peter.

Peter is, of course, miles away and swinging toward the St. Vincent Hospital. However, Electro is waiting for him when he arrives. Realising that Electro will destroy the entire hospital just to get at him, Spidey has no choice but to retreat with the baby. He immediately swings into a bunch a police helicopters who order him to surrender the child.

In true twenty-first century fashion, Spidey's dilemma is played out on the Internet and dozens of television channels. The people on the street are hardly taking Spider-Man's side, and on the end of a radio Jonah is galvanising all fire and police officers to drop what they are doing and rescue the baby. Suddenly the matter is taken out of his hands by homeland security, who inform the beleaguered mayor that they have reason to believe the baby could be Norman Osborn's lovechild.

As Spidey rules out the Baxter Building as a haven, and is wondering if he can make it to Avengers Mansion in one piece, the police helicopters in front of him are ripped from the sky. Sandman rises up from the city streets and starts to wildly attack Spider-Man. Doctor Octopus has promised the schizophrenic super-villain a chance to be reunited with his daughter Keemia (see Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #615) and he is stopping at nothing to make that happen.

Sandman corrals Spidey back toward Electro, and the pair quickly join forces. Spidey dodges out of the way at the last moment, leaving Sandman in the path of one of Electro's bolts. The electricity turns the Sandman into glass which partially shatters taking down Electro. With no webbing left, an exhausted Spidey drops through a window and into an apartment building.

Meanwhile, Carlie has heard a phone ringing in the Coffee Bean. She follows the sound thinking it might be Peter's phone. When she picks it up she discovers that it is not Peter's phone. But her shouts have alerted Tombstone, who looms over the unsuspecting young woman.

Back is the apartment, Spidey pulls himself together and swings off across the city. But with every camera-phone in the New York turned on him, there is nowhere he can hide from Doctor Octopus. The villain has once again tapped into every electrical device in the city and the Amazing Spider-Man has nowhere to hide.

General Comments

So, it's a chase issue. Twenty-two pages of Spider-Man being hounded across New York by a variety of super-villains. No clever twists, no revelations, no actual plot at all. At the end of the issue the story has barely moved on from where it was when the issue started.

This is the sort of issue you can just about get away with in a near-weekly comic. There are five parts to this story, and I'm sure that it will read perfectly well as a trade paperback. However, the actual content in this issue is a bit thin on the ground, which disappoints me slightly.

The chase scene itself is competently executed, but not exceptionally so. Azaceta's art hits all the right notes, and there's an imaginative use of panels throughout the issue. Taking a full page to depict the arrival of the police helicopters is a nice touch. It stops the narrative dead for the reader as soon as he turns the page, which is exactly what happens to Spider-Man as he swings directly into this obstacle. I appreciate the symmetry.

Despite the frenetic action and explosions, I found the brief scene with Carlie to be the most enjoyable in the issue. It was very welcome to see that Mark Waid remembered the close relationship that Carlie and Lily enjoyed at the beginning of the Brand New Day era. A bitter Carlie, unable to forgive her old friend, wasn't something I was expecting. It was also very interesting to see her commitment, and her unwillingness to take MJ's assurances that Peter would be okay.

Only MJ's knowledge of Peter's secret identity allowed her to make such a statement, and that is knowledge that Carlie does not share. But, of course, MJ will be proved right. Peter is not buried in the rubble, or lying injured somewhere: he did escape the scene and he did (as far as Carlie knows) abandon her and his friends to Doctor Octopus. Considering the dialogue that Waid gives Carlie in this scene, it seems as though such abandonment is not going to be taken lightly.

But this is just one character beat in a largely forgettable issue. I hope that next issue we see a complication or twist added to the plot, or I don't see how this story will warrant five issues.

Overall Rating

A slightly disappointing issue, a little too thin on content for my taste. Some good character work with Carlie brings it up to average. Three webs.