Aunt May was shot during a failed attempt on Peter Parker's life by a sniper hired by Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Despite Peter's efforts to save her, she lies on the brink of death.
Peter and Mary Jane are at May's bedside, as a Doctor delivers his prognosis, which is decidedly negative. Peter starts to leave, to find someone who can help afford May's hospital bills, but is stopped by the Doctor, who reveals that he knows who Peter is, and out of a debt of gratitude for Spider-Man (for saving his uncle two years earlier) will do his best to hide her at the hospital.
Peter swings across the city in plain clothes, and ends up at Stark Tower. Peter breaks into the Tower, as Tony Stark monitors the security of his building. As Peter drops into Tony's office, Iron Man jets into the office and collides with Peter's body, driving him out of a window. Peter webs Tony's bootjets, causing the pair to tumble towards the ground, only to be saved by Tony diverting power to his repulsor gloves. As Tony prepares to arrest Peter, Peter lashes out, and as Tony is about to unleash a uni-beam, Peter starts wildly shooting webs at Tony, completely covering Iron Man in webbing.
Peter rips off Iron Man's helmet, so that he can speak to Tony Stark directly. Peter reveals that Aunt May is dying, and confronts Tony about his feelings of betrayal during Civil War. Peter begs Tony to help May, not willing to let her die. Tony admits he can't do anything without compromising his position, because direct help would be tracked back to Tony. Iron Man lets Peter walk away, but warns him that next time, he'll have to take him in.
Back at Avengers Tower, Iron Man returns, and is greeted by Jarvis, who gives Tony an idea...
Peter returns to the hospital, to find that there is no change, still minimal brain activity to be found in May. Desperate for cash to help provide for Aunt May, Peter entertains thoughts of crossing another line, when Jarvis shows up, to help finance May's care and recovery. The doctor tells Peter that this way they can make her last days more comfortable, however Peter is determined to save her life, and puts on the red and blues and takes off into the night, prepared to not let anything stop him from saving May.
Although I'm extremely skeptical of just where this storyline will end up going when all is said and done, this was a good first issue for the storyline. In fact, you could read this right after the last issue of the Civil War tie-ins, and not feel like you missed anything at all. The Back in Black storyline really does feel redundant in this issue, as there's really no mention made of what came before, the moving hospitals (save for name changes for all involved), and at the end Peter is back in the Red and Blues. The previous storyline feels like it doesn't exist in the continuity of this book anymore, which, to be honest, is a pleasant surprise, seeing as how it was a horrible letdown, and a waste of time.
Peter is more like the Peter Parker of old in this issue, trying to do what it takes to save his Aunt, but no longer being so motivated by anger and revenge. Its a desperate Peter Parker, but a much more readable one. Although Straczynski doesn't exactly write Peter Parker as being that intelligent, as he parades around with his face exposed, and doesn't expect anyone to notice that he's a wanted fugitive and a recently unmasked Spider-Man. Plus, although Tony's act of kindness through Jarvis is a nice touch, it doesn't really make sense because its such an obvious and clear paper trail that everything Tony said about not wanting to be connected to the Parkers seems obsolete.
Iron Man is written fairly well in this issue as well, not as a dictator, but as a real human being, which isn't something that Tony Stark has been written as as of late. Too often, he's portrayed in a negative light these days, so it was nice to see an Iron Man who was treated much nicer.
The art in this issue is provided by Joe Quesada himself, the Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics, and it really sparkles and shines here. The art is worth the delayed wait for this storyline, with the entire artistic team, Quesada, Miki and Isanove delivering a top-notch performance. The last page, in particular, is a gorgeous shot of Spider-Man swinging away from the hospital. If Quesada keeps this up, it might just be the best looking Spider-Man storyline in quite some time, although we'll have to see about the storyline itself...
Considering my trepidation regarding where this storyline is going, and what I've heard about where its going, this was actually a pretty enjoyable first issue, which neatly summarized where the characters are, the stakes, and sets up the tone for the rest of the storyline. I'm feeling like this will end up being the most cohesive and enjoyable issue of the storyline, but that's just the pessimist in me.
The artwork is enjoyable, a nice treat, with Quesada showing that he's still got the artistic chops that made him a big name in the first place. What I really found distracting in this issue was the lettering by Eliopoulos, which just didn't seem to have the same style and flavor to it as he usually brings to a title he's lettering. The first page in particular, the lettering just didn't seem right.