Peter Parker has taken a job as a paparazzo photographer, and is earning obscene amounts of money from the DB's new publisher, Dexter Bennett. His shots of Hollywood bad-boy, Bobby Carr, has earned Peter a lot of money, but lost him the respect and (perhaps) friendship of his peers. Will Peter track down the elusive shot of Carr has his mystery girlfriend for an even bigger payday, or will he come to his senses? Meanwhile Paperdoll, a two- dimensional, super-powered celebrity stalker has her eye on Bobby Carr, and will do anything to 'protect' him.
The issue opens with Edith Harper: the waitress assaulted by Bobby Carr in the last issue. She is posing at a cinema, in front of a post of Carr's latest movie and brandishing a copy of the DB. On it are the pictures that Peter took of Carr attacking her. Edith's motives are clear: she is suing Bobby for two million dollars.
So what is Edith? Someone who is genuinely traumatised by events, or just someone taking advantage of the situation for her own gain? Paperdoll certainly thinks the latter, and she attacks and murders Edith leaving nothing but a two-dimensional corpse in her wake. She's only acting to protect Bobby. He doesn't deserve to be sued. Not her Bobby.
Meanwhile, outside his hotel Bobby Carr and his minders arrive to a flurry of flash photography. The photographers demand to see the new "mystery girl" in Carr's life. Once again Carr loses it and punches a paparazzo on the nose, and once again the act is captured by Peter Parker. Showing a flagrant disregard for his secret identity, he is perched on the side of a near-by building, of course he has gone long before the heavies arrive.
Back at the hotel, Carr's publicist Sean Rockwell tells Carr to lay low for a few days. The paparazzo (Frankie Kollins) is also threatening to sue. In secret, Rockwell couldn't be more pleased about this. All this publicity is good for Carr's new movie. He makes a call to the man who tipped off both paparazzi and kicked off the whole thing: Dexter Bennett. Pictures like that sell papers as much as they publicise movies, after all.
Across town at the Coffee Bean, J Jonah Jameson is hitting his head against a brick wall. No-one will serve him coffee. His wife has been into all the coffee houses in town and told them not to serve him anything will caffeine in it because of his delicate condition. Harry Osborn is only happy to oblige. Deflated, Jonah allows himself to be shown to a seat while Harry fetches him some tea.
Harry is distracted when he sees Peter heading up to the front door. Pete's come to repay Harry for all the money he has lent Peter over the years. Harry doesn't want any of it, and throws the money back in Peter's face. He hasn't forgiven the paparazzi for hounding him when he trying to recover from his drug addiction. But it's not the same! Peter isn't hurting anybody, is he?
Cut to the crime scene at the cinema. Betty Brant arrives to cover what happened. The usual crew of Carlie, Vin and Palone are there. Doesn't this city have any other cops? Vin makes a ham fisted attempt to ask Carlie on a date, that goes completely unnoticed by her. She really does only have eyes for Pete. Carlie is further distracted when Palone offers her a role in this case. Carlie's up for that (considering she was kidnapped and nearly sacrificed a couple of days ago, she sure is perky). Betty examines Carlie's chalk outline of the ridiculously deformed and elongated corpse. The killer really did just flatten her.
At the DB! Dexter Bennett is overcome with joy that Peter has managed to snag even more pictures that make Bobby Carr look bad. He even gives Pete a cheese basket (as well as a sizeable bonus). Peter is feeling really good about himself until he stumbles across Robbie and Betty looking grave over a series of photographs. Peter soon learns that Edith Harper is dead and his pictures made her a target. Robbie says that they are all bear some responsibility for this woman's death. And we all know how seriously Peter takes his responsibilities, don't we?
Later that evening, Spider-Man is watching the watchers. After Edith Harper's death, Peter is worried that anyone who spoke ill of Carr could be the next target, and so he is babysitting Frankie Kollins. Kollins is waiting with a host of other paparazzi at the Museum of Modern Art. He doesn't have to wait long.
Paperdoll peels herself from her hiding place (the logo on the side of a TV news van) and snakes toward Carr. She doesn't reach him. Swinging from above, Spider-Man snatches her away from her target. A battle ensues inside the museum, replete with baffling the creations of modern artists. Paperdoll is not appreciative of Spidey's humour and is determined to kill Kollins "for Bobby". Of course, Kollins has followed the fight inside to photograph the whole thing.
Spidey doesn't seem to be able to phase Paperdoll at all. He just can't seem to damage her two dimensional form, and she slices through his webbing as if it wasn't there. The only way Spidey can save Kollins is to get him to promise to retract the lawsuit. This Kollins duly does, and Paperdoll lets him live.
Anguished that there is a killer loose in the city that he cannot handle, Spidey knows that he needs some advice. Returning to his street clothes he pays a visit on Carlie Cooper who is still busy with the corpse of Edith Harper. Carlie's verdict is that Edith died of suffocation. Her entire body was compressed including her lungs. She couldn't take in enough oxygen.
Meanwhile the slimy Rockwell telephones Dexter Bennett with another tip. Carr and his "mystery girl" are currently at Carr's estate in the Hamptons. Bennett says that he'll get a photographer out there. Of course, the pics won't be published until the day before the premier of Carr's new film. They want to maximise the publicity after all. This is the last thought Rockwell has, as he is soon after murdered by Paperdoll. Paperdoll has heard everything, and is now heading to that estate to deal with this usurper who has inveigled her way into Bobby's affections.
As this little drama plays out, a harried Carr arrives at his estate. All the staff have been sent home, the grounds are brimming with security and Bobby Carr is looking forward to spending his weekend with his mystery girl. And who is this mystery girl? Have you guessed? It's Mary Jane Watson!
To be continued.
Mary Jane's back! Kudos to Slott and to Martin for making a truly unexpected last page reveal. The scene takes full advantage of the comic book format, and we really don't see that sort of thing often enough. The clues were there, but I wasn't expecting this. In the age of the Internet spoiler, it's so liberating to be surprised!
The dialogue and the art combine to provide a memorable little scene, that throws up the unexpected twist of referencing One More Day. I'm sure you spotted it, but I'll mention it anyway. Carr asks Mary Jane how she always looks so amazing to which she replies: "It's magic, tiger." And the book she is reading? Faust.
Is this just a nod to the arc-that-is-not-to-be-mentioned? Or is this something more? The only way the One More Day debacle can be redeemed is if it turns out to be the beginning of a complex story arc. Rather than being a line in the sand, it instead turns out to be the opening of an epic battle between Spidey, Mary Jane and Mephisto. It is the complication and not the resolution. At least, that's what I hope. We'll have to hold on a bit longer to see if that is the case. How long to issue #600?
Meanwhile, the plot is unfolding in exactly the way I predicted in my last review. Peter's faith in his current vocation has been rocked, and next issue he's undoubtedly going to tell Bennett where he can stick his five figure bonuses. Slott has telegraphed his intentions with this arc, and the comic is not benefiting from that degree of predictability. He might have surprised me with MJ, but nothing else here is remotely surprising.
In the wake of my concerns last issue, steps do seem to be in place to villainise Dexter Bennett. He isn't reporting the news, he is arranging the news - and that is the line that Jonah would never cross. Well, that's not really true is it? Jonah has played hopscotch on that line for years. Still, the thought is there and it least it's moving in the right direction.
As far as the evolution of the arc, and the presentation of celebrities and the people who earn their living from them, I'm now unsure what Slott is trying to argue. The paparazzi are disreputable, Edith Harper was a borderline extortionist, Paperdoll is nuts and Carr seems little more than spoilt and arrogant. On the face of this issue, everyone's in the wrong. I think I'll reserve judgment on this until I have read the end of the arc.
One last thing I will draw your attention to is Brand New Day's longest running subplot (or rather non-plot). By this stage something really needs to be done about the spider-tracer murders. It's been flagged up in almost every issue, but it's not had much forward momentum. If Amazing was still a monthly book then it would have been more than a year since the plot first reared its head and its gone nowhere in that time. I know that there's a great deal going on in the meantime, but clearing his name of is surely something Spidey would make a priority. We really need to deal with this pronto.
Mary Jane is worth a full web all her own. The rest of the issue is a bit of a mixed bag. Good art, good dialogue but somehow less than the sum of its parts. Let's call it three and a half webs and hope for more next time.