Goblin wanna-be villain Menace has been on the scene since Amazing Spider-Man #550, generally causing havoc in the upcoming New York mayoral elections. Having killed one mayoral candidate, Menace has now turned his/her attentions to attacking the Bill Hollister campaign - a strategy that might actually generate sympathy support for Hollister. Meanwhile, JJJ-replacement Dexter Bennett has gathered the resources of the "DB" newspaper and is aggressively backing Hollister's opponent, Randall Crowne.
Amongst the rest of the cast, the recently returned Harry Osborn is dating Rich-Girl/Hottie Lily Hollister (daughter of the aforementioned Bill). Meanwhile Police officer (and Peter's roommate) Vin Gonzales is still trying to find the "Spider-Tracer Killer" who has been leaving a Spider-Tracer on his victim's dead bodies. Spider-Man is believed by the general public to be responsible, despite the fact that this makes no sense to anybody who thinks about it for more than five seconds. Bookworm/Hottie NYPD forensic scientist Carlie Cooper is also involved in the case.
We open with TV news analysis show "Two-In-One" which is considering the political impact of the Spider-Tracer killings. Mayoral candidate (and bad guy) Randall Crowne has taken a strong line, enlisting the help of Norman Osborn and the Thunderbolts and committing to shutting down the murders at any cost. Meanwhile, his opponent Bill Hollister (the good guy) is supporting the local police and urging a measured response. Public opinion is ready to swing behind whoever manages to solve the problem.
Scene change. Boomerang and Shocker are discussing politics as they make their way to visit the Bookie. He's bet-taker extraordinaire to the underworld, in case you've been away for a while. But the Bookie is dead. Why? Perhaps somebody at Marvel finally twigged that the Bookie was a one-joke character who had long outlived his amusement value. Or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that not that long ago he claimed to have found the answer to the Spider-Tracer Killing mystery. That might also explain the Spider-Tracer on the back of the corpse's neck.
Morning, two days out from the election. The pundits reckon Bill Hollister needs Spider-Man captured if he is going to have any chance of willing the election. Cut scene again. The police are out in force, and a police marksmen in a helicopter has Spider-Man dead in his sights. A hail of bullets, and Spider-Man's luck runs out. Clipped in his right shoulder, our hero crashes through the window of an apartment building. Wounded and pursued by the police, he crawls up an elevator shaft, narrowly avoiding capture for now.
Back to the Lab of Julian Beck, NYPD crime scene investigator and science whiz-kid has spent the last three months (has the Spider-Tracer sub-plot been going on that long in Marvel-time?) creating an electronic device that can zero in on the tracers. He gives it to colleague Carlie, who obviously (being a non-front line police officer) decides to immediately head off unarmed and without backup to track down New York city's number one psycho-killer. I thought she was supposed to be a clever girl?
Meanwhile, Spider-Man is in mid-battle with Menace. The web-spinner is defeated, and the villain removes his mask to reveal... Harry! Ah, but no, it was all just a dream - a hallucination caused by loss of blood from his wound. If nothing else, at least that means we can safely remove Harry from the list of suspects for Menace's secret identity.
Cut scene yet again. Jonah Jameson, having recently recovered from a heart-attack, is punching his way back to health. Literally. Jolly Jonah's in the gym, taking his anger out on a picture of Spider-Man taped to a punching bag. Good to see that somethings haven't changed.
Of course, other things have changed. For example, back at the DB, Mr. Bennet is preparing two different versions of "Tomorrow's Daily Bugle headlines." Actually, I think that's an error in the caption text, since according to another caption there's 36 hours until the polls open. Back at their respective camps, Randall Crowne and Bill Hollister are both looking at the latest polls. Things don't look good for Hollister, who is also wondering where his daughter Lily has gotten to.
The answer to that question is... Liberty Island. Harry has "hired out the whole island for the day". It's good to know that even the most vital symbols of American Freedom can still be acquired by private individuals for an appropriate price. Heck, for only a bit more, I'm sure Harry could have leased the White House for the afternoon. Still, Harry doesn't waste the moment - he gets down on one knee in classic style and pops the question to Lily. No, not THAT question, you dirty minded little boy! He simply asks her to marry him.
And what about Spider-Man, the guy who's name is on the cover of this book? Well, he's heading back to his apartment, just as his roommate Vin is heading out to talk about something urgent (apparently to one of his fellow cops). Spidey sneaks in through the back window. But their shared apartment is rapidly turning into Grand Central Station as Carlie turns up, having navigated there courtesy of the Spider-Tracer-Tracker-Device.
Peter struggles to hide his costume, yelling "Don't come in, I'm in the shower! Naked! Naked! Naked!" That suits Carlie just fine, since the tracking device doesn't lead her to Peter's room. Instead, it takes her to Vin's room, where under Vin's bed she finds a plastic bag full of Spider-Tracers.
I've made it abundantly clear that I'm no fan of the Brand New Day revamp. A large part of my objection to BND is that I object to anything which massively reinvents the continuity. We last saw that attempted over a decade ago with Ben Reilly and his "new supporting cast"... Jessica Carradine, Desiree Winthrop, and the others from the "Daily Grind". Pretty much everybody reading the title realized that was an attempt doomed to failure. And indeed it was.
Is this particular revamp also doomed to flop? Well, I'm not entirely sure. This time around, if nothing else I think there's more of a sense of purpose. Joey Q has kept his team focused for over 40 issues of ASM now. He's stuck to his guns and refused to even consider giving up. That counts for a lot. If the pro-MJ/anti-BND supporters sense weakness, we will move in for the kill! But the pro-BND editorial staff have shown an unwavering commitment to stick to the plan. I commend them for that.
Brand New Day has arguably also managed to do a better job of integrating the new characters with the classic supporting cast. Flash and Harry are back and after an initial kerfuffle seem to be comfortably resuming their revised roles. I'm no fan of resurrecting dead characters like Harry, but at least he's being given a sensible part to play. And now nearly fifty issues after his return, the discomfort with his return is slowly fading. Slowly, mind you.
But most importantly, the stories are generally competent and well-integrated. Do you remember the Howard Mackie era, where sub-plots would rise up, only to be suddenly abandoned and forgotten. But we've seen no such carelessness here. Tom Brevoort and Joey Q have worked hard to keep the titles meshed together, and to avoid threads being dropped.
In the final analysis much can be forgiven if the stories themselves are worthy, and ASM currently employs some undeniably capable talent. Marc Guggenheim, Dan Slott, Marc Waid... these are all creative professionals worthy of this flagship title. With regular fan-fave artist JR JR and guest writing appearances from Joe Kelly and Roger Stern - well, we can't complain that our favorite web-slinger isn't getting the care and attention he deserves.
I'm bored of the Spider-Tracer plot, and I don't particularly care who Menace is. I also think it's silly to suggest that Carlie would head off single-handedly to track down a killer.
However, I recognize the solid editorial control, writing and art that is going into this title right now. Marc Guggenheim writes smart script and detailed plots. The stories are tight and well-integrated from issue to issue. Despite my high-level objections, this is sound, reliable stuff. Three and a half webs.