The Amazing Spider-Man: The Gauntlet

posted Nov 22, 2009, 8:35 PM by Jeff Brandt   [ updated Nov 22, 2009, 9:51 PM ]
For those of you who enjoyed my review of Deadpool #900, you're in luck -- it's time for some more comic book geekery!

This past Wednesday, a momentous chapter of the Amazing Spider-Man title kicked off with #612, titled "Power to the People: Part One." It's the fist issue in the ongoing series known as The Gauntlet, wherein Kraven the Hunter's daughter captures Madame Web and summons various bad guys from the past to take Spidey down once and for all.

Judging by this first edition, I'm guessing the villains will be showing up one at a time and each receive a few issues (hence the "Part One" subtitle). Or maybe it starts small and escalates . . . I'm not sure, but with three issues coming out per month, we will soon know.

Giving these classic baddies a new edge seems to be part of the idea, as well. Many of Spidey's enemies have lost some luster over the years. Personally, I was never a fan of Rhino or Sandman, except maybe when I watched the 90s cartoon. I understand and appreciate that most Marvel characters have some kind of gimmick, and often the gimmicks work due to the wonders of variation and experimentation . . . but some Spider-Man villains are just not interesting. Rhino is a numbskull that basically just charges at people and is difficult to hurt. Sandman is a numbskull that basically changes shape and is difficult to hurt. Etc.

However, if the spark Mark Waid (former writer of Punisher Max) shows in #612 ignites into full flame in the issues to come, it's entirely possible we could see these old villains gain some new dimensionality.

Paul Azaceta's art is great, too. The style is more classical, more noir, than what ASM readers have come to expect. Instead of a more glamorous style with detailed shading, bright colors, and awesome windblown hairstyles, Azaceta art is crisper, more confined, more . . . brown. Pick up a copy and you'll see what I mean. The colors are all very contained within the penciling and in various shades of tan, brown, and gray.

But back to the plot. Our first bad guy up to bat is Electro, who takes advantage of the unpopular government decision to bail out the Daily Bugle to incite populist riots condeming corporate greed. I appreciate this incorporation of current events into the storyline. All too often comics become escapist adventures that rely on universal themes to give them weight. "Power to the People" seems to have some real immediacy. Of course it's not truly realistic, what with a guy in green-and-yellow spandex shooting lightning bolts out of his eyes, but the idea that a truly despicable person could cash in on the mentality of an angry mob rings true. And the impending death of the print news industry is a very real fear journalists must grapple with every day.

At one point, our webslinging hero is accused of being a "socialist traitor" for attacking Electro. There's some great irony here, considering Electro's "Power to the people!" and "In Electro we trust" rhetoric. In the case of the former, you have a popular Leftist saying recast as conservative. In the latter, of course, you have to wonder why the people of New York City would put their trust in a known supervillain -- completely unable to see how this might be a ruse to gain public favor and power.

In my opinion, Marvel seems to be going out on a limb here by lampooning the idiocy of the Fox News set and their Tea Parties and Birther Movement rallies. I have to admire what they're doing, although they may just be going a little too far in making the rioters this gullible. It's hard to tell, though . . . I have seen plenty of footage of incredibly dumb protesters on YouTube.

In any case, The Gauntlet series is heating up quickly, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Part Two has in store.


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