For Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man, it continues to be a perplexing, topsy-turvy world. Highly profiled crminals being embraced by the public renders him all non-plussed. And then this other thing which probably has cyclical properties: There are brief moments when Spider-Man basks in the thanks of a grateful city. But, sure as rain, it's not too long before the wallcrawler again reverts to being regarded a public menace. The wheel spins around again, in this run of stories.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: THE GAUNTLET Vol. 1: ELECTRO & SANDMAN collects AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #612-616, DARK REIGN: THE LIST: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, and the "Gauntlet Origins: Electro" story from WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #2. The trade opens up with Dan Slott & Adam Kubert's one-shot, DARK REIGN: THE LIST: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. Norman Osborn, a megalomaniac thru and thru and currently at the helm of the Marvel universe, has made a list of people he'd like to snuff out or at least take care of. And at last he's set his eyes on Spider-Man. I really like this story, although in no way does it provide final resolution to Dark Reign. Well, maybe one nail in the coffin for old Normie.
Next up is Fred Van Lente & Barry Kitson's "Gauntlet Origins: Electro," in which we see how pathetic and yet lethal Max Dillon is. This origin, a tale rife with abject humiliation and little man complex, leads into the "Power to the People!" arc, and it's Mark Waid's turn again at the rotation. "Power to the People!" launches the Gauntlet banner. The Gauntlet isn't intended as a single tightly-woven story arc. The Gauntlet is more a mission statement. What we're about to get is a series of stories, the common thread of which is that Spidey's classic villains resurface one at a time and take a crack at Spidey. There isn't a sinister master plan behind all this (as far as we know, although what's up with the Kraven family and the abductions of Madame Web and Mattie Franklin? Huh? Huh?). Anywho, Electro gets first licks at the wallcrawler.
In this time of recession Dexter Bennett, new owner of the Daily Bugle (now called the DB!), has just finagled a government bailout for his company, and, brother, New York's blue-collar masses are cheesed and in the mood to picket. The down-and-out Electro, whose powers have been disastrously fluctuating, swoops in and becomes the voice of the people, raging against corporate injustice and such. But Electro is a well-publicized super-villain, Spidey reasons and Spidey assumes it shouldn't take long before New Yorkers come to their senses. But it ain't so, Spidey. The public is more gullible and desperate than you think. In bracing Electro, Spidey learns that he has no support from his fellow New Yorkers. He, in fact, gets yelled at and stuff thrown at him.
I've a couple of beef with this arc. First, there's no sizzle to this story, and maybe someone should've tricked Mark Waid into believing that he's writing this story for Boom! Studios, and then maybe he wouldn't have phoned it in. I couldn't care less about the bailout and the resulting civic unrest and that Electro steps in to take advantage of the sitch and builds a groundswell following. And then there's the fact that Electro just doesn't do anything for me. Max Dillon isn't my idea of a dynamic foil for Spidey. I did like Paul Azaceta's artwork, which looks like a hybrid of Mignola and Giffen. It lends a different and quirky look to this series.
Joe Kelly and JM Ken Niimura's oddball "The Other Woman" (from ASM #612) concerns Spidey and the Black Cat's always tenuous relationship. Personally, it's hard for me to get invested in this "romance" because I just don't see this lasting for too long. Felicia Hardy just ain't the sticking around type. Still, having her around is always a breath of fresh air. And it's nice to see Peter again consistently getting some. But, sorry, I'm not feelin' JM Ken Nimura's cartoony manga style.
Then Fred Van Lente spins a warped but affecting Sandman story in ASM #615-616. Set in a climate so wintry that even Spidey has to put on a scarf, a knit cap, and, er, legwarmers while on patrol, this two-parter finds police forensics expert Carlie Cooper implicated when key evidence involving three murder cases vanishes. No worries, though. Spider-Sleuth is on the case, even if he does find himself trapped in a little girl's deluded fairy tale. Flint Marko seems to be suffering from some sort of split personality disorder here, but he still comes off as sympathetic. Javier Pulido is the artist, and his style is also quirky and takes getting used to.
I've liked most of the issues put out since Brand New Day, but these past couple of stories... I dunno... Of this bunch, I like the bookends, meaning DARK REIGN: THE LIST: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN - because it's always good times whenever Peter tweaks the Goblin's nose - and the Sandman two-parter which reveals a softer side to Flint Marko. This Gauntlet arc reminds me somewhat of Knightfall, where Batman endures hell after hell, taking on bad guy after bad guy, until Bane finally gets to him. I'm curious to see how burnt out Spidey will get as wave after wave of his classic enemies pop up. It makes me want to keep on reading, despite the recent disappointments.