Last Week’s Comics 5/25/2011

Amazing Spider-Man #661

(Marvel – writer: Christos Gage; art: Reilly Brown)

A few months ago, I met Reilly Brown at a book release party. We chatted about comics, and Amazing Spider-Manin particular because he told me he was illustrating issues 661 & 662. When we met, and when he found out I wrote comic reviews for Unwinnable, he smiled and said “Write me a good review.” So I was pretty nervous picking up this comic because if it sucked, I would have to be honest and say it sucked.

Luckily, this issue doesn’t suck.

I don’t know anything about the Avergers Academy. From what Christos Gage writes, it’s a school for upcoming superheroes, but ones who need guidance (similar to Charles Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters). The first act of the issue focuses on Spider-Man’s need to feel respected as a teacher. As a teacher myself, this really struck close to home. I don’t know if Gage knows teachers or if he taught himself, but he really captures some basic issues with teaching. First, kids really know a lot more than we give them credit for. Second, how do you communicate information that is already readily available. For Spider-Man, these are shared issues as well.

Anyway, this leads to the second act where Spidey is asked by Giant-Man to teach a group of at risk kids. According to Hank Pym, Spidey’s expertise lies in his “ill-advised wrestling career,” being branded a “public menace,” and creating the “Spider-Mobile.” The students he has to teach all have extraordinary – and deadly – powers.

It’s up to Peter to show them how to use them

beneficially. The story starts with a seemingly random event that is actually part of a bigger plan, and one which makes the end work that much better. The final page of the story is chilling and climactic in a way that makes readers excited for the following issue.

What impressed me most with this issue was the humor. Gage has a quirkiness to his writing, and while the jokes aren’t laugh out loud, they play well. He’s got the right beats in the right places, and the dialogue gets silly without being slapstick. The characters bounce off each other well, and while I don’t know if there’s a specific way to illustrate chemistry between characters in comics, Gage does well in making us believe Peter’s delivery.

Spidey’s expertise lies in his “ill-advised wrestling career,” being branded a “public menace,” and creating the “Spider-Mobile.”

As for Reilly’s art? It works well. It reminds me of Mark Bagely as it utilizes smooth lines and textures. He’s able to make Spidey look imposing in his white and black FF outfit, and later he makes him look lost and uncertain in his traditional red and blue costume. This is a departure from Dan Slott running the ship, but it’s a welcome departure. Gage and Brown do a nice job of giving us a more light-hearted, and heartfelt, Spider-Man story. I look forward to reading the second part of this arc.

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