Monday, July 20, 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #599 Review

As you all know I have been writing reviews for Rokk's Comic Book Revolution. And I decided that since I do not post reviews for the comics that I review for the Revolution here on my blog during my weekly reviews I decided to re-post my reviews I do for the Revolution here as well. Now just as a warning these reviews are done in the style at the Revolution so they contain a lot more spoilers than my typical reviews.

Joe Kelly has been money so far with this "American Son" arc. He has done a very good job having "American Son" feel like it is the Spider-Man event this series has been building towards since Brand New Day started. I can't remember the last time I was this excited to read an issue of Amazing Spider-Man. And I am sure Kelly has a great ending in store for American Son before Amazing Spider-Man reaches issue #600.

Creative Team
Joe Kelly
Artists: Stephen Segovia, Marco Checchetto, Paulo Siqueira and Amilton Santos
Colorist: Chris Chckry and Jeromy Cox

Story: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Art: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall: 8 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: The issue begins with Harry, in his American Son armor, fighting with his father, who is in his Iron Patriot armor. Harry is getting his ass whooped as Peter is crawling on the ground trying to get up.

As Peter watches Harry and Norman fight, he starts flashing back to his and Harry's time in college when they were kicked out of a frat party. In the flashback, we see that Harry just had a meeting with his dad and that he was angered after his dad told him he was useless and that Harry should be more like Peter. After the meeting with his dad, Harry felt like punching someone and he did not want to punch Peter so that is why he punched a guy at the frat party. Upon hearing his story, Peter tells Harry that from this moment on that they are brothers.

Back to the present, Harry and Norman continue their fight. Norman tells his son that he offered Harry everything. Even the chance to kill Spider-Man. Harry says that he did want Spider-Man to die but that after learning that Norman impregnated Lily that Harry now wants Norman dead. Norman cracks a smile and says "You have to admit, it is funny as hell." (Man, that's cold Norman. Though, I can't say I'm surprised he finds that funny.)

Harry uses the shield on his armor as a battering ram and sends Norman flying out of the Avengers Tower and into a nearby park. Lily/Menace sees Norman being knocked out of the Tower and goes after him to see if he is safe.

As that is going on, Harry spots Spider-Man without his mask on and hiding in the shadows. Peter, with tears in his eyes, tells Harry he is sorry for leaving him alone to face Norman. After staring at a maskless Spider-Man for a moment Harry speaks up and tells Peter that his helmet shut of the vision so he does not know Spider-Man's identity. Harry tells Spider-Man to stay out of his business.

In another part of Avengers Tower the security guards are trying to help everyone to evacuate the building. Norah is running down the stairs. Norah gives a kiss goodbye to the guy who helped her get the information on Norman. Norah leaves the building thinking to herself that she has a hell of a story to write.

The scene switches to the park were Norman landed. Norman tells his H.A.M.M.E.R agents to inform the media this is all a training exercise and that the (Dark) Avengers are on crowd control.

Lily/Menace finally arrives to were Norman is and ask if he is okay. Before they can get into a serious conversation, Harry attacks Norman and they resume their fight. Norman and Harry start to brawl with Norman gaining a clear advantage. Norman punches Harry hard enough to break Harry's helmet. Suddenly, Spider-Man, with a makeshift mask/cloth, attacks Norman from behind. (Did anyone else hope that Peter would become the Amazing Bag-Man again?)

Spider-Man uses his webs to toss Norman to the ground. Spider-Man is then attacked by Menace and her glider. Even though Spider-Man thinks to himself that he does not have any more energy he is still able to make sure Menace does not interfere in Harry and Norman's fight by making her crash her glider into the ground.

Harry and Norman continue their fight. Harry has the advantage this time around. Harry is able to destroy the Norman's helmet. Harry goes for the finishing blow. Suddenly, Spider-Man, after remembering what Wolverine told him, stops Harry.

Spider-Man repeats Wolverine's words to Harry and tells him if he really does want to finish Norman off to aim for the neck and not the head. Harry ask what exactly Spider-Man is trying to do. Spider-Man says that if Harry really does to kill Norman he would only become the son Norman wanted.

Harry thinks it over and as it looks like Harry will actual go through with it he takes off all of the American Son armor off and says his goodbye's to Norman. (He does not call him father. He actually does call him Norman.)

A couple hours later at Columbia University Medical Center Peter is in bed all bandaged up,. Peter makes an excuse of having been involved in a hit and run. Peter is visited by Aunt May and Jay. After some nice banter between Peter and Aunt May, were we find out Aunt May has both a Facebook and Twitter, she leaves with Jay. Peter then looks at some flowers that Harry sent him.

The scene switches over to a doctor's office where Harry ask his doctor if she can prescribe him something to deal with a "medical trial" drug he received. (The supersoldier drug his dad gave him in Amazing Spider-Man #596.) The doctor asks Harry what he took. Harry does not responds. The doctor then prescribes Harry some Oxycontin.

The scene switches to Norah's apartment were Norah is talking to Ben Ulrich over the phone saying she got the story. As she talks to Ben she is watching the video she got with footage the guy she stole the keycard from. The video also shows Norah using the keycard. This freaks Norah out and she tells Ben that maybe she does not have a story and that she will talk to him later.

Back at Avengers Tower, Norman is hugging Lily's pregnant belly talking to their soon to be born son. After shutting Lily up, Norman tells his unborn son that he will be his heir. Norman tells Lily that the baby kicked which gives Lily a frighten look. End of issue.

The Good: Amazing Spider-Man #599 was a good ending to "American Son." During my first read through of this issue I did not like how Joe Kelly ended "American Son." But after going back and re-reading this issue again the light came on in my pathetic brain and I realized what Kelly was doing with this final issue and this story arc in general.

The "American Son" arc was a character study about the friendship between Peter and Harry and how Harry finally stepped up from being known as Norman Osborn's kid into being his own man. And even though this title is called Amazing Spider-Man the star of this issue was Harry while Peter played more of a secondary role.

Even though Peter has had his failures in his personal and professional life it can be argued that Harry is an even a bigger failure. All Harry wanted was to get approval from his dad, even though Harry did not want to admit it. Even when he became the Green Goblin, Harry was still seen as second to Norman.

No matter what Harry did it was never good enough. All of this caused his life to go into a downward spiral into drugs and alcohol, failed marriages, and other problems. We even find out that the one business venture that Harry has gone into, the coffee shop that he and his friends hang out in, is failing. All in all, Harry is a failure because he has never let himself step out of Norman's shadow. That Harry still lived off his father's money just like every other spoiled rich kid.

Joe Kelly really nailed this part of Harry's character. Finally, after everything that has happened to Harry, he stepped up and confronted his father after finding out Norman impregnated Lily. It was good to see Harry stand up to his father. Even though Norman reminded Harry of all his failures throughout the fight Harry was able to push through all the insults and finally defeated his father.

This is what made the fight between father and son feel like it was different from other fights as there was a true emotional aspect to the fight the has been built up for decades, not just over a few issues or a year. We were reminded just how long Harry has held in his hatred for his father with the flashback to Harry and Peter's college life that went along with the first few pages of the fight. Even though Harry could have finished Norman off at the end he chose not to because he knew that was just what his father wanted. Harry showed that he was finally able to step out of his father shadow and become his own man.

It will be interesting to see how the Amazing Spider-Man writers handle Harry's character from this point forward. From the last scene with Harry it looks like he may fall back into his drug habit due to the lingering effects of the super soldier type serum Norman gave him a few issues back.

Another thing that Kelly did very well in this issue was to emphasize how important Harry is to Peter's life. No matter the problems they have had in the past both of these characters see each other as brothers. These two characters have always had each other's back even when the other person does not want help.

This fact made having Peter basically as spectator to the Norman vs. Harry for the first half of the issue have some more emotional weight to it as he could do nothing but watch. And it was cool to see even with all of Peter's injuries and not having a mask that Peter was still able to help his best friend out by fighting off Menace.

I liked how Peter stopped Harry from killing Norman by repeating the same words that Wolverine gave him back in the first issue of this story arc. Then Peter let Harry make his own decision. Kelly did a nice job referencing how Norman would come back from almost any blow and that if Harry does want to finish Norman then he should make sure it is permanent by chopping off Norman's his head. But even though Peter repeated Wolverine's words he did throw in how he knew what Harry was about to do was exactly what Norman wanted and that Peter needed to remind Harry he was the better man.

What will be interesting to see is if Harry did actually find out Peter is Spider-Man. The scene between the two gave a hint that Harry did see Spider-Man's unmasked face, but it was a bit ambiguous with if he does know or not.

Also, I thought Norman was portrayed perfectly in this story. This is the type of Norman that I remember. All of Norman's dialogue to Harry was something not said by a person in control, but by a man with no remorse for what he was doing or saying would affect the other person. Only Norman could get away with what he did in stealing Lily, impregnating her, and then having her tell Harry it was his kid and still be in character. It is warped things like those that Norman does that made Harry finally defeating his dad feel more satisfying. Norman's warped tendencies that we see in this story arc have been missing with some of his portrayal in Dark Reign.

I especially liked Lily's reaction at the end of the issue as Norman talked to their son in her belly. She really looked horrified as she seemed to realize that as soon as their son is born that Norman will kill her in order for no one to get in the way of raising his heir. This is something as a reader I expect to happen and hope that is actually carried onto some of the Dark Reign titles, like Dark Avengers, as it would be interesting to see this relationship between Norman and Lily developed more.

That brings me to my favorite part of this story. Kelly did an excellent job using the current Dark Reign story going in the Marvel Universe and seamlessly integrating it into Amazing Spider-Man without making it feel like another forced Dark Reign tie-in.

In the end, "American Son" was not a Dark Reign story but a story that has been built on all of the events that have happened since Brand New Day started. It is rare to find stories like this in ongoing series anymore as something like "American Son" could have been a mini-series event or tied into another book like the current Dark Avengers/Uncanny X-Men crossover.

Story arcs like "American Son" is something that I wish Marvel and DC do more of. This is the right way to build a story organically out off smaller story arcs within a title rather than just building up a story for a year and having an mini-series event happen.

Now, while Peter, Harry, and Norman were the stars of the issue, I did like the small character moments that Kelly injected into this issue. Through this story Kelly has done a fine job making me like Norah's character more as she showed off her investigative journalism skills. I liked the horrified look in Norah's eyes after viewing the video that she was excited to get earlier in the story. It is something as a rookie reporter she still doesn't know how to handle and I am interested to see how the Spider-Man writers handle her character with what she saw on the video.

Also, I liked the short one page scene with Peter being visited in the hospital by Aunt May and Jay. The scene gave this issue a light and comedic moment that was missing for most of the issue.

As for the art in this issue, I thought while it had an artist by committee format with three separate artists that the art was still well done. I really did not notice that this issue had three artists working on the issue until I looked over at the credits after reading the issue. I thought that all the artists maintained a good consistent look to the issue as they made the fight scene between Norman and Harry was well done.

The Bad: While Kelly did a good job with this issue I did have a few problems with the issue. The first being that I just hate the Lily/Menace character. It is not even because she is not evil but that she is just not an interesting character. Even Kelly, who I see as the best writer out of the Spider-Man Brain Trust, couldn't get me to like the character.

Throughout the story, Menace was not really portrayed as a powerful character. Instead, Menace came across more as a nuisance to both the characters in the story and to the reader. I was really hoping she would die by the end of the story. But in the end. Menace is still around which means we will probably be subject to yet another Menace story which is a bit irritating.

The other problem I had with this issue, and this story arc in general, is that we did not get one artist working on the story and instead had a artist by committee work on it. Even though it did not turn out to be a bad thing overall there were a few minor inconsistencies with the art that were noticeable, especially in the middle of the issue.

It seems as though, other than John Romita Jr., that it is hard to find an artist that can keep up the three times a month story schedule Amazing Spider-Man has, even with lead time. Hopefully this is something that is corrected and we get more consistent art with only one artist working on each story.

Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #599 was a great ending to "American Son." Kelly really set the bar high for Amazing Spider-Man #600 that comes out on Wednesday. I cannot remember the last time I was this excited about reading Amazing Spider-Man and much of the credit goes to what Kelly and the other Spider-Man Brain Trust members have done to build stories organically.

If you have not read Amazing Spider-Man in a while for whatever reason then I definitely recommend reading "American Son" either before issue #600 or when it comes out in trade as it is a great Spider-Man story.