I've said it before - and always about this title, weirdly enough - but the downside of solicitations for books three months in advance, and the ever-increasing lead-time of the news cycle, is that the comics themselves seem to become more and more of an afterthought. Take THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #544, for example, the first part of the once-weekly, now-taking-place-over-three-months-ly "One More Day" crossover. Despite all the hype about the storyline, it's completely anti-climactic; not only have we seen the one action sequence in the book in previews for the last, what, four months or so, but the entire storyline feels like something that we have to suffer through before we get to the relaunch storyline of "Brand New Day" that we've been reading about for the last month.
It doesn't help that there's no surprise or even true plot development in this first episode; we finish the issue more or less in the same place as we started it, with Aunt May still about to die and Peter still desperate to stop that from happening. Okay, so now we know that her medical care will be paid for, but I doubt that that many people were really reading the story for hot HMO action. As with every issue of Amazing in the last year or so, this doesn't read as a Spider-Man story as much as J. Michael Straczynski's desperate attempt to come up with something as serious and genre-defining as Alan Moore's mid-80s DC Universe work no matter how inappropriate it may be for the characters that he's writing, and as a result, it's not anything approaching an enjoyable experience, if only because the entire thing is crushed by the need to "matter".
To add visual insult to JMS' wooden-footed-injury, Joe Quesada's art has turned into this overly-rendered (thanks, inker Danny Miki!) superdeformed thing that renders all characters unrecognizable and all textures identical, making the whole book look like some unseasoned fan's portfolio attempt to look cool and edgy. On the one hand, it's nice to see a big name '90s artist who's really made an attempt to change his style in the last decade plus; on the other, he's made his style into something that really isn't very appealing at all.
In the end, then, this really does feel like something to work through in order to earn the promise of the brighter, less self-important, "Brand New Day" relaunch for Spider-Man; no fun, all heaviness and reading like a 15-year-old's pre-masturbatory attempt to be taken seriously. Crap, sadly.