They say, Spider, come back soon again: Graeme reads the arachnids from 6/20.

You have to wonder where Marvel's traffic co-ordinators are these days. This week saw the release of five books starring Spider-Man. Now, I know he's got that whole movie thing going on and everything, but that's just ridiculous. I completely ignored Sensational Spider-Man because, well, it's about to be cancelled very soon anyway, but of the remaining four books, one thing became very clear very quickly - the only regular book of the bunch was the one that bore least relation to the Spider-Man I know and love.

There are multiple problems with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #541, and the whole "Back In Black" storyline in general. One of them is that we already know the ending to one of the main plot threads, because we've been told that this story takes place prior to Brubaker's last Daredevil arc, where the Kingpin was alive and well, and released from prison... which kind of removes any tension over that whole "Will Spider-Man go too far and kill the Kingpin?" thing. Another is that that whole question existing in the first place shows how wrong-headed the storyline is: Of course Spider-Man's not going to kill the Kingpin; that's not who the character is. But then, he's also not the kind of character who says things like "Tell everyone... Tell the people you work with... Tell everyone in the whole wide world... that my family is off-limits. That nobody - - nobody - - touches them. For any reason. Ever. Tell them. Make them understand - - that anyone who tries moves to the bottom of the food chain... and becomes prey. And down here, in this food chain, the rats aren't the predators. The men with guns aren't the predators. I am." without it being a bluff, and yet we get pages of him being the "man pushed too far" here played entirely straight. I get that Peter's been pushed too far here, but I just don't buy his reactions at all. To me, he should get angry and then get over it, quickly, and end up questioning himself and wallowing in self-pity, making references to "The ol' Parker luck" or something.

...Which may be why FALLEN SON: THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN AMERICA - SPIDER-MAN worked so well for me. Sure, David Finch's art has never been my thing, but Jeph Loeb gets Spider-Man in a way that J. Michael Straczynski doesn't. This Spider-Man gets angry and over-reacts, but does so in character, and realizes it, ending up all doubtful and feeling sorry for himself (and remembering Gwen Stacey, which is something that surprises me about "Back In Black" - Shouldn't he be thinking about Gwen a lot more? You know, the first person who died because he was Spider-Man? And no, I don't count Uncle Ben in that list, before Matt Craig suggests it - I'll get to that next). The character is recognizable as the same one that's been around since the sixties, and because of that, the reader is more involved and invested in what's going on. That's what makes Fallen Son a Good comic, while Amazing is pretty Eh.

MYTHOS: SPIDER-MAN, meanwhile, has Paul Jenkins and Paolo Rivera doing their painted origin thing for Peter Parker, and it works very well. It helps that Spider-Man's origin is so simple (and originally so short) that you can do it all in one issue and still make it work as a story as opposed to a recap, but there's a nice attitude to the writing, and even nicer artwork, behind this Good, if unnecessary, issue that shows that Peter Parker only really became Spider-Man (as opposed to a guy with some powers in a suit) when he started dealing with his responsibilities (Which is, to get back to my earlier thing, why I didn't include Uncle Ben on the list of people killed because of Peter being Spider-Man. To me, Ben died because Peter wasn't Spider-Man yet).

Meanwhile, over in SPIDER-MAN/FANTASTIC FOUR #3, Jeff Parker proves that old math formula (Anything) + Doctor Doom = Fun. The late stage addition of the good Doctor to this miniseries gives it a kick of the familiar that's been missing so far, and even though I'm not so drawn to the overall storyline, this particular issue was Good fun. Parker has a good handle on all of the familiar characters even if his big plot doesn't work for me (I'm secretly hoping that he's one of Steve Wacker's new Spider-writing team for when Amazing gets relaunched as the thrice-monthly Spider-book), and Mike Wieringo is just one of the best superhero artists out there, period. Cautiously recommended, I guess.