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Tryout: Waiting For The Trades #1

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

Spider-man: Death and Dating

by Marc Waid, Marc Guggenheim, Roger Stern & Dan Slott

Collects Amazing Spider-man 578-583 and Annual #1.

Why I bought this: It was in the discount bin of my local comic shop for $6. On the back cover was the Shocker, who is one of my favorite silver age Spidey villains. It also promised an explanation on how Harry Osborn (a favorite supporting character) returned from the dead, which aside from the marriage ending was the biggest change once they started Brand New Day. This is actually only the second Brand New Day era Spidey story I’ve purchased (although I also read the first two trades at the local library so I have a general idea of who all the players are in the new status quo).

The Plot: There are basically two types of trades: those that tell a single clear concise story and those that are just a random collection of sequential issues. Generally speaking I prefer the former because if you are buying a trade from some random time period you want a complete story. However, I understand why Marvel would collect every single issue of their flagship character’s book. As this collection has four authors it should not be a surprise that it is a just random collection of sequential issues. There will be spoilers ahead including the identity of the death in the title.

The initial story sees Peter trying to catch a train to go visit his aunt when the train derails trapping him underground with several passengers. Pete quickly changes into Spidey and learns a jury for a mob trial is in one of the passenger cars. The Shocker has been hired to kill the jurors and Spidey thwarts him but in the process the cave-in worsens eventually forcing Spidey and Shocker to work together to get out alive. Additionally one of the jurors ends up being the long lost father J. Jonah Jameson.

Next we get the origin of Jackpot, a new red-headed female super hero introduced in Brand New Day that was designed to get the reader thinking she was possibly Mary Jane. The short version is she’s not, and she dies that same issue battling a new villain named Blindspot, who can cause temporary blindness in those he touches.

This is followed with Spidey taking on the Blank, a D-list villain with a personal force field seen only once before in the early days of West Coast Avengers. Blank robs a bank while Aunt May is there, reminding Spidey of the death of his uncle and causing him to get a mad-on as he tracks the villain down.

Next we get to the Harry stuff in which Harry and Pete go off to visit Harry’s ex-wife Liz Allen. While there her super-villain step brother the Molten Man decides to try to kill Harry for what he put Liz through years ago and Spidey is of course caught in the middle. This story is also a checklist of answers to questions that lingered since Brand New Day such as how Harry was resurrected and how Aunt May got her house back since pre-Brand New Day it had been destroyed and Pete, MJ and May had all been living in Avengers Tower. The answers given are for the most part simple non-answers, like “goblin serum,” but they do in a pinch.

Finally we have a story from the perspective of Betty Brant as Pete tries to throw her a birthday party and she tries to hook him up in various ways for the “dating” half of the title. Ultimately, neither is successful in their goals.

Critical Thoughts: Although there is no through storyline, most of this stuff is entertaining to read if you like Spider-man. Certainly none of these stories are going in the list of all-time classics, but for the most part Spidey is presented in classic form: down on his luck, occasionally funny, and taking responsibility for everyone around him from old-friends like Harry and Betty to casual acquaintances like Jackpot. For what I paid for it, I liked it.

I do have some nitpicky complaints in regards to the Shocker storyline. For one I think Spidey wins the initial fight way too easily. I say this not only because I am a Shocker fan, but in general I think silver age villains should be better protected simply because Spidey will be meeting them again until the end of time. Furthermore he wins by crushing Shocker’s gauntlets but Shocker long ago (like in the 1980s) transferred his power source from the gauntlets to the suit itself. I also was at first taken aback by Shocker being a hired killer in this story. Shocker is usually portrayed as more of a safe-cracker/bank robber than a killer; however, on reflection Shocker more than most villains is motivated by profit—there have been stories where he declined teaming up with other Spidey villains for revenge because there is no profit in it, so I could see it being in character for him to take on a mob contract. Still overall I said these are nitpicks rather than criticisms, and some of my initial concerns on Shocker’s portrayed threat level were mitigated in the second half when Shocker and Spidey have to work together and seeing the inevitable double cross that follows.

My biggest criticism is probably Spidey’s ongoing internal monologue in the Shocker story that if he saves Jameson Sr., Jonah will have to finally admit he’s been wrong about him. Spidey has saved Jonah himself scores of times over the years as well as saving Jonah’s son dozens of times and all of his employees at the Bugle on multiple occasions and nothing has ever changed so why would Spidey think this time would be different at this point?

I’m also not sure why they killed Jackpot off in the same issue we saw her origin. She seemed to have a nice chemistry with Spidey in the scene where they share a coffee, so there could have been future stories there. At the same time if the only point of the character was to tease the Mary Jane thing then once resolved maybe they had nothing more to say. I guess I’m saying while I wouldn’t go out of my way to read more Jackpot stories, I could see keeping her around as an occasional ally like they do with Silver Sable or Cloak & Dagger so her death seemed a little abrupt in that regard.

Other than that, I was glad for the answers in the Harry story but felt the telling of it was a little flat, and the remaining stories were one-issue throwaways with obscure villains that don’t require analysis.

Overall Grade: C+ - The stories read fine on their own so if you can grab it cheap like I did noting wrong with picking it up, but the lack of a major through storyline and the lack of the importance of these stories prevent me from giving anything other than a mild recommendation.