Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Review: Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 555-557


Amazing Spider-Man numbers 555, 556, and 557 comprise a three-part story arc for the web-slinger.

During a blizzard in New York City, Spider-Man and Wolverine save a mathematician from three warriors dressed in ancient Mayan armor. Spider-Man soon learns that the mathematician is the real threat: he used ancient Mayan algorithms to summon a Mayan deity so that he can bond with it and become a god-king, with some human sacrifices thrown in along the way.

After battling the deity, Spider-Man stops the mathematician from sacrificing a female acquaintance to the deity at the correct time, thus preventing the mathematician from bonding with the deity.

The deity returns to its own dimension.


I typically do not read Spider-Man comics, but I purchased these because Chris Bachalo is the artist. He is one of the few comic book artists that can get me to buy a book that I otherwise would not buy. (John Romita Jr. and Adam Kubert probably are the only other artists in that category.) His style is unique, especially for super-hero comics.

Bachalo's art also is the reason I chose to review this short run of Amazing Spider-Man. The story is nothing to get too excited about -- Spider-Man faces off against a new villain and defeats him -- although there are a few small moments throughout the three issues that develop Spidey's supporting cast and give him a chance to crack jokes. Writer Zeb Wells keeps the plot humming along and there are some solid action sequences.

(click to enlarge)

What really makes these comics more than ordinary, however, is Bachalo's art. He does a terrific job creating atmosphere and mood -- you can really feel the cold from the blizzard, and New York City seems so desolate. Bachalo's art makes the city look and feel completely different from what we are used to seeing in comics. Almost every page of these comics looks something like this:

(click to enlarge)

As you can see, Bachalo also does good work with Spider-Man himself, using a fairly simple, almost cartoony look that is quite dynamic and eye-catching.

The only possible criticism of Bachalo's work on Spider-Man is his storytelling. People often complain that his art is hard to follow and that his images are difficult to understand because of dark inks, small panels, and odd choices in layout. Here, one interesting result of setting Spider-Man against a white background is that he really pops out -- you always know what he's doing. But the white background also leads to problems when Spider-Man faces off against the Mayan warriors and their deity, who are all wearing white armor. Sometimes it takes a few moments to figure out what is going on:

(click to enlarge)

In the page above, Bachalo actually does a better job than most artists at laying out where the characters are and how the action flows from one panel to the next, but his Mayan deity is such a confusing mass of lines that it is hard to see that at first.

Overall, I found these comics to be a fun diversion, but with little aftertaste (good or bad).


  1. good review,very succinct and interesting... and that's coming from someone who has reviewed thousands of things. keep it up!

  2. Cool. this is a very creative review.