It's been a long and winding road to get here, but Amazing Spider-Man is finally amazing again these days.
Okay, yes, I was one of those people who absolutely loathed the events of the "One More Day" storyline that blew up Peter Parker's marriage to Mary Jane Watson for the apparent sole storytelling purpose of just letting Peter sleep around. And yes, I found the rotating creative teams in the recent "Brand New Day" era to be very uneven in terms of quality and the devolution of Peter back into a mooching, pathetic loser/slacker to be insulting to both the character and many of his fans.
But now we're several issues into "Big Time," with Dan Slott designated as the series' regular writer, bringing much-needed consistency to the table. This latest issue, following directly on the unexpected death of supporting character Marla Jameson, is one of the most powerful Spider-Man stories in recent memory.
With some absolutely stunning visuals by Marcos Martin, perhaps the heir apparent to Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko, "In Memory of Marla Jameson" begins with a silent, graphically told story of frequent pain-in-the-ass J. Jonah Jameson waking up to a lonely bed and getting ready for his wife's funeral. From there, we check in on Peter, the Robertsons, and various Spider-Man supporting characters as they assemble for the funeral service, which ultimately ends with Peter finally returning home and drifting off to sleep.
That would normally be a strong enough story on its own, but then we spiral right into Peter's nightmarish dreams and see how much his conscience is eating away at him following Marla's death. Spider-Man has always felt guilty and responsible for just about everything that happens to him and this latest death gives Slott the forum to revisit the long, long list of dead Spider-Man characters. Yep, that means the old favorites like Gwen and Captain Stacy, but also more obscure ones you haven't thought about in years, such as Lance Bannon or The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man. There's even one really obscure character named Charlie (or Charlemagne), who is described as "the only life (Peter) has ever taken" and I had to actually look her up in Spider-Man Vs. Wolverine #1. Needless to say, Slott did his homework here.
Ultimately, Peter wakes himself from his nightmare with a new vow (Spidey's also about vowing something, in addition to all the guilt and responsibility) that whenever he's around, no one else will ever die. Now, we all know there's absolutely no way, especially since he's Spider-Man, that he's going to be able to keep that vow, but the fun, schadenfreude part for the reader is to see at what point he ultimately fails and what happens next. Now that's Spider-Man.