Spider-Man is turning fifty and what better way to celebrate than to give the character an oversized issue and a story that is setting out to change the direction of the book? Let's hit the main concern first. This book has a $5.99 price tag. BUT, you get a 27 page main story by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos plus two back up stories (one by Dean Haspiel and the other by Joshua Hale Fialkov). This gives a total of SIXTY pages of content (including the letters pages). If you break it down to the average issue, it works out to be a good deal.
Plus there's the fact that this issue CHANGES EVERYTHING!
How many times have we heard that? This appears to be true in this case. You may have heard the news concerning Spider-Man getting a sidekick. This is where it happens. You'll want to be here to witness the beginning of a new chapter.
I won't lie and say I think it's a good idea. There's plenty to be said about the notion of Spider-Man having a sidekick. We'll have to wait and see how it plays out. For an introduction, Slott does a splendid job. If you've read the news or saw the preview, you know there are many similarities with Peter's origin and this new kid, Andy Maguire. But despite the similarities, there are loads of differences at the same time. You can imagine what the 'typical' teenager would do if they suddenly gained superpowers. Especially the typical teenager that had been floating along through high school with no real place to fit in. This is what makes the idea interesting. It's not going to be a walk in the park or a swing through the city as Spider-Man attempts to bring this new hero under his wings and guide him along the proper path to superhero-dom. It's great to see a different take on gaining powers along with the reaction of those around.
Besides Slott and Ramos' story, there are the previously mentioned back up stories. The first takes place immediately after AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50 and is by Dean Haspiel. The second is by Joshua Hale Fialkov. These aren't your typical Spider-Man stories. It's fitting to see them in an issue that celebrates Spider-Man and his longevity as they focus more on what makes him a great and inspiring hero. This also indirectly reinforces the idea that Spider-Man could indeed be a good role model for a young hero. Spider-Man should be a mentor because he strongly believes in what he does and carries the burden of his actions with him everyday. These stories illustrate what it is about being 'Spider-Man' that makes him a hero and how it can affect and influence others.
While there is more than enough content and great stories to justify the price tag, there will still be those that will have a hard time spending six dollars on a single comic book. It's more a matter that readers invested in Spider-Man and the possible future direction of the title may not have much of a choice. Celebrating the anniversary is great and seeing some nice back ups by writers that may not normally get the opportunity to tell their stories is a good thing but true Spider-Man fans may have to pass on another title this week in order to fit it into their budget.
The back ups don't necessarily add to the main story. They are good stories and should be read but when read back to back, almost come across as a little preachy and corny. One inspiring story is okay. Two might be a bit much. Of the two, the second, "Just Right" by Fialkov struck a stronger note with me as it reminded me of one of my favorite Spider-Man stories, "The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man" in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #248. This isn't to say the first wasn't touching but in a different manner as the focus wasn't directly on Spider-Man.
Spider-Man with a sidekick is a bold move. Supposedly the idea to break up the marriage of Peter and Mary Jane was because a married Spider-Man would be hard for younger readers to relate to. Obviously making Spider-Man a mentor or the authority figure gives him an older feel. Instead of trying to make Spider-Man feel younger, he's getting older by being portrayed as the well experienced superhero that has seen and done it all and now is guiding the next generation.
Then there's the fact that Mary Jane does casually appear here at a dinner with Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson Sr. They even ask the question of whether or not Peter and MJ are together. They should be as her appearance here felt so natural but again begs the question of why bother erasing the marriage in the first place?
If you love Spider-Man, you're going to love this oversized anniversary issue. If you just 'like' Spider-Man, you will totally dig the new developments here with the idea of Spider-Man taking on Alpha as a sidekick. If you don't like Spider-Man...you should still check out what changes we may be seeing with the character. Spider-Man has been around for fifty years now. This issue marks a new chapter in his career. It's questionable if this is the right direction but with the way it's presented, you'll definitely want to find out how it's all going to play out. Along with an extended main story, we also have two back up stories that illustrate the importance of Spider-Man as a hero. They are the types of stories that can be read anytime and are the perfect examples how Spider-Man has endured fifty years of publication. He's more than just a guy in red and blue spandex. He means something to even the average citizens of the Marvel Universe. The price may feel like a bit much for a single comic book but the amount of content and the quality of it all will make it worth every penny. Spider-Man has been here for fifty years. With a bold new direction beginning, l can't wait to find out what the next fifty will hold for him.