Amazing Spider-Man #544
Title: One More Day, part one
Writer: J. Michael Starczynski
Penciler: Joe Quesada
Inker: Danny Miki
Colorist: Richard Isanove
Letterer: Chris Eliopoulos
Cover A: Quesada, Miki and Isanove
Cover B: Marko Djurdjevic
By Tim Glancy
07 September 2007 — "I am not too excited for this, but I will give it a chance."
Those were my exact words earlier today in regards to "One More Day," the new storyline running through all the Spider-Man books. Now, the reason I greeted this with some trepidation is because, like a lot of people, I did not like "The Other" — the last multi-title crossover involving Spider-Man. It was clumsy, overly long, didn't really change the character and has seemingly been forgotten by Marvel. Since then, Peter's life has changed a lot, and Amazing Spider-Man has been a tremendous book since the beginning of Civil War. So I was willing to grab this arc to see if Marvel could get it right this time. I even did something I never do: went to the local comic shop at lunch just to pick it up.
After paying for the issue, I finished reading Amazing Spider-Man #544 before putting my car in reverse.
From the start, this book has a tremendous hook, one you never want to remove from your mouth. Starczynski has received a lot of flak, including some from yours truly, in regards to his run on Amazing Spider-Man, but he has been on fire recently. And that fire isn't being put out any time soon. JMS nails Peter and Spider-Man here, giving you reasons to care about both characters, because you realize that their motives and drive are one and the same. Too often writers characterize Spider-Man one way and Peter Parker another, as if they're two completely different people. While that's one way to tell a Spider-Man story, the best stories — the ones that get to the core of the character — are the ones which outline how Peter's actions as Spider-Man change his un-costumed life. Never has this been more perfectly executed than in the last year or so; JMS has handled it flawlessly.
As you probably know, Aunt May was shot as a result of Peter's action during the superhero Civil War. The "Back in Black" arc dealt with Peter's immediate reaction to that attack; he lashed out violently at anyone and everyone involved in the shooting. Now that the violence is over and May's attackers have been dealt with, "One More Day" looks at the emotional toll Peter has taken. What happens when Spider-Man slows down and, as Peter Parker, has to look at the situation objectively? What happens when he has to slow down, not to avenge his aunt, but to assure her survival?
With this type of story the tension needs to be present, and JMS puts so much on the page that you can taste it. Anyone who has ever had to watch a loved one suffer can relate to the pain that Peter and MJ are feeling, and you will relate to Peter as he contemplates crossing the line from hero to crook. If it means saving May, jail time is worth it, he thinks. JMS also does a great job of tying this into other current Marvel events, especially what is happening with Iron Man. I complained about Iron Man in my reviews earlier this week, and I wish I would have read this first, because JMS does an excellent job of showing Stark in a somewhat better light. Your opinion of him isn't going to change, but you might understand him and his drive a little better. Plus, and my personal favorite, JMS utilizes Jarvis in a tremendous way here. You feel his pain, and his addition to the story really makes him an important part of "One More Day." His brief appearance here adds so much to the character, making the faithful butler more important than he's been in years.
Joe Quesada, Danny Miki and Richard Isanove handle the art, and as you would expect with the names involved, they knock it out of the park. I'm sure that we have all seen the "money shot" of this issue, the splash of Iron Man trapped in Peter's webbing, but what you won't see until the issue is in your hands are the slower moments. The pain on Peter and MJ's faces, the determination that Peter shows when confronting Stark, Tony's body language when he makes what has to be considered an extremely tough decision in a year of tough decisions all look tremendously beautiful. They're not big action sequences; they're slower, human moments which wonderfully compliment Starczynski's script. Quesada is a busy man, and he easily could have mailed this in, but you can see that he put a lot of effort and emotion into this project.
As a bonus, Marvel included some sketch work, a Spider-Man profile and a costume gallery. This supplemental material, not normally seen in modern comics, will really help new Amazing readers. Those people who were drawn in by the hype or the cover can't complain about not "getting" the character, because it's all right there. Marvel is making a great effort to capture not just Marvel zombies, but anyone and everyone. Speaking of the cover, it really pops right off the shelf. Quesada perfectly captured a retro Marvel vibe here. The alternate cover, by Marko Djurdjevic, is also stunningly beautiful — it might just be my favorite cover in a long, long time. I normally don't buy both covers, but I did just that with Amazing Spider-Man #544 because they're both great and meet two different goals. The Quesada-drawn cover pulls comic book readers who aren't reading Amazing in. They'll recognize Quesada's style and / or the era he's paying tribute to, and will hastily grab it from the shelf. Marko's cover, on the other hand, gives the ASM monthly readers a beautiful cover to collect, and can be used to capture non-comic book readers who are blown away by his unconventional style. Win-win if you ask me.
Run, don't walk, to your local comic book store and buy this book. Spider-Man comics, Ultimate included, don't get any better than this.