Straczynski, J. Michael
About the Author:
John Michael Straczynski is perhaps most famous for creating the sci-fi television series Babylon 5.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
4 out of 5
Civil War: The Amazing Spider-Man
(Art by Ron Garney and Bill Reinhold)
A tie-in to Mark Millar's 'Civil War' in which the Superhuman Registration Act splits the Marvel Universe in two. Spider-Man's part in the Civil War was always the most interesting and here we get the full story.
As it begins, his loyalty to Tony Stark leads him into full support of the Registration, with Spidey even going so far as to reveal that he is Peter Parker on live TV. However, Iron Man's increasingly totalitarian attitudes begin to worry Peter until finally he realises that he has chosen the wrong side in the war. Worried at the effect his choice has on his family, Peter sends Mary Jane and Aunt May into hiding, before joining the final battle of the Civil War.
There are a couple of stand-out moments in this book which make great points about the constant war in America between security and civil liberties and which nicely illustrate Spider-Man's reaction to them. My favourite part of the book is where Captain America explains his beliefs on the concept of freedom and democracy by quoting some Mark Twain.
4 out of 5
The Amazing Spider-Man: Coming Home
(Art by John Romita Jr. and Scott Hanna)
After the break-up of his marriage to MJ, Peter Parker is at a crossroads in his life and has to reexamine who he is and what he stands for. He encounters a man named Ezekiel, who reveals that there may be more to Peter's spider-based powers than he first thought. Ezekiel claims that Spider-Man is a living avatar of the spider totem and that he is in danger as a result. Spider-Man then goes toe to toe with Morlun, a new villain of incredible power intent on leeching the web-slingers totemic life-force to reinforce his own.
I have to say that I was wary to begin with when a previously unknown character like Ezekiel turns up and reveals previously unknown info about Spider-Man's origins, only for a new all-powerful but also previously unknown villain to turn up linked to those revelations. It screamed of an attempt at a retcon-reboot of the character, which is something I hate. However, what this book turns out to really be about is Peter Parker rediscovering himself in the face of information that could fundamentally change his understanding of his whole life. What could've been an attempt to forever alter Spider-Man's mythology instead is used as a way of affirming that the character is exactly who we know and love, despite the seismic changes in his life.
Morlun also turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Whenever a writer creates a new supervillain, they're almost always keen to make their creation the most dire threat that the hero has ever encountered and I was worried that this would be every bit as painfully contrived as these things usually are. Once again, however, Straczynski subverted my negative expectations by having Morlun be a short-lived (narratively, that is, because the character is centuries old) threat. Sure he absolutely pummels Spider-Man to the brink, and Romita Jr.'s artwork vividly brings that to life, but after rediscovering his sense of self, Spider-Man conclusively defeats Morlun.
What this book is then, is Peter Parker being broken down to his constituent parts before rebuilding himself definitively as Spider-Man and it's a very enjoyable experience to follow him through it.
4 out of 5