Monday, December 22, 2014

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #627

"SOMETHING CAN STOP THE JUGGERNAUT?!?"
Writer: Roger Stern | Artist: Lee Weeks
Color Artist: Dean White | Letterer: VC'S Joe Carmanga
Assistant Editor: Tom Brennan | WHAM!ed: Stephen Wacker
Editor-in-Chief: Joe Quesada
Publisher: Dan Buckley | Executive Producer: Alan Fine
Web-Heads: Gale, Kelly, Slott, Van Lente, Waid & Wells

The Plot: Peter Parker suffers an intense blast of spider-sense while on a date, and ducks out to investigate. Following the danger to its source, he finds the Juggernaut, fallen from the sky, crash-landed in Central Park. Before the web-slinger can investigate, the police arrive and Juggernaut is taken into custody. Later that night, Spider-Man finds a car parked atop a large structure in Washington Square. The vehicle's drunk driver tells Spider-Man he was deposited there by a blue-and-white figure.

The next day, Spider-Man infiltrates the Inwood Armory in Upper Manhattan, where the Juggernaut is being held. He questions the villain about his current state, and Juggernaut also cites a blue-and-white "flying guy" as the cause of his crash-landing in the park. Then, as if on cue, the all-powerful Captain Universe appears, declaring his intention to destroy Juggernaut.

The Sub-Plots: At the story's start, Peter is on a date with Carlie Cooper, a CSI investigator. They have a second date later in the issue, which is how Peter learns where Juggernaut is being held. Also, Carlie and Peter discuss the fact that Peter recently lost his job at Front Line, the newspaper which replaced the Daily Bugle when the latter ceased publication.
Continuity Notes: Upon discovering Juggernaut in Central Park, Spider-Man provides a quick rundown of their history together, in 1982's AMAZING issues 229 - 230, 1985's MARVEL TEAM-UP #150, and 1997's PETER PARKER: SPIDER-MAN #84. Later, while talking to Juggernaut in his cell, the web-slinger also invokes 2000's AVENGERS #24 and 25, part of the "Eighth Day" crossover which Roger Stern had a hand in.
Juggernaut is removed from Central Park by Code: Blue, New York's special task force for dealing with super heroes. Tom DeFalco created Code: Blue during his THOR run, but Roger Stern is literally the only writer I've ever seen use them outside of DeFalco, both in HOBGOBLIN LIVES and here.

When looking for assistance with Juggernaut, Spider-Man attempts to contact both Dr. Strange and Professor X, but neither is available.
Captain Universe has a history with Spider-Man, but it will be covered in-depth next time, so I'll just leave it at that for now.

Uncle Rog Speaks: "Carlie is the first woman in Pete's life who really shares his interests. They're both science geeks. In fact, when it comes to forensic science, Carlie can give Pete a run for his money in the smarts department. Plus, she definitely has guts." -- "Stern Can't Stop on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN", Comic Book Resources, 2010
My Thoughts: Though I had mostly stopped reading new Marvel comics entirely by 2010, I was still reading AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. I had dropped the title -- for the first time ever since becoming a regular reader around 1993 -- during the abysmal second half of J. Michael Straczynski's run. But when the "Brand New Day" era started, featuring a single Peter Parker, the return of sub-plots and members of the classic supporting cast, I started reading the series again in trade paperback format. I can give up most of Marvel cold turkey, but I can never quit entirely on Spider-Man. And while "Brand New Day" started off strong, it eventually became too big to support its own weight. By the end, there were six or more "web-heads" plotting the book, trading off story arcs, and I feel that too many cooks diluted the promising return to form from the earliest issues of the era.

But there were decent stories throughout that run of issues, so I read all of it. And while I couldn't stand some of the writers on the series (Wells and Kelly), there were a few who stood out as very good (Marc Guggenheim, the best of them, sadly left early in the "Brand New Day" storyline). But the one who got me most excited was the fellow who guest-wrote only four issues: Roger Stern.


Reading this issue, especially in contrast to the surrounding portions of "The Gauntlet", the story which was dominating Spider-Man's life at the time, it feels like the classic Spider-Man I know. And reading this issue so close to the rest of the Stern canon, that feeling is even more apparent. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #627 could've come right after AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 251 without missing a beat. Sure, things are different -- the continuity, the computer coloring, even the scripting device (Stern uses first person captions rather than thought balloons here) -- but the feel of classic Spider-Man is prevalent, permeating every page: Peter skipping out on a date to play Spider-Man. Swinging around the city, lost in thought, preventing minor crimes like muggings even as he considers the immediate threat at hand. Breaking into a government facility because no other heroes are around to help him. Stern doesn't even mention that Spider-Man is an Avenger here, because it's not relevant to the story, and would probably even alter the tale Stern's trying to tell if it were acknowledged.

"Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" is a classic; a story placed on many lists of the top Spider-Man adventures. The jury's still out on whether "Something Can Stop the Juggernaut" has a chance to live up to its predecessor's reputation, but at the very least, even if the story itself is not classic, the feeling evoked by this first installment very much is.

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