Whether it be due to the return of a “small team of career criminals” who “were among Spider-Man’s earliest foes”, Peter Parker joining forces with J. Jonah Jameson’s former secretary at the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant, or simply Dan Slott’s narrative for “Bury The Ledes” instigating the titular character’s return back to Empire State University, many of this comic’s 43,935 owners arguably must have felt a pang of nostalgia whilst reading this tale of “a mafia conspiracy that stretches back decades!” In fact, even the book’s simplistic story involving an investigation into just why “someone tried to fabricate a moment in history” by inventing the Battle of Blood Creek during the American Revolution is told by the Berkeley-born writer in a manner somewhat similar to the way Web-Head’s tales in the Sixties were told; “The good ol’ days. Where I met Gwen and Harry…”
Admittedly, that doesn’t sadly mean there aren’t a few artificial contrivances scattered throughout the plot with which to detract from its overall enjoyment, such as Ned Leeds’ contact, Prescott, supposedly being one of the few living people in New York to actually know about “a vast network of abandoned passageways running under the city”, or the sudden appearance of “the long-hidden leader of the shadow arm of the Maggia, the Undermob”, Ernesto Karnelli, who has apparently operated “completely off the grid” for decades. But such ‘conveniences’ are forgivable given some of the grandiose set-pieces they create within which Spider-Man is able to dutifully demonstrate his awesome athleticism and other arachnid-based super-powers.
Quite possibly less forgivable though is the inconsistent artwork of Cory Smith, which seemingly drifts between some superb panels depicting an astonishingly agile wall-crawler leaping over numerous fire-escapes during an agreeable chase-sequence, to pencilling a badly misshapen Parker fending off the angry protestations of a security guard who “invested my entire pension in your company! In Parker Industries! And you went and wrecked it!” This inability to competently sketch the Daily Bugle’s new science editor really grates upon the nerves, and only later resolves itself courtesy of Slott’s script placing the “Marvel Worldwide” “company mascot” in full costume for this publication’s dynamically-drawn conclusion.
Unhappily, this comic’s biggest disappointment however, has to be the “bonus story by Broadway playwright David Hein” which makes a complete mockery of “one of Spider-Man’s most unique and prominent powers.” Ordinarily ‘described’ as “a tingling feeling at the base of his brain”, the Canadian songwriter instead would disconcertingly have this annual’s audience believe Peter’s persistent spider-sense specifically tells him what the problem is, whether it be something as straightforward as “when my alarm clock is about to go off” or a “dust bunny”, through to “this guy is made of sand and wants to kill you!”