Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Spider-man: Election Day
by Marc Guggenheim & John Romita Jr.
Collects Amazing Spider-man 583-588 plus some Extras
Why I bought this: Primarily because Bargain Graphic Novels was selling it for $3 a few months ago. But price aside this wraps up all of the storylines that kicked off the Brand New Day era—including resolving the mystery of Menace, the mystery of the Spider-Tracer Killer and the mayoral election that was backdrop for the Menace and Jackpot stories from day 1. I’ve only read about 50-percent of Brand New Day but in general I found the continuing plot threads interesting enough to want to see the finale.
The Plot: An injured Spider-man battles Menace while Peter’s police officer roommate Vin Gonzalez faces prison and Harry Osborn deals with personal drama against the backdrop of NYC’s mayoral election. Also Spidey meets President Obama. Spoilorized chapter breakdown’s follow:
Chapter 1 – Following another spider-tracer murder, Spidey takes a bullet in the shoulder from a police helicopter. Meanwhile Carlie Cooper (not yet Pete’s girlfriend) figures out how to track spider tracers. Spidey, delirious from his gunshot wound, dreams that Harry is Menace. Harry proposes to Liz Hollister (daughter of one of the two mayoral candidates). Pete returns home to tend to his wounds, and narrowly avoids Carlie who discovers a bag of spider-tracers under Vin Gonzalez’s bed (fellow cop & Pete’s roommate).
Chapter 2 – Lily doesn’t accept Harry’s proposal and then leaves when her father calls before they can discuss it more. Vin comes home just as Pete leaves to deal with Menace despite his wounds and thus misses Carlie confronting Vin about the tracers. Carlie gets Vin to confess to being involved with the Tracer killings, which actually aren’t killings at all; rather the cops are placing the tracers on the bodies of the victims of underworld/mob crime to drum up public support for law enforcement to take a vigilante (namely Spidey) off the streets. Carlie wants to arrest Vin but the other cop at the scene is involved as well as this is a larger police conspiracy. Menace gives Spidey a severe beating enroot to defeating him, however rather than killing him, Menace delivers Spidey to the police, who arrest him. Harry decides to surprise Lily to get her to reconsider and walks in on her unmasking as Menace.
Chapter 3 – Harry is horrified by what he’s discovered causing Lily/Menace to give her origin, which like every Goblin who isn’t an Osborn involves finding one of Norman’s old journals and using that to raid some old hideouts for weapons and Goblin Formula. And also all of her attacks as Menace are to help get her father elected, although he himself has no knowledge of her criminal activities. Then after she finishes confessing, she accepts Harry’s proposal. However, she when she leaves Harry gets out his Goblin weaponry.
Chapter 4 – Matt Murdock prevents the police from unmasking Spidey and once that’s resolved he advises him to stay put and stand trial. Carlie takes her complaint to a sergeant and is still getting nowhere as we get a glimpse into what makes her tick as a cop. Meanwhile the other corrupt cops decide to frame Vin and Carlie for everything and Vin is arrested. In prison the convicts are beating Vin and plan to kill him, forcing Peter to break out his cell to save him.
Chapter 5 – Pete saves Vin and breaks them both out of prison. Harry puts on his Green Goblin mask. Carlie goes to Al Hollister for help but one his aides calls the cops because she feels as a candidate he can’t seen harboring a fugitive. Menace attacks the police to free Carlie (as Lily she and Carlie are longtime friends). Spidey fights Menace and loses again. She’s about to strike the killing blow when Harry intervenes and together he and Spidey give her a Goblin-serum antidote. She is then arrested on national television just as the election results come in giving the win to her father. Harry pulls Spidey to safety so he can pass out on a roof away from police. Vin turns himself in and clears Carlie off any wrong-doing. Hollister resigns as mayor before being sworn in, while we see the various corrupt cops rounded up and arrested. Pete and Harry talk about Norman’s legacy and Lily. Norman visits Lily in prison, welcoming her to the family.
Chapter 6 – Spidey’s wounds are treated by Night Nurse. We see Pete doing his usual guilt trip/responsibility thing for Harry and Vin’s problems in the fallout from the last chapter. Vin gets six months in jail as part of a plea bargain for testifying against the other cops in the conspiracy. Pete meets Flash at the airport and learns Flash lost his legs in combat, when Flash tells the story of how he says he was inspired to be a hero by Spider-man; Pete feels guilty about that too and takes his frustrations by beating the crap out of some cyborg as Spidey.
Chapter 7 – We see Spidey’s trial. Matt Murdock gets him off with a little help from Iron Fist and Black Cat.
Chapter 8 – Peter is sent to cover Obama’s inauguration for the Daily Bugle. Chameleon tries to switch places with Obama. Spidey thwarts him. Spidey is honored to meet the president.
Chapter 9 – Spidey and Cap foil a bank robbery by crooks dressed as Lincoln and other historical figures. Afterwards they are talking about politics and Cap confesses to once using the Cosmic Cube to listen in on the Gettysburg Address.
Critical Thoughts: Generally I liked most of this. Structurally the concurrent reveals, complications and resolutions in the Menace and Spider-tracer mysteries are very well done. Ignoring how Marvel got there (which is beyond terrible), I think the actual Brand New Day era was a big improvement in the tone of Spider-man storytelling, with much more of an emphasis on supporting characters (both new and old); and as I’ll happily argue in favor of Spidey having the best supporting cast in all of comics that’s always a good thing.
The fight scenes with Menace are well done with Spidey’s wounds upping the stakes a great deal. I will say there is a panel in the second fight that rings incredibly false in my mind, which is Spidey when thinks he is going to die before Harry arrives, the writers have him think of Gwen. Look I’ve said before I find Gwen to be the least interesting of Spidey’s five major love interests over the year, but beyond my personal preference Gwen has been dead in comic time for about 8-years so for Spidey to still be thinking about her above all others feels much more like an editorial mandate than true to the character. Especially if you consider JMS made it cannon that Pete and Gwen never slept together. But even beyond physicality he had relationships with MJ and even Felicia that were last far longer and involved far more trust and mutually shared highs and lows than he ever had with Gwen. It’s one thing for Pete to still carry around the guilt of Gwen’s death, especially in a Green Goblin story arc; it’s quite another for him to still be hung up on her after all this time.
As for the back-up tales, the Spidey and Obama meeting is funny and overall I liked it for what it was. I also really liked the Spidey and Cap story: as a Cap fan I thought that if Cap was going allow himself one selfish moment something like time-traveling to the Gettysburg Address rang true to the character.
Grade B: I’m not sure how this will hold up in a vacuum if you haven’t read the first two Brand New Day trades, especially since all of the new supporting characters featured here except Carlie are out of the series already. But within the context of its time period it’s a well delivered payoff to 30 issues of build-up. And from a classical sense it does feature lots of strong Harry moments, plus a major change to Flash’s status quo in the epilogue so even taking the newer characters out of it, it would seem to be a solid addition to Spidey lore.