There’s an old but good joke about the guy who brags about getting something for free, only to later learn that he paid too much. I feel the same way about the Free Comic Book Day Amazing Spider-man comic.
It’s actually a very funny story. The story of why I feel this way, I mean, not the story in the comic book itself. The comic is dreadful: unremarkable and cliché in all the worst ways. The funny story is that, superficially anyway, it offers everything that I lambasted Spider-man 3 for failing to offer, which I described in a post on the Spidey Message Board. It’s very much in the vein of 'Spider-man as the loveable loser', where he has to stop the bad guy, rescue Aunt May’s cake, and be home in time for dinner. But the villain is bland and uninteresting, and the story is one that we’ve read a thousand times with nothing new or special to recommend it. This is the sort of comic that you only remember fondly because it was your first issue of Spidey. Otherwise, it ends up in the back of your closet. And you never look at it again.
What’s truly unforgivable, though, is the way this comic has been marketed and the way that it accounts for itself. Dan Slott was hyping the FCBD Amazing Spider-man as a story that would have a real impact on the Marvel Universe, but it’s hard to see why or how. Following Slott's comments, some readers have speculated that it takes place after the upcoming ‘One More Day’ storyline. Well, if it does, we’re not told and there's nothing in the comic to actually suggest as much. Some fans have suggested the opposite, then, that it’s actually an untold story from Spidey’s past – that would explain why there’s no Mary Jane, right? Or is Mary Jane the super-heroine that debuts here - Jackpot? (Apparently, I’m the only person who assumed MJ must be Jackpot, though this assumption does nothing to clear up MJ’s status in this confusing mess of a Spider-verse - if this is supposed to be in continuity, that is.) Others have done away with trying to make it fit somewhere and declared it to be outside continuity altogether. About the only thing we do know is that it doesn’t take place in anything resembling the narrative present.
I shouldn’t have to buy ‘One More Day’ to make some sense of this story, but I suppose that this is precisely what Marvel is going for. Or maybe I’m giving them too much credit in the planning department – the lack of context and by-the-numbers story suggests that this comic was only ever intended for the new readers and kids that FCBD is actually targeting, making Slott’s remarks seem confusing or confused at best and an outright lie at worst. Whatever. It’s a cute enough story, I suppose, but only if you can still count your age on your fingers. For the rest of us, it’s a god-awful mess.