Peter and Betty are on the case.
One of the drawbacks to Dan Slott’s decision to cap off his Amazing Spider-Man run at issue #800 is that he won’t have much of an opportunity to explore Peter’s new status quo as science editor at the Daily Bugle. Consider this annual issue an attempt to address that problem. It doesn’t stand out as much as some of Slott’s recent stories, but it does allow fans to spend a little more time with the Daily Bugle crew and a few long-time villains.
Slott’s story builds on the aftermath of The Clone Conspiracy (not necessarily a point in its favor), as Betty Brant and Peter Parker join forces to investigate a clue left behind by the briefly resurrected Ned Leeds. That puts the duo in the path of the Enforcers, the Kingpin and various other nefarious players covering up something called Blood Creek. It’s an excuse for Slott and artist Cory Smith to combine traditional Spider-Man antics with a dash of good, old-fashioned mystery. That mystery doesn’t have the greatest payoff, unfortunately. The truth behind Blood Creek is more silly than compelling as it tired to merge the seedy criminal underworld with the world of the supernatural.
Still, it’s enough to have a story that puts the Peter/Betty relationship front and center for a change. It’s been a while since Slott has really been able to focus on the Daily Bugle characters, and this issue helps restore a sense of normalcy to the franchise even as the events of “Threat Level: Red” loom large. This issue also makes the most of the Enforcers as it explores their individual reactions to being alive and whole again. For once, they’re not treated just mindless, obligatory goons.
The art is generally solid in this story, though the art tends to show much more energy and flair when Spider-Man is the focus rather than Peter Parker. That’s apparent early on when Peter makes a high-flying costume change. Smith and inker/finisher Terry Pallot never skimp on the details, but the facial work is rarely expressive enough.
This issue also boats a backup story from writer David Hein and artist Marcus To, one that explores the negative consequences of having Spider-Sense. It’s a light and fairly shallow story with a predictable ending, but it is interesting to see a creative team attempt to convey Peter’s Spider-Sense in a different way. To and colorist Ian Herring really shine here, crafting a bright and cheerful take that we don’t see very often with this franchise anymore. Similarly, artist Gustavo Duarte offers a goofy, kinetic take on Spidey in his one-page feature.