Best Run Ever: Spider-Man: Brand New Day Continues (Spidey Brain Trust Part 2)
Continuing our look at the most ambitious Spider-Man run in Marvel’s history, we go further into Brand New Day.
Spider-Man: Death and Dating
Writers: Mark Waid, Marc Guggenheim, Dan Slott, and Roger Stern
Artists: Marcos Martin, Mike McKone, Barry Kitson, and Lee Weeks
Collecting issues #578-573
So, this isn’t the strongest volume of the brain trust run, but that’s more because of bad writing—it’s just a lot of stories for one volume that don’t really progress the ongoing plots. We do finally learn how Harry Osborne came back from the dead, but it’s not all that thrilling. What does work, however, is the reveal that Harry has spent probably billions of dollars to find a cure for his ex-brother-in-law Mark Raxton, aka Molten Man. The two issues have an emotional resonance because of McKone’s art—Molten Man’s pain is hard not to feel. It’s a short, 2-issue arc, but for the Brand New Day era, it’s kind of nice to see one of the supporting members of Spider-Man be the hero in a big way.
The other story that works really well is Mark Waid and Marcos Martin’s two-part “Unscheduled Stop.” Remember the movie Daylight with Sylvester Stallone? Everyone trapped in a tunnel below New York City…it’s that, with Spider-Man and the Shocker. And it’s fun, intense, and surprising, especially since one of the passengers on the unlucky train car happens to be J. Jonah Jameson…Sr. Spider-Man might be having his brand new day, but Jameson Jr. is going through his own changes too, and this plot thread will be fun to follow.
Election Day Character Assassination
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: John Romita Jr.
Collecting issues #584-588
So, the trade for this collection is called “Election Day,” which was a terrible 5-page back-up story where Spider-Man meets Barack Obama, which came at the end of issue #573 and was included in the last volume anyway. Ugh. Also, Character Assassination is a massive story that ties up a year of Brand New Day plot threads. So, we’re going to say it’s called that because it should be.
Everything comes to a head here. Menace, the Spider-tracing killings that Spider-Man’s being framed for, and the mayoral race we’ve been watching for the last year of stories. And it all goes down on one night. Menace puts Spider-Man through one of the worst beatdowns of his life, allowing the police to finally apprehend him (thanks to Matt Murdock, he doesn’t have to remove his mask).
We finally learn the identity of Menace…Harry Osborne’s girlfriend, Lilly Hollister—who also happens to be the daughter of the soon-to-be mayor-elect. Careful readers probably figured out Menace’s identity by now, but the more shocking reveal is the Spider-tracer “killer.” It’s not just one person. It’s almost an entire precinct of the NYPD upset that Spider-Man is doing their jobs for them. This includes Peter Parker’s roommate, Vin. Vin was always a bit annoying, but he was also dumb enough to keep the tracers under his bed where Carlie found them once she had a spider-tracer-tracer(?).
It all ends in upheaval. Lilly’s identity is revealed on TV, forcing her father to decline his mayoral win. And now New York doesn’t have a mayor-elect. As the news broadcasters note, it’s a “Brand New Day for New York,” but Spider-Man probably wants this new day to be over.
Story 1: Return of the Spot
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Paulo Siqueira
The Spot is one of the most obscure Spidey villains, but Fred Van Lente revitalizes him in a way that not only makes him a real threat capable of mass murder, but a tragic character that even Spider-Man wants to help. It’s a wonderful one-shot that packs an emotional punch and then leaves you wanting more.
Story 2: Face Front
Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Barry Kitson
Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, together again for the very first time—literally. Reed Richards invites Spider-Man to help them on an adventure in the Macroverse. While there, the Human Torch, AKA Peter Parker’s best friend Johnny Storm, figures out that he once knew Spider-Man’s identity, but can’t remember. It drives him a bit nuts, and for good reason. Spider-Man played with everyone’s minds to make this happen in One More Day.
This is the first time in Brand New Day we see consequences from the deal Spider-Man made with Mephisto, and an explanation of how the magic worked. It’s essentially a firewall. If someone thinks they know who Spider-Man is, they’ll get it wrong. Unless he is unmasked in front of them. So, he decides to re-reveal his identity to the FF, and when their memories come back, they do what the Fantastic Four would obviously do: GROUP HUG! It’s a touching two-parter, but…
Story 3: 24/7
Writer: Mark Waid
Artists: Mike McKone and Barry Kitson
So that little adventure with the FF was only supposed to take 2 days, max. It took nearly two months in the real world time. When he gets back, Aunt May is dating J. Jonah Jameson Sr., Vin’s sister moved into his apartment while her brother is in jail, Harry relapsed, and, most shocking of all—J. Jonah Jameson Jr. becomes the mayor of New York in the special election. And the Triple J promises a “Spider-Free” New York.
Parker decides to drive him crazy by appearing everywhere all the time. He doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat. He just keeps popping up, helping citizens in any way he can, from making Spider-web umbrellas on a rainy day, to taking on the new Vulture—a mutated cannibal gangster. And New York loves him, for like 3 days. When he finally burns out, Parker realizes that it wasn’t Jameson he wanted to defeat—it was Norman Osborne, who took over control of S.H.I.E.L.D. after a Skrull invasion. With Jameson as mayor and Osborne in control of, well, the world, basically, Spider-Man went from Brand New Day to Worst Day Ever.
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artists: Marco Checchetto, Phil Jimenez, and Paulo Siqueira
Collecting Issues #595-599
Joe Kelly’s first big story for Spider-Man: Brand New Day, is a bit reminiscent of his magnificent Deadpool run, in that it gets shockingly dark and twisted very fast. And it’s appropriate—we’re on the official Dark Reign arc. How much does Kelly take that to heart? Well, Spider-Man decides he’s going to kill Norman Osborne based on advice from Wolverine. And then Norman Osborne uses Lilly, AKA Menace, to coerce Harry into joining his father in Avengers Mansion. Surprise! She’s pregnant with Harry’s baby. But oh, this is just the beginning.
Where Kelly goes is spectacularly messed up. Spider-Man, posing as Venom, is nearly killed, Norman gets Harry so pissed off, he takes a super soldier drug and dons the “American Son” armor just to beat the crap out of his father. And why does he want to do that? Yeah, this is the moment you stare at the page going “what the f—-” over and over again. Lily isn’t pregnant with Harry Osborne’s baby—she’s pregnant with Norman Osborne’s baby. He wanted to, in his words, mate with Harry’s ex because she already had the Goblin serum in her, and wanted to create his ideal son. It’s one of the most sadistic acts of Norman’s career.
Died in Your Arms Tonight
Writers: Dan Slott, Mark Waid, and EVERYONE
Artists: John Romita Jr., Pat Olliffe, and even more
Collecting Issues #600-601, Annual #36
This collection might seem like a small, collection, but issue #600 and the Annual are packed with a lot of story(ies). I think my collection on Comixology was in the wrong order, so I’m going to start with the Annual. It’s kind of simple—Jay Sr. brings everyone to Boston for an engagement party, and reunites May with her Reilly family right before the wedding. But while in Boston, Peter Parker—not Spider-Man—is attacked by a powered induvial called the Raptor. Raptor wants revenge for the death of his family, and both Raptor and Spider-Man are confused (and punching each other in the face) until Raptor says that his target needs to suffer: Ben Reilly—the clone of Peter Parker! He’s back!
Issue #600, however, is the centerpiece. It’s May’s wedding day and an old fling of her returns to ruin it—Doctor Octopus. Really, Brand New Day needed Doc Ock to challenge Spider-Man in a big way. And taking over every electronic system in New York City? That does it. However, it’s kind of sad. Doc is dying, pretty fast, and in his warped way of thinking, he wants to do one good thing before he dies. He thinks uploading his brainwaves into NYC’s infrastructure is a gift. Now, the cool thing reading in retrospect—there are story seeds in this issue that don’t play out until Spider-Man #700, long after Brand New Day ends.
The wedding goes off fine until Mary Jane Watson shows up. Her and Peter get drunk, and Peter wakes up the next morning with a beautiful woman in his bed…Michele Gonzalez. It’s awkward. And MJ? She sleeps past when she was supposed to meet up with Peter. Oh, Peter’s love life. What a disaster.
Spider-Man: Red-Headed Stranger
Writers: Fred Van Lente and Bryan Reed
Artists: Barry Kitson, Robert Atkins, Javier Pulido, Yanick Paquette, and Luke Ross
Collecting Issues #602-605
The Chameleon returns! A few of his old foes have come back during Brand New Day, and a lot more are on the way. Even Spider-Man notices this going on. Chameleon isn’t after Spider-Man, though, he’s after J. Jonah Jameson—or at least, his office as Mayor. To get close to the mayor, he kidnaps Peter Parker and impersonates him. He also thinks he killed Peter, but, you know, he’s Spider-Man! Chameleon actually gets away with most of his plan, and decides to help Peter’s loved ones as a thank you for using his face. In less than 12 hours, Chameleon a) fixes Peter’s relationship with MJ, b) saves Harry Osborne from relapsing, and c) somehow gets Peter’s roommate Michelle to fall in love with him and start a relationship. That’s how bad Peter Parker is at “adulting.” Someone can take his place for half a day and fix his life.
Of course, Peter doesn’t want to date Michelle and makes her hate him more, but at least he’s talking to MJ and Harry again. Harry even tries to find Peter a new girlfriend. It doesn’t go well.
Spider-Man: Return of the Black Cat
Story 1: Return of the Black Cat
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artists: Mike McKone and Adriana Melo
Peter Parker’s life is a disaster of bad luck, so what the one thing he can use more of? Well, not bad luck, but that’s what he gets when the Black Cat returns. A while back, Felicia Hardy wanted superpowers so that she could equal her sometimes-lover Spider-Man, who constantly worried about her. She made a deal with Kingpin and ended up with a power similar to X-Force’s Domino, except instead of good luck for herself, she causes bad luck in others. But she has trouble controlling it, and when Spidey’s around her, things go wrong. Sure, it looks like small things, like his web-shooters breaking or Diablo’s alchemy powers working against him. But in the meantime, Parker couldn’t be happier hooking up with his old flame, and she doesn’t even want to know his identity. They keep the lights off, or he keeps the mask on. Peter should know better—her powers are bad luck. So when a picture of them making out ends up on all the screens in Times Square while MJ is standing there, what did he expect?
Story 2: Who Was Ben Reily?
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artists: Marco Checchetto, Rick Magyar, Luke Ross
Remember Ben Reilly, the clone of Peter who wreaked havoc on his life through the 90s? Well, apparently he murdered a geneticist’s family in cold blood. But since Ben’s dead, the mourning father goes after Parker instead, believing that he’s Ben Reilly. Also, this geneticist? He did the classic “experiment on myself with dinosaur DNA,” and now he can mutate to something half-raptor, half-human. He calls himself Raptor—of course. The arc seems a bit silly until we find out the mastermind behind everything—Kaine, the other Spider-Man close, who came out a bit defective and psychopathic. That’s yet another villain from the past making a reappearance. First, Doctor Octopus, then Chameleon, then Black Cat, and now Kaine. As we draw to the last act of Spider-Man: Brand New Day, it’s clear that this is no coincidence…and there are more classic villains to come.
Story 3: This Man, This A—Expletive Deleted
Writer: Joe Kelly
Artist: Eric Canete
The buddy bromance that Spider-Man hates, but his buddy, Deadpool, loves come to fisticuffs and Deadpool crushing hard on Spidey in this one-shot. Kraven the Hunter’s wife hires Deadpool to fight Spider-Man for one hour and get him out of Midtown, where her daughter is kidnapping another Spidey character, Mattie Franklin, AKA Spider-Woman—the third to use the name. They’ve also kidnapped the Weaver, a sort of Spider-Verse mystic woman who can tell the future and where the Spider-characters are at all times. Kraven’s family is out to hunt Spiders And for Spider-Man, that means his brand new bright and shining day is about to get really dark. Because up next…
Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.