It's been a while since I last read Spider-Man, so I thought I would catch up on him by reading Spider-Man 550... .
Well, not too much seems to have changed. It's not like they did anything weird or drastic with him, like marry him off , replace him with someone else, or have his secret identity exposed.
He does seem to have graduated from high school, though he still has that bizarre love-hate thing with Flash Thompson, the jock who he either wants to become or to marry.
Only two things seem to have changed, really. First, Peter Parker appears to have had lasik. That's good; I could never figure whether Spider-Man was running around half blind or whether he took his mask to the optometrist and had prescription lenses put in. Second, the old lady hunchback is gone. Maybe she died? You'd think they'd make a story out of that instead of just having her be missing. I guess the Spider-Man editors don't care much about continuity.
Oh, a third thing: he's got a new boss at the newspaper. That's good; the old guy always seemed like a silly caricature from a long-gone era. This new guy is much more believable and modern. He has high standards for his own business conduct, but they're impersonal. He'll never yell at you or try to cheat you, but neither will he remember your name. Renaming the Daily Bugle the "DB" may seem silly, but it's pretty accurate. I remember when Young Miss became YM and Metro Weekly became MW (and, yeah, I read Young Miss; it's hilarious). As for the new boss, Dex Bennett, it's pretty goofy to make his initials the same as the paper's. Who's gonna name a magazine after themselves? Except, you know, Forbes. Or Oprah. Or Rosie. Okay, never mind that. But, really, it's typical Marvel heavy-handedness; I mean, why couldn't he do something subtler and more realistic, like build a gigantic office building in the shape of his initial?
Okay, so, bizarrely, Spider-Man is stunned that someone doesn't know what the Apollo is, but he has no idea what Lexis/Nexis is. Peter Parker, smart guy, science whiz, works at a fricking newspaper. Who later manages to use an anonymous internet server to send a tip to the police. We're supposed to believe he's never even heard of Lexis/Nexis.
From this I'm guessing that writer Mark Guggenheim is at least 65 years old. I also suspect, based on what seems to be intended as "humor" in much of the book, that he was reared by Catskills circuit comedians. Or maybe he's intentionally writing Spider-Man this way. It's almost as if this Spider-Man were from another time, long ago, like when Joe Quesada and I were just tykes.
"I'm an idiot." Hey, you said it, Spider-Man, not me. Spider-Man is apparently the world's worst detective. When he finds the building plans to the Apollo Theater at the bad guy's hideout, he doesn't even Google it to discover that the Mayoral Debate is being held there that week (sponsored by-- who else? -- his employer, the DB). As if he wouldn't already know that. Batman would know that already. Heck, Woozy Winks would know that already.
I very much appreciate that it has editor's notes, "Meanwhile" boxes, and the like. But it's really bizarre and annoying that they make metatextual references and directly address the reader. Why, it's almost as if the writers/editors thought comic books were for children!
The surrounding cast? Not so impressive. So there's a redhead female crimefighter who calls Spider-Man "Tiger". Oh, and she's codenamed ... wait for it ... "Jackpot". Uh-huh. More Marvel subtlety. Plus, there's YET STILL ANOTHER ADDITIONAL ONE MORE Goblin knockoff. With the Abstract Noun Codename that's been standard issue at Marvel for 20 or 30 years now. But, really, could it get worse than... Menace?!
It's got some good things going for it, though. A nice, fast pace, accomplished with numerous short scenes. Nice art with great coloring. Seems fairly accessible to the casual reader. It references Dazzler #5; Dazzler references are always worth a few points.