Spoilers in review

As this volume opens, Spider-Man has a few problems on his plate. He supported Tony Stark until deciding that the treatment meted out to those opposing compulsory registration of superheroes was unmerited. The superheroes that did endorse the idea won the argument, and having revealed his identity to the world live on TV makes hiding very difficult. Far worse, though, is opening up his relations to acts of revenge from those with an axe to grind. At the end of Spider-Man’s Civil War collection his Aunt May was shot.

The title indicates the solution to one problem, ditching the hi-tech armoured costume Stark designed for Spider-Man and reverting to the black costume he’d worn briefly before. The black is a clever symbolic touch representing mood, and a disguise prompting a measure of doubt as to whether it’s Spider-Man or not. It’s a driven Spider-Man who hunts down the assassin, and the trail leads back to the Kingpin, currently in jail.

Writer J. Michael Straczynski applied different writing styles to Spider-Man and this is his seat of the pants, page turning, thriller mode. All events play out against May Parker’s worsening condition, frequently referenced, and a problem other than revenge is an ability to cover the costs of her treatment. The eventual confrontation with the Kingpin is a stunning piece of work, taking place in the jail for maximum impact. With that dealt with, the final chapter lacks costumes or villains, but is equally compelling.

Ron Garney’s artistic strength is the clarity of his layouts. There’s never a doubt as to what’s taking place, and if he’s not a great stylist, neither is he deficient. This is the penultimate volume of Straczynski’s Spider-Man arc, which concludes in One More Day.