Review by Frank Plowright
During the time Spider-Man’s destiny was guided by a round table of writers, a long running subplot concerned the election of New York’s next Mayor, which attracted considerable super-villain interference, and Spider-Man being framed for multiple murders. All that comes to a head in Election Day. Among the matters to be resolved are who’ll actually win the election, and the identity of Menace, someone using stolen Green Goblin technology.
As amazing and spectacular as he is, possibly because he’s drawn so many comics, there still seems a tendency to underrate John Romita Jr. He’s an artist who’s the complete package. His pages have a dynamism, he knows what to emphasise, his storytelling is clarity personified, his people have a reality in and out of costumes and when he delivers a pin-up it’s peerless. Election Day is phenomenally well drawn. Barry Kitson supplies an explanatory chapter looking into someone’s background after a revelation, and can’t help but come off second best.
To begin with the writing keeps pace with the art, Guggenheim surprising early with a couple of revelations that turn everything on its head. That’s for Peter Parker, Spider-Man and others. Surely no-one following the continuity through from New Ways to Die or Crime and Punisher figured out the disclosures. However, once past those shocks Election Day starts tailing off. It is dramatic, but for the remainder of the story to have an emotional tension the revelations needed to be dropped early, and beyond them too much is just standard Spider-Man. Guggenheim also uses the device of having a pair of news reporters comment on events as they occur, and that quickly loses any charm.
An epilogue chapter features inconsistent art, meshing the detailed pen and ink pages of Patrick Olliffe with the more accomplished Fabrizio Fiorentino who’s not as keen on backgrounds. Olliffe must have been rushed as despite the detail, his work is nowhere near as good as elsewhere, featuring shaky figures and flat features. Readers at the time received a hell of a shock with regard to a supporting character otherwise not featured, but as Flash Thompson’s role in the Marvel universe has progressed considerably since, it no longer surprises.
Given the cover prominence of Barack Obama’s portrait there might be some expectation of a major role, but in fact he just features in one of a bunch of back-up strips by other creators. ‘Spidey Meets the President’ generated one hell of a lot of publicity on release, and Joe Biden also appears, here a bit sprightlier than he comes across in reality. It’s unmemorable from Zeb Wells, and Todd Nauck isn’t great with the likeness. Matt Fraction and Andy Macdonald’s contribution is a weird fantasy with a robot Abraham Lincoln, and Guggenheim supplies two back-ups feeding into his main story. The best of them has Marcos Martin illustrating a legal technicality after Spider-Man’s arrest.
Even with Romita’s art and discounting the back-ups, Election Day is a book that has its moments rather than thrilling from start to finish.