dobson's The Amazing Spider-Man #403 - The Trial of Peter Parker, Part 2 of 4: Savage Judgement! review

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Bagley Art Can't Save a Mess

This issue reminds me of the B:TAS episode "The Trial" that came out the year before, where Batman's villains put the hero on trial. While the Batman version of this trial was built around showing that Batman’s not responsible for his villains and shows an antagonist coming to respect him, this issue is nominally about Spider-Man recognizing something good in Kaine, a mystery character who at the time was best known for popping up unexpectedly and murdering dudes. The issue doesn’t really address whether or not Spidey really is responsible for some of these things, as the story is continually interrupted by pointless fights that don’t get resolved. This is part 2 of 4 of the “trial of Peter Parker,” and feels the most like a fill-in of the 4, since we only get about one page of Pete’s murder trial, which is presented with far less accuracy than an episode of Law and Order. Basing a 4 part story around an OJ Simpson-style murder trial is stupid, of course, since murder trials are inherently less exciting than actual comic book action, but that’s a whole other problem.

It’s also hard to deny that Traveller is just not a good Spider-Man villain. Right now he’s this ill-defined cosmic force that keeps messing with Spider-Man for no apparent reason, just to test how nobly Spider-Man reacts to some weird dude messing with him for no apparent reason. While I do sort of miss a few of these 90’s villains, I’m glad we never saw Traveller after 1997 or so.

On the other hand, Bagley’s pencils are strong, and he does what he can to add some dynamism to an issue that is about not one but two trials, which is about as talking head-centric as you can get. My favorite bits are Carnage leaping back and forth to the witness stand, and Traveller showing his reality-warping powers by turning himself into a giant. Also, this being 1995, the editing is pretty sloppy, from mis-spelling “labeled” to getting Carrion and Carnage’s alter ego last names wrong, it makes the whole issue feel a bit more amateurish.

All in all, it's a pretty below average issue from the book that had always been the flagship Spidey title. The writing is basically nonsensical, the editing is not great, and the pencils are above average but not all that exciting.

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