Character Driven Story
The Back in Black storyline finally comes to a close. Some people didn't like the idea because it was obviously trying to tie in to the Spider-Man 3 movie, while others where disappointed that the black costume was just a costume, and not the alien symbiote. After a few issues the black costume was no longer a factor for the story. Although it did fit the "darker" Peter Parker as he was driven to the breaking point, it was hardly the focal point of the arc. Issue #542 seemed to have a logical conclusion to this arc, and one had to wonder what else is there to tell...
This issue doesn't involve any super-villains, or huge battles. Instead we get Peter Parker forced to deal with Aunt May's situation directly, now that he's run out of people to punch. Some readers might miss what JMS is doing here. Spider-Man has always been able to deal with his problems by fighting the bad guy, but here there is no bad guys left. While Mary Jane has a more realistic view of what needs to be done, Peter refuses to believe that there is nothing he can do to save May. He is pushed even further then before, because it's no longer a question of how far will he go to punish the people responsible... now it's a question of what can he do if anything at all? It does feel a little heavy handed when Parker compares himself to the criminals he's fought before, and counts the felony's he's doing... however his actions in this issue would have been enough. Some readers might think this is all pointless and just want to get to the next big Spider-Man event in One More Day, but those will miss this as a great character driven story.
I do believe this is Ron Garney's last issue on ASM. He will be missed as this was one of his best issues. A lot of focus was on the emotions of Peter Parker and Mary Jane, and he was able to pull of the frustration, anger and sadness in both characters perfectly. Hopefully Garney won't be simply remembered simply as "that guy who drew Spider-Man after John Romita Jr.".