Amazing Spider-Man #603 review

The Chameleon is working for a Taliban offshoot and aims to strike a blow at the heart of New York, by planting a dirty bomb in the city's anti-terrorism unit. In order to access the security systems he's disguised himself as a member of the Mayor's photo unit, one Peter Parker.

I've always enjoyed Day in the Life issues and this is one such with a difference. There's no Spider-Man action here, Peter is . . . indisposed . . . and as the Chameleon doesn't know he's Spidey, it's all Peter. But it's a twisted Peter, as the Chameleon messes with the heads and hearts of his loved ones.

I don't want to say too much, as this book demands to be read by anyone with even a passing interest in Spider-Man. We've seen how people think of Peter previously, but always filtered back through his perspective. Here there's no Peter to temper the Chameleon's guesses as to his character, and some of his conclusions are pretty hard-hitting - but not totally off the mark.

Then there's the way he plays headgames with Peter's friends. What happens with landlady Michelle and former love Mary Jane are bad enough, but I was actually shocked by the scene with Flash Thompson. And a visit to Flushing Cemetery has him planning likely worse. Without deliberately trying, the Chameleon - scary for the first time - is going to wreak havoc with the life of his greatest enemy.

Kudos to the Web-Heads story brainstormers and editors for this issue, one of the most original for years, and especially writer Fred Van Lente for bringing the ideas to life. Penciller Robert Atkins is new to me, and he does a good job, aided by inker Victor Olazaba. At times they make 'Peter's eyes extra-hooded, a wink that it's the Chameleon wearing a mask.

I'm also impressed that, so close to 9/11, Marvel is putting out a storyline dealing so overtly with Taliban terrorism; it's been addressing America's security from the POV of an avowed enemy, but it's no propaganda piece.

This is the third part of the Red-Headed Stranger story marking the return of Mary Jane Watson, but you can jump right in courtesy of the recap page and smart script. The only thing I'd change would be the covers, which have all had MJ to the fore. This week's, by Stephane Roux, is the best so far (the others had MJ off-model/borderline freaky), but I'd rather have something pertaining to the drama that's at the forefront of the storyline - the Chameleon's plans. That apart, this is a five-star read.