Title The Amazing Spider-Man #55
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: John Romita Jr.
Inks: Scott Hannah
This issue of The Amazing Spider-Man is rather slow thoughout the first half. With Pete/Spider-Man's first run in with Criminals being halfway through, as Peter. He then tracks them down toward the end as Spider-Man, but he has come to realize that the only reason they were able/willing to do what they were doing was because of something else he had done earlier as Spider-Man. I like where JMS is going with this.
The set-up is that Peter is late to school (as usual, odd for a teacher, but yes, he manages it a lot) when he runs into a student who is on crutches and is late/on the verge of skipping herself. He does enough research to find out that the girl is in a Phys. Ed class she didn't want (like most of the ones I was in as a child) instead of HIS Honors Biology class due to a failing grade on an English Lit final the previous year.
Pete then goes all "Knight in Shining Armor" and arranges it with the coach that since she's on crutches and unable to particiapate anyway, he gets her permission to attend his class instead. She's less than thrilled when she sees who the teacher is, but only because he caught her that morning. Honors Bio really is the thing she needs to keep her from skipping any more.
After school Pete escorts young Melissa home, where we find some hoods ransacking her apartment. Pete, NOT Spider-Man, but Pete manages to "foil" them (basically they decide they aren't being paid enough to "rough anybody up" and split, leaving at least MOST of Melissa and her Mom's possessions behind. Pete helps take stuff back and "meets the Mom" he also learns that part of their trouble is that "That vigilante creep Spider-Man nabbed" her big brother Jack "a few months ago for supposedly stealing a car."
Pete tracks down the hoods to their hideout where we find out the landlord had hired them because Melissa's Mom was a few days late on rent. Great thing to do to your tenants, no?
This leaves Pete pondering the whole "What happens to the families of the bad guys I take out" question. Seems to me to be an interesting setup, although, the final surprise, may be the best. It seems that Ezekiel is back in town. Pete runs into him on a rooftop and poses his question "if they're [the bad guys] not around to take care of those families... what happens to them? Who looks after them?" which Ezekiel answers as only he can "Good question. I'll try to find a good answer" and disappears. Leaving Pete with still more on his mind, AND, leaving the reader with promise of good things to come, from both Pete and Ezekiel...
That said, this is a transition issue. I LOVE Romita's art, and I've been thrilled with JMS's stories. This issue is one of the lowest I'd score an Amazing lately, and it's still at a seven. The art is beautiful as usual, and the story is tight. It's just not a big action story, it is set-up. Set-up for what I expect to be Beautiful Things to come...