The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #23 was the twenty-third annual of Marvel's flagship Amazing Spider-Man comic, published in 1989. It was part of Marvel's "Atlantis Attacks" storyline, as well as featuring several back-up stories. It was written by Gerry Conway, scripted by David Micheline and was pencilled by Rob Liefeld, in what was apparently his first full Marvel issue. (Also, the credits list one inker for the first 24 pages, and four separate inkers to ink the last six pages, making me think someone got behind deadline). The cover was also drawn by John Byrne. Conway, Micheline and Byrne are generally considered to be some of the top comic talents of the 1980s, while Liefeld is generally considered to be Liefeld.

The story is part of the "Atlantis Attacks" storyline, where the Serpent Crown attempts to start a war between Atlantis and the Surface World. To do so, for reasons that aren't really explained, the Deviant High Priest Ghaur has the Hulk's foe The Abomination and wishes to do a mind switch, only after doing so, The Abomination is left a mindless brute and starts rampaging. Luckily, the She-Hulk and Spider-Man are both in the area and they fight the Abomination before he can do much damage. During the battle, She-Hulk is magically marked as a "Bride of Set", which comes into the "Atlantis Attacks" storyline later. After a brief battle, the Abomination is defeated.

So there was a couple of things wrong with this story. The first is that The Amazing Spider-Man doesn't have much to do in his own story, which can sometimes be a good thing, but here just means there is a slugfest between two characters while Spider-Man looks on. He doesn't get to use his wit or problem solving ability. She-Hulk, who could be a witty superheroine (especially in her Fourth Wall breaking version by John Byrne), is also given nothing to do here. As they fight against a villain who is literally mindless. There is no connection between the plot elements besides a coincidence of the characters being in the same place, leading to an unoriginal fistfight. Which doesn't even touch on Liefeld's art. There are several times I have started reading something written or drawn by Liefeld, and I can almost think: "This isn't that bad", and I can see the talent that Liefeld had. Then, usually about a half dozen pages in, I realize that no, it really is that bad. I actually do believe Liefeld has talent, there is a type of off-balance feeling in his art that draws a viewer in. Until it gives the viewer a headache. Characters pose dramatically, but it is without reference to what is going on around them. Liefeld (who was never a regular Spider-Man artist, as far as I know) draws Spider-Man in an angular, sharp way that gives some hint of his flexibitly, but ends up making Spider-Man look cramped. The art makes a splash at first, but soon everything is too stylized to make sense.

At times, Marvel placing characters in new combinations can lead to novel story possibliities. And adding characters into larger plots can be interesting to long-time readers. But here, the story seems thrown together, and it robs Spider-Man of his most endearing qualities: his charm, wit, and personal touch.