I have talked many times before, online and in person, about how much I love David Marquez on this book. Don't get me wrong, Sara Pichelli is amazing, too, but Marquez has a certain ineffable something that just clicks with me. That tradition continues here, where he ages up the characters convincingly (maybe they look two years older instead of one, but that's a tough argument to make) and draws a strong, emotionally-wrought issue with his usual care and attention. There is so much life to his characters, warmth in their expressions, even when they are at their saddest. And there's a heaping plate of sadness in this issue, for Miles and those around him, but Marquez makes a smart choice in not going too dark or brooding with the visuals. He lets the strength of his characters' expressions work on their own without needing to cast everything in shadow and gloom. This is a more grounded sadness, a more human depression, and the art represents that.
There's not a lot of action in the issue, but Marquez does those few moments of it well. I especially liked Miles in his hoodie and backpack climbing a building in a huff. And of course the last page, which I guess I won't spoil but has already been spoiled if you've seen the cover for issue #24. Whatever, the point is it looks awesome and has characters I am really stoked to see Marquez handle next time. He doesn't stray too far from their normal Marvel U look, but that is a smart call for this particular pair, I think. They have a distinct and recognizable look, so why mess with that?
Brian Michael Bendis has a lot of strong dialogue in this issue, but that's really all there is to it. In classic Bendis fashion, this is an issue largely devoid of plot. There is story, things happens that matter, and seeds are even planted for plots that I'm sure will crop up down the line. But nothing really changes here, and the new threat, such as it is, isn't introduced until the final few pages. From the beginning of the comic until then, this could be summarized as, "Miles talks to various people about his past as Spider-Man but refuses to face it entirely or return to the costume."
And that's perfectly fine. If you're going to start with a "One Year Later" banner, it makes sense to take a breather issue and catch the reader up. And it's important to know that, for the last year, anyway, Miles has kept his promise to himself not to be Spider-Man anymore. I always like his conversations with Ganke and his Dad, and Bendis writes a strong Spider-Woman, too, who chooses her words carefully to make her case. She clearly cares a lot about Miles and understands his reasons to stay out of the game, but she also sees it as his responsibility to use his powers for good, as she and her ilk do. A simple and predictable point of view, but also an important conversation for Miles to have, a significant person for him to turn down. It's one thing to say no to Ganke, and another entirely to say it to Spider-Woman.
So this is Bendis as the top of his idle chatter game, but at the end of the day, it's still idle chatter. And for every line of actual importance, there is at least one of purely filler conversation, too, which slows things down and makes the issue as a whole feel light.
Basically, this is exactly what you'd expect a Bendis-Marquez hiatus issue to look and feel like. A good and gorgeous read, but thin.