Stillanerd Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1, Part One

“Worldwide”
Written by Dan Slott
Pencils by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks by Cam Smith
Colors by Marte Garcia
Covers by Alex Ross; Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy and Nolan Woodard; J. Scott Campbell and Nei Ruffino; Giuseppe Camuncoli and Marte Garcia; Mike del Mundo; Ryan Sook; Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado; Gameloft with Trevor Cook; and Aaron Rivin and Judy Stevens
Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics

Stillanerd’s Score:

3 out of 5

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This review covers the main story in Amazing Spider-Man #1.

can Spider-Man still be considered Marvel’s every-man if he’s also Marvel’s version of the next Steve Jobs? The answer, predictably, is both yes and no.

Spider-Man is never supposed to have it easy. His being a superhero doesn’t make the challenges and struggles of everyday living automatically go away. Despite having powers and a genius-level IQ, Peter Parker makes just enough money to get by, isn’t always appreciated or adored by the public, and he doesn’t always get the girl, much less a date for Friday night. This is why, along with being “the world’s greatest superhero” he is also “the hero who could be you.” Or rather this is the take on Spider-Man Marvel has sold their readers on for over fifty years. So leave it to writer Dan Slott to upend this very concept with the (fourth) comic book relaunching of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Taking place several months after the events of Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #18, Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1 shows us that Parker Industries, the start-up company Peter “inherited” from Doctor Octopus in Superior Spider-Man, has become an international mega-corporation; furthermore, in a page out of the Iron Man comics, Peter, as Spider-Man, acts as his own personal bodyguard and company mascot to hide his secret identity. Instead of being confined to New York City, Spidey travels the globe to places like Shanghai and San Francisco, working with S.H.I.E.L.D. to hunt down members of the terrorist organization, Zodiac. Instead of having to always rely on swinging from building-to-building, he now drives a sleek new car which might as well be the Batmobile were it not for its “transforming” capabilities to have mechanical arachnid-like legs. And instead of always being strapped for cash, Peter can now afford to buy expensive suits and fly around on private jets, while still having plenty to create charitable foundations in honor of his Uncle Ben and rename his technical institute as a wedding present to his former Horizon Labs boss, Max Modell.

AmazingSpider-Man(2015)#1--p14

Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1

And there lies the dilemma Slott has placed himself in: can Spider-Man still be considered Marvel’s every-man if he’s also Marvel’s version of the next Steve Jobs? The answer, predictably, is both yes and no.

Despite having a new costume, a new Spider-Mobile and some very cool new webbing, Slott shows Peter, as Spider-Man, to be the same wisecracking superhero fans have come to know and love. Or rather a Spider-Man we haven’t seen in the regular series for years. Because Slott gives a Spider-Man who is intelligent, confident, strategic and—best of all—competent. Even while the Wall-Crawler is busy making quips and pop cultural references which get on the nerves of both villains and allies alike, he’s still has enough nerve to stand-up to the likes of Nick Fury. This, along with his interactions with his S.H.I.E.L.D. liaison, Mockingbird, shows us Spider-Man has become far more comfortable in taking on a leadership role. Moreover, Spider-Man has adopted a more practical approach and outlook to crime-fighting, that while he’s still willing to save bad guys whenever possible, he openly admits that his vow of “no one dies on my watch” was an “impossible goal.” In that single moment, one cannot help but think Slott, through Spider-Man, is apologizing to the reader for what was a short-sighted creative decision from earlier in his run.

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Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1

What Slott doesn’t seem to realize is that calling attention the “Poor Man’s Tony Stark” criticisms to lampshade them doesn’t automatically negate those criticisms. If anything, Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1 reinforces them.

But if Slott is effective in convincing us this is still the same Spider-Man in spite of his changes, he unfortunately misses wide of the mark when trying to do the same with Peter Parker, billionaire scientist and philanthropist. First, he has Peter claim he’s really not that rich because he’s chosen to give himself the same salary as someone in middle management, even though he’s still wealthy enough to buy tailor-made suits and travel the world in his own private jet. He tries to show Peter still has the “good ‘ol Parker Luck” by having him unknowingly with his fly unzipped during a press conference, but only succeeds in its desperation. And in what can only be interpreted an obvious attempt to blunt his critics, Slott has the press accuse Peter of being a “Poor man’s Tony Stark.” But what Slott doesn’t seem to realize is that calling attention to those criticisms to lampshade them doesn’t automatically negate those criticisms. If anything, Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1 reinforces them. By becoming rich and successful, Peter has also been robbed of his uniqueness as a character. Take everything that’s Spider-Man out of the equation in this issue, and Peter’s just another young, hip, politically progressive “benevolent boss” wish-fulfillment, a bland facsimile of Oliver Queen from Arrow minus the brooding and five o’clock shadow. Which I guess makes him Brandon Routh’s Ray Palmer, the other “Poor man’s Tony Stark.”

This blandness also extends to the supporting characters, as well. Having Peter reunite with his Horizon Labs colleagues from “Big Time” during Modell and his partner, Hector Baez’s, gay wedding isn’t the celebratory occasion the comic wants because almost of all those characters were flat and under-developed to begin with. In addition, the new characters (including the engineer of the new Spider-Mobile who’s strongly hinted at being Peter’s new girlfriend) make no genuine impressions whatsoever. Only the return of Hobie Brown, a.k.a. The Prowler, has any real significance and bearing on the story. Yet while having Peter hire Hobie to pose as his substitute Spider-Man serves a nice tribute to the classic Stan Lee and John Romita Sr. stories, it also makes him no different from James Rhodes, thus making the accusations that Peter has become a “Poor man’s Tony Stark” even more correct.

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Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1

What isn’t dull are Slott’s energetic, fast-paced action scenes enhanced by Giuseppe Camuncoli’s wonderfully crisp and detailed penciling.

What isn’t dull are Slott’s energetic, fast-paced action scenes enhanced by Giuseppe Camuncoli’s wonderfully crisp and detailed penciling. Aided by Cam Smith’s Inks and Marte Garcia’s coloring, Camuncoli’s illustrations have a genuine pop and vibrancy, with the opening chase sequence in particular being a genuine stand-out in both clarity and composition. A close second is when, during the attack by Zodiac’s Pisces at Modell and Hector’s wedding, panels of Hobie disguised as Spider-Man fighting the terrorists are next to panels Peter, forced to watch from the sidelines, reacting to fight as if watching a boxing match. Camuncoli also doesn’t just display a talent for creating a sense of movement, but for also drawing characters with realistic emotional responses. We haven’t seen this level of quality from him since Superior Spider-Man’s “Goblin Nation,” so if Marvel wanted to attract readers towards their “All-New, All-Different” Amazing Spider-Man on the basis of the art alone, then Camuncoli has proved an ideal and inspired choice.

But pretty pencil work and high energy aside, my reaction towards the main story from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1 is still a mixed. It’s fun, entertaining and, at times, creative, but the downside is Slott’s changes to Spider-Man have made him no different from Batman in all but name, costume and personality. Also, based on the last two pages of the main story, Slott has already planted the seeds for Parker Industries’ eventual downfall, and the last panel cliffhanger shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Still, I have enough curiosity to see where Slott will take “Peter Starker” and “Spider-Man Inc.,” especially if he also uses this as opportunity to explore how Peter deals with his increased level of responsibility. Doesn’t make me stop counting the days until “the hero who could be you” Peter Parker returns.

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (spoilers ahead)

  • AmazingSpider-Man(2015)#1--p1

    Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1

    Don’t worry, folks. Peter does not have that awful looking mullet in the comic like he does on the Alex Ross cover. And speaking of covers…

  • I’m sorry to all you collectors and speculators out there, but having so many variant covers for another first issue is flat-out ridiculous. Even though this will also guarantee that Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1 will make to the top 10 comics for this month…if not the top five.
  • “WebWare…bringing you affordable internet access with clear reception and unlimited data. Anywhere on Earth.” In other words, Mr. Parker, you’ve invented a glorified version of the Apple Watch, with the only difference being it’s also the size of an iPod Touch. Not exactly cutting edge technology considering there are already smartphones with wristband attachments out on the market.
  • So Peter is now so famous, kids from all over the world are using “Parker-Scoping” instead of “Para-scoping” when taking live internet video feed? Somebody explain to me how him being an international celebrity makes him an everyman again?
  • You know, I think the Auto-tune gag probably would be funnier you know, we could actually hear what it sounds like. Then again, why does Peter even have an auto-tune function in the Spider-Mobile? Is it because he’s driving an automobile? And why does he feel the need for a theme song? Is it because it’s chasing someone? Is because his car looks like Bruce Wayne’s ride? Is he trying to sing the theme from the Batman TV show with different lyrics? Besides, I thought Spidey already had his own theme song.
  • “It’s easy. Like riding a bike. Upside down. At eighty-eight miles per hour.” Okay, not sure what a reference to Back to the Future (1985) has anything to do with driving upside down other than you’re driving a car, Spidey…which doesn’t look anything like a DeLorean, nor can it travel through time.
    So which gag Spider-Man made about the terrorist, Leo, was the best? Was it A) “That’d be you, Lion-O”? B) “Kraven’s nipples called, they want your face back”? Or C) “You’re not circle-of-life-ing on me, Mufasa.”?
  • Those who are curious about who Philip Chang is, he was a classmate of Peter’s during his time a grad student at the fictional Empire State University way back during the late 1970s and early 1980s, making occasional appearances in Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man in particular. Of course, the reason he came to the United States in the first place was because he was petty criminal in Hong Kong who got in trouble with the local Triad (a.k.a. The Chinese Mafia), so you wouldn’t working at Parker Industries’ Shanghai office wouldn’t be a safe career move. I guess in addition to offering their employees a living wage, Parker Industries also offers them really lucrative life insurance policies and 24 hour security protection.
  • Um, Peter? While it’s great you’re starting a new charity in honor of your hero and father-figure, Uncle Ben, why not call “The Ben Parker Foundation”? That was, after all, your uncle’s real name.
  • And look, Pete. I know you have a tendency to blame yourself, but when you say that you “helped destroy [Max Modell’s] company” after you just got through narrating how you “literally” wasn’t you because Doc Ock switched brains with you, then you’re not actually guilty of helping to destroy Max’s company, are you?
  • “Reilly. Room 30. Crusher Hogan.” In case you don’t know, “Reilly” is both a reference to Peter’s clone, Ben Reilly, a.k.a. The first Scarlet Spider, and Aunt May’s maiden name. “Room 30” is where the Midtown High science exhibition took place where the radioactive spider bit Peter. And “Crusher Hogan” was Peter’s very first opponent back when he started off as a professional wrestler.
  • So after months conducting his own internal investigation, Peter has finally discovered that Sajani has collaborated with super-villains like The Black Cat and The Ghost in sabotaging company projects in order advance her own agenda. So he then does the logical, reasonable course of action and has her fired on the spot and turns her over to the authorities on charges ranging from corporate espionage to aiding known fugitives. Oh, wait—he doesn’t! Instead, Peter opts to give Sajani a stern talking to and let’s her go with a warning. All because the plot (or is it Slott?) demands it. Gee, I’m sure this isn’t all-too obviously going to come back and really screw Peter over when all is said and done, right?
  • Hmm…based on the last panel, I think we should start calling The Living Brain “The Superior Living Brain,” don’t you?