Stillanerd Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #10

Secrets are revealed in the second chapter of “Scorpio Rising,” while  Spider-Man keeps getting too much help from his friends.

As much as I’ve been critical of Dan Slott’s tenure on Amazing Spider-Man, when it comes to setting things into motion or foreshadowing upcoming events, he does know what he’s doing. Be it a single panel or a line of dialogue, what once seemed so inconsequential winds up being a very crucial several issues later, and once minor plot points end up having, on occasion, big payoffs. With the benefit of hindsight, you can go back through several issues and see how point A connects with point B, then connects with point C, and so on. Where the problems arise is the way Slott advances from point A to point B to point C. Thus with Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #10 and second part of “Scorpio Rising,” while we begin to see Slott’s long-term planning is coming to fruition, how he’s arrived (or rather stumbled) towards fulfilling these plans is another matter.

Take for instance this issue’s main plot: after his free fall to Paris from space last issue (and yes, that moment is still complete nonsense), an already injured Spider-Man can barely hold his own against Scorpio. But just as the Zodiac’s leader is about finish Spider-Man off for good, convenience in the form of the Gemini twins’ prophecy steps in to save the day, forcing Scorpio to stay his hand and escape. But not before Spider-Man is able to plant a spider-tracer on him. This then leads to Spider-Man, with the help of Anna Maria Marconi and The Living Brain (really Doctor Octopus’ mind inside the robot’s body) pursuing Zodiac in a Mission: Impossible (1996) style chase sequence through the Chunnel, culminating in a fight on top of a high-speed railway. But although this sequence is exciting and visually impressive, also ends up being superfluous. Why? Because after Scorpio gets away again, Doc Ock reminds Spider-Man that the whole reason he made his trip to space last issue was to locate Scorpio’s hideout, which is where he, Anna Maria, and Doc Ock head to next. Which means the comic could have just as easily had them go there after Scorpio’s escape and skip the high-speed rail chase entirely.

Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #10
…logic is of secondary importance for this issue compared to the revelations Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man has been teasing and building towards these past months.

Then again, logic is of secondary importance for this issue compared to the revelations Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man has been teasing and building towards these past months.  So it’s with this comic that Peter learns Scorpio’s real identity, his connection to Parker Industries, and how the company has been unknowingly bankrolling all of Zodiac’s terrorist activities. We also finally get an inkling as to how Parker Industries became such a global enterprise despite being on the verge of bankruptcy at the end of Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #18, and surprise! Peter had nothing to do with it. There’s also the suggestion that Peter Parker could lose “everything [he’s] built” if he stops Scorpio, though at this point, it’s doubtful Peter will lose Parker Industries this soon.  Moreover, we also get a couple of interludes involving the mysterious man the red suit and the Rhino breaking The Lizard and a powerless Electro out of prison, which would be intriguing had Marvel not released all those “Dead No More” teasers beforehand.

The comic also falls back into an unfortunate, all-too familiar pattern during Slott’s run, which is that Spider-Man, a superhero who once took pride in his independence, is almost incapable of doing anything by himself to the point of incompetence, whether it be figuring things out or getting out of trouble.  Not that the comic starts out that way.  Having run of out regular web-fluid, his new costume in tatters, no spider-vehicles at his beck-and-call, and Scorpio’s ready to blast him into smithereens, Spider-Man gets his second-wind, boasts how “he’s still Spider-Man” even without the aid of his gadgets and tech, and proceeds to whoop Scorpio’s butt.  Clearly, Slott is addressing criticism over how his Spider-Man seems to have just the right gadget or webbing to save the day by showing the real reason he’s “the world’s greatest superhero.” Except all this becomes moot moments later when, just as Spider-Man is again at Scorpio’s mercy, the people of France stand together in unison to protect him in a moment which seems lifted straight out of Spider-Man 2 (2004).

Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11
It’s one thing for Spider-Man to have allies and to ask them for help, but it’s quite another when it becomes such a crutch that he has no agency of his own anymore.

In fact anytime Spider-Man even attempts to do anything on his own, he ends up failing until being helped by someone else. This is especially the case with Spider-Man’s unknowing partnership with Doc Ock who, with his subtle manipulation and condescension towards his nemesis masked by the whirs and clicks of the Living Brain’s mock gentle servitude, gets the best characterization by far.  Moreover, it’s Doc Ock who’s crucial in steering Spider-Man in the right direction, and even saves Anna Maria when Spider-Man is out of reach. Anna Maria herself also provides Peter so much aid that it makes it appears as though he’s incapable of functioning without her.  For instance, when Anna Maria tells Spider-Man the high-speed rail is moving at “300 km/h,” he retorts “in English.” Which means Spider-Man, an well-established scientific genius and therefore someone who should know about the metric system (since all scientists, including American ones, use it as universal system of measurement), somehow cannot convert kilometers per hour to miles per hour, even though he just performed complex physics equations in his head to do his free fall to Paris in the last issue. By the time Spider-Man calls upon his “Genius-Web,” i.e. every major supporting character employed by Parker Industries, to study Scorpio’s lair to determine where he might be heading and what his plans are, one sees just how overdependent Slott has made him. It’s one thing for Spider-Man to have allies and to ask them for help, but it’s quite another when it becomes such a crutch that he has no agency of his own anymore.

It also doesn’t help that Scorpio is a weak villain, ironically because he also relies too much on others. The Gemini twins’ ability to see 24 hours into the future determine all of Scorpio’s actions, so much so that Slott’s dialogue makes them seem as if the twins are the ones in charge.  And after being reminded once again that Gemini’s precognitive abilities aren’t foolproof, it’s evident they’ll be key to his downfall; that and his apparent unlimited access into Parker Industries in order to carry out his operations (which also raises the question about why he even needed Lian Tang as his spy within the company at all).  Apart from this, Scorpio is far too overrated to have been the primary foil for Spider-Man during this current volume. If you look past his whole astrology gimmick, he amounts to nothing more than a second-rate Norman Osborn or Rodrick Kingsley, just another wealthy, insane businessperson who likes playing dress-up.

Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11

At least Slott’s quick and steady pacing allows for Giuseppe Camuncoli the opportunity to illustrate more dramatic, energetic visuals.  The scenes in the Chunnel are effective in simulating rapid acceleration and movement, giving Camuncoli the opportunity to show off some cinematic-looking angles, along with some very skilled use of foreshortening.  It’s also a comic which allows Marte Gracia to really flex his digital coloring and lighting effects muscles, as we get what is perhaps the most vibrant-looking issue of Amazing Spider-Man since the start of the relaunch.  The downside is whenever Camuncoli isn’t depicting motion, that’s when the inconsistencies in his art start to surface. In some panels, Anna Maria is only tall enough to come up to Peter’s waist, while in others the top of her head can reach his shoulder. Sometimes Scorpio looks about as muscular as your average costumed comic book character, while in others his head and arms look disproportionate compared to the rest of his body. Still, the art is crisp and clear, even if it’s also rudimentary.

On its surface, Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #10 isn’t bad or inoffensive, but it’s also shallow, popcorn fare. It’s clear “Scorpio Rising” will be the finale of the Parker Industries vs. The Zodiac story, but it’s nowhere near as epic in scope when compared to what Slott was building towards in past stories like “Spider-Island,” “Ends of the Earth,” and “Goblin Nation.”  If it didn’t have such a lackluster, stereotypical antagonist, and if had seen the rise of Parker Industries as an international conglomerate first hand instead jumping ahead “eight months later,” then maybe the stakes involved would carry far more weight. But at least Slott is starting to explain what happened and is tying things together. Just so long as you don’t pay any attention to how his knots look.

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (spoilers ahead)

  • Nice of the comic to remember Spider-Man has some rudimentary martial arts training from Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu, back when Peter temporarily lost his spider-sense in the lead-up to “Spider-Island.”
  • Hey Spider-Man? Just because you don’t have “normal webbing” to save the bystanders doesn’t mean you couldn’t use your “special webbing” to save them.  You could use your “acid webbing” to melt the cars, or use your “concrete webs” to grapple the cars and yank them away. But no, I guess the plot demands you be more “heroic” by leaping into the cars path.
  • Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #11

    Vous etes les bienvenus, Anna Maria.” Hey, Doc Ock? Even though what you said literally translates as “You are welcome,” that’s not the correct way to say “you’re welcome” in French when someone says, “merci beaucoup” (“thank you very much”). You should instead be saying “Je t’en prie.” Or, since you’re very close to Anna Maria, you can also tell her “Il n’y a pas de quoi,” “pas de quoi,” “de rein,” or “C’est moi.” Only French Canadians ever use “vous etes les bienvenus,” or rather just plain “bienvenus,” to mean “you’re welcome” in that context. But in France, “vous etes les bienvenus” is akin to how one uses “you are welcome” as a formal greeting, like “You are welcome to our home, good sir,” or “You are welcome to try this tasty wine and cheese,” etc. And not only are you using the wrong response, you’re using the incorrect gender forms. It’s not “vous etes les beinvenus” but “vous etes la bienvenue” since Anna Maria is a woman, not a man, and she’s the only person you’re speaking to. Next time, brush up on your basic French phrases, and don’t rely so much on Google Translate.

  • “…the whole time I was out, not one of you tried to peek under my mask.” Probably because there’s not that much of your mask left, Pete. They can already tell you’re some white guy from America with brown hair and brown eyes.
  • So here’s the question? Is Spider-Man saying “Allons-y!” because he’s in France, or is it because Dan Slott loves his Doctor Who references? Although, who doesn’t love Doctor Who?
  • “Ain’t nothing I haven’t seen before, Pete.” Oh, right, Anna Maria has seen Peter naked….back when Doc Ock took over Peter’s body during Superior Spider-Man….and slept with Anna Maria…on a regular basis. And Peter and Anna Maria still aren’t traumatized or disturbed by this why?!
  • Looks like the fabric of Scorpio’s costume is the same as Spider-Man’s new “armored costume.” Almost as if they’re woven from a certain kind of nanotechnology pioneered by Doc Ock. Nanomachines he could control? Nah! That’s not an important detail for later, I’m sure. Also, since we’ve seen Peter’s costume reform itself in the past, why couldn’t it repair itself?
  • Oh, so now the laws of classical mechanics work! Because when Spider-Man hurled through the Earth’s atmosphere during his free fall to Paris, he had no problem enduring the tremendous amount of g-forces and extreme temperatures exerted on his body. But a train moving at a mere 186 mph? Why that’s just too much for our hero! And only on this same train can he not shoot his webbing against train’s drag, even though this didn’t prevent from creating a web-ball around himself last time when he was traveling over the speed of sound during his free fall.  Proof that in the Marvel Universe, physics are only as consistent as the plot demands.
  • And why would you ever need to sing “Little Bunny Foo Foo,” Spider-Man? Because last time I checked, you don’t have any kids, what with Marvel seeing fit to take them away from you all the time.
  • “I’m guessing you can’t get a good shot either.” Doesn’t look as though Scorpio is having that problem to me, Spidey, as the air resistance is not only in his favor, you’re barely clinging to the train making it harder to dodge even with your spider-sense and enhanced agility. I guess you thought since physics are now working against you, they’d work against him, too?
  • Scorpio? I seriously doubt Spider-Man heard you over the sound of the train, the collapsing concrete from above the tunnel, and the crash of Anna Maria’s flying car, all while you are moving away very fast in the opposite direction. Especially since both you and Spider-Man had to yell at one another to be heard beforehand.
  • Okay, for those who still aren’t convinced that the mysterious man in the red suit isn’t Miles Warren, a.k.a. The Jackal, notice how you can tell, even from behind, that he’s wearing glasses?
  • Even when it comes to interactive holograms, it seems blue means “good” and red (or this case, orange) means “evil.”
  • Hmmm…so despite being a “failing start-up,” stock in Parker Industries just “suddenly spiked one day when everyone else tumbled” according to Mr. Jacobs. Sounds to me as though someone may have manipulated the stock market by hacking into their computer networks. Just like someone also hacked into London’s CCTV systems to reprogram the feed using Doc Ock’s nanomachines. Why it would take a Superior intellect to pull that off, a Living Brain you might say! But again, I’m sure is will not lead to Doc Ock using his access to Parker Industries nanotech to save the day, right? Right?!