When even Miles Morales is calling his mentor, Spider-Man, a “jackass” and a “man-child,” you know there’s a serious problem.
In my Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #12 review, I said how one of the reasons I liked the issue was because Dan Slott appeared to acknowledge a point of criticism made about his current run, that Peter Parker really had turned himself into a second-rate Tony Stark. It showed Slott was very much aware of fan complaints about Peter becoming a CEO of his own multi-national company robbed him of what made him a unique superhero in the first place, and it seemed to reassure us there was a legitimate, story-driven point behind this. However, after posting my review, I received a few comments which reminded me of something I pointed out during my review for Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1: just because a writer calls attention to criticisms about their stories within their stories doesn’t automatically negate those criticisms. Especially if the writer doesn’t really do anything to prove those criticisms wrong. And oh boy, is Slott’s latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man guilty of doing exactly that.
As in part one of “Power Play,” Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #13 continues the notion that Peter is growing increasingly jealous of Tony Stark, whether it’s “stealing” Mary Jane Watson by hiring her as his personal assistant, or butting into where he “doesn’t belong,” or “undermining” Peter at every opportunity. Here, Spider-Man gets upset over what he thinks is Tony “stealing” his protegee, Miles Morales (despite Miles being a fellow Avenger along with Tony), and gets even more annoyed once he learns Tony modified the web-shooters Peter gave Miles because of it’s “terrible design work.” But the last straw for Peter, and which brings to two heroes to blows, is when Tony offers Spider-Man a job at Stark Industries, saying how “it’s only a matter of time” until “Parker Industries crashes” because Peter “is not cut out for [running] a global company.”
Now you could argue that Tony, in his typical mannerisms and demeanor, is just being a jerk to Peter; or that he’s jealous himself over how well Parker Industries is doing compared to Stark Industries. You might even make the case for how Tony saying “Everyone knows [Peter] is going to screw up” is Slott subverting reader expectations via making Tony a mouthpiece for cynical, know-it-all comic book fans. Except a few pages earlier, Slott shows Peter openly ducking out a company meeting—one in which an employee tries to remind him about an upcoming deal worth billions of dollars, no less–in order keep his “playdate” with Miles as Spider-Man. Slott also has Peter think to himself how hard it is running his own company while being a superhero (while making a forced, clumsy analogy of how it’s like being back in high school all over again) and that “everything makes sense” when he’s web-slinging. In other words, Slott is proving Tony correct: Peter really can’t handle running his own company. The hero who prides himself on being responsible is doing everything he can to avoid responsibility. And worst of all, Peter knows that’s what he’s doing because he thinks “I’m disappointing an entire corporation” only to then think, “Put is aside, Parker.” So who’s the real jerk here? The guy who points out the brutal-but-honest truth? Or the guy who assaults someone because, to quote Jack Nicholson from A Few Good Men, he can’t handle the truth?
Also, Peter having the gall to call Stark Industries a “mom-and-pop store?” Let’s not also forget that, as shown in Slott’ own Superior Spider-Man, Peter had zero hand in earning his doctorate and creating Parker Industries. Nor did Peter, as hinted in Slott’s own Amazing Spider-Man (2015) # 10, even transform Parker Industries from a struggling start-up into a Fortune 500 company. In other words, Slott has Spider-Man–someone who literally had his fortune handed to him–belittling Iron Man–who legitimately made a name for himself based on his own talents, personal vision, and hard work–over how his company is bigger and more successful compared to Tony’s. I know I mentioned how hypocritical Spider-Man was in the last review, but this is taking it to a whole other level.
And although the story makes the claim Spider-Man and Iron Man are equally at fault, that both are being “reckless” (and thus bluntly reiterating an all but identical story beat from the last issue) and that their fight is pointless and stupid, the dialogue and actions shows the fight all on Spider-Man. He’s the one who throws the first punch. He’s the one who refuses to listen to reason. He’s the one who potentially endangers innocent bystanders, including little kids, because he can’t control his temper. (Hmm, I’m detecting a pattern with Slott’s treatment of Spider-Man and how he has him endanger the lives of helpless children. Superior Spider-Man #10, anyone? [Correction: Superior Spider-Man #9) True, Slott has Spider-Man take the blame for the fight, only to then have Iron Man say that he “sure didn’t help,” as if there was equal culpability involved. Because all during the fight, Tony is at least making an attempt at being level-headed, especially when he berates Spider-Man calling Mary Jane “Parker’s girl.” All Tony can really be blamed for is inserting his foot in his mouth, bad-mouthing Peter behind his back because he’s oblivious about Peter and Spider-Man being the same person, and defending himself from an arrogant, short-tempered, immature, self-righteous git.
It also doesn’t help that while Slott depicts various characters being critical of two superheroes fighting each other, there are people filming the battle on with their “WebWare” devices and live-streaming it onto the internet, with viewers gathered around their HDTVs, laptops, and mobile devices as if watching a pay-per-view pro-wrestling bout, with even one person saying (I kid you not) as he watches the battle unfold on-screen, “I would pay to see this.” I guess this is Slott making a meta-commentary on how for as much as his readers complain about “hero vs hero” match-ups being mindless entertainment, we still enjoy them. Only here, Spider-Man and Iron Man’s fight is a form of mindless entertainment without the entertainment. Oh, and before someone points out how Miles is the voice of reason, that he protected civilians, and tried to defuse the situation from going bad to worse, he certainly did…until he literally threw up his hands, declared “I’m out,” and web-slinged away. One would think that if Slott really wanted some character consistency, he’d have Miles physically break-up Peter and Tony’s fight before they hurt themselves and others as opposed to letting them continue “acting like a couple of man-children.” But of course, if he hadn’t left, he wouldn’t have been ambushed by the Regent, and thus there would be no story.
As for Slott’s treatment of Augustus Roman, a.k.a. the Regent, it’s all a matter of how much one is willing to suspend their disbelief. While we do see Roman protecting New York from long-time Namor villain, Orka, it’s a bit hard to swallow the notion that someone whose costume looks this imposing, and who bears the menacing sounding moniker of “The Regent” would be this embraced and celebrated by the public at large. By contrast, The Regent has a better, more understandable motive for capturing and absorbing the powers of super beings than he ever did in Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, and with the fight between Spider-Man and Iron Man, one can hardly blame his stance that any one with powers, hero or villain, are dangerous (except him, of course). But what really pushes the bounds of absurdity is when Mary Jane, Harry Osborn/Lyman, and Betty Brant realize Augustus Roman is the Regent because the Regent’s insignia is the same as the company logo for Roman’s Empire Unlimited. It isn’t so much Harry being shocked by the discovery that’s absurd, or how MJ and Betty point out the circumstantial evidence, but rather the notion that even though he all but put his real name on his chest, no one was able to deduce who the Regent really was until this very issue. It also doesn’t help that this also leads to one of the weakest cliffhangers Slott has ever written during his tenure on Amazing Spider-Man to date.
Not even Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art can salvage this issue’s half-baked, nonsensical plot. As was the case with Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #12, Camuncoli draws every costumed character with careful, meticulous detail, along with some energetic action sequences. But in every other instance, he just phones it in. For someone who typically does an excellent job in portraying plausible facial expressions and emotions, it seems as though he’s having a real hard time doing just that with this comic. One panel showing Harry’s reaction to Betty’s Daily Bugle article is so intentionally hilarious that it takes you completely out of the comic altogether. Mary Jane and Betty’s faces look so alike one could swap their hairstyles and not tell the difference. Other faces look so non-distinguished and quickly drawn it’s as though Camuncoli swiped images from Herge’s Adventures of Tintin (no disrespect to Herge’s Tintin intended, because for as simple as those characters look, they have far more life than the background characters do in this comic). Don’t get me wrong, Camuncoli’s work is still decent, and thanks to Cam Smith’s inking and Marte Gracia’s coloring, still as vibrant as ever. But it’s really starting to look as though whatever energy he brought with the first issues of the new volume have started depleting and he’s still struggling to recharge himself.
There are a lot worse comics than Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #13, and I won’t go as far to say this is the worst Dan Slott written issue of Amazing Spider-Man either. But like Miles Morales in this story, this was one of the few Spider-Man comics where you not only feel embarrassed for being a Spider-Man fan, you lose any and all sympathy for him to the point you start wondering why you ever liked him in the first place. It’s the ideal comic for those claiming Spider-Man sucks and is overrated to say, “See? Spider-Man sucks and is overrated.” The kind of comic Marvel banks on selling loads of copies that ticked off Spider-Man fans will increase sales. Perhaps it’s Slott’s intention is to show how immature Peter is acting, that by becoming a wealthy businessperson, he ironically hasn’t really grown up and is losing sight of who he really is. Or perhaps Slott, annoyed by constant accusations that he turned Spider-Man into a “man-child” went, “You think Spider-Man is a man-child? I’ll show you Spider-Man as a man-child!” Or perhaps, and the most likely, explanation is his intention was to create an amusing comedy of errors where two heroes have a stupid fight only to realize how stupid they’ve been acting and decide they need to work together. But like anything else Slott does, he over did it. Because all you can conclude from this comic is that, for someone so smart, Spider-Man sure is stupid.
Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (spoilers ahead)
- “What [the Regent’s] grander designs are remain unclear.” Actually, recap-writer, Regent’s designs seem very clear: he thinks anyone with super powers, hero or villain, are dangerous because they endanger innocent lives just like what happened with his family. Seems the opposite of “unclear” to me.
- So let me see if I understand this, Mr. Orka? You’re protesting the “surface dwellers” polluting the ocean with crude oil…by polluting the ocean with crude oil? Because after all, New York Harbor is a salt-water port connecting to the Atlantic Ocean.
- “All the contaminants have been burned away. You’re safe.” And thus Regent saved New York Harbor from being polluted…by further polluting New York City’s air, and possibly worsened global warming. Captain Planet’s got nothing on this guy!
- Harry Lyman, or whatever you’re calling yourself these days? Did it ever occur to you that maybe Peter and MJ would want to sit down, talk things over, and patch things up between them like normal adults, as opposed to hiding the fact you and Betty are meeting MJ for lunch? Especially since Peter already knows MJ is back in town? Why exactly are you Peter’s best friend again?
- Um…no Peter. Miles doesn’t have to say “Thwip. Thwip. Thwip,” every time he shoots his webs since that’s the sound the web-shooters already make. Besides, everyone knows only Deadpool’s allowed to make sound-effects while shooting things. And speaking of Miles’s web-shooters…
- I thought Aunt May was the one who gave Miles Peter’s old web-shooters. And didn’t S.H.I.E.L.D. give Miles some upgraded versions of them later on? Unless you count Peter having stolen the web-shooters and then gave them back to Miles. Oh wait, that all happened in Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man which no longer counts, thus making Miles’s backstory utterly confusing. Thanks, Secret Wars!
- You tell ’em, Peter! How dare Tony redesign your web-shooters. Next thing you know, he’ll offer to design your costume into a red-and-gold color scheme with retractable mechanical limbs…oh, wait.
- “It’s like [Flash Thompson’s] fallen off the face of the Earth.” Because Flash Thompson is Venom: Space Knight. Get it? Get it?!
- Harry? I know you’re trying to make Betty feel better, but she’s been the Daily Bugle’s star reporter for years now. It’s not a recent thing. Which mean, yes, she really is “running in place” career-wise.
- “[Is flying with Iron Man] one of the rewards on the Stark Kickstarter page?!” Hopefully, many years from now, Kickstarter will still be around and thus Spidey’s wisecrack won’t become dated.
- “Without that armor, what are you?” Careful, Spidey…you’re really close to stealing Captain America’s line from the first Avengers movie. Then again, Tony’s also recycling his own one-liners when he says, “Everything special about you came out of a spider” instead of “Everything special about you came out of a bottle.”
- “Your best-selling product is nothing but a glorified iPhone!” And Tony is 100% correct. Especially since the comic doesn’t actually disprove Tony’s criticism other Peter essentially saying “No it isn’t!”
- “Kid Arachnid?” Looks like someone’s been watching the recent episode of Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man.
- “You’re that knew hero.” And once again, another instance where one can’t help but ask, “Where is editor, Nick Lowe?”
- Hold on? If Miles is an official member of the Avengers, then how does that also make him an “undocumented hero?”