Having finished with clones, Spider-Man chases Goblins, and more, in a sufficient but needlessly bloated “Anniversary” issue.
“The Osborn Identity Part One: Bug Hunt”
Written by Dan Slott
Pencils by Stuart Immonen
Inks by Wade von Grawbadger
Colors by Marte Gracia
Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna
“Police & Thieves”
Written by Christos Gage
Art by Todd Nauck
Colors by Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by VC’s Travis Lanham
“Spider-Man Tsum Tsum”
Written by Jacob Chabot
Pencils by Ray-Anthony Height
Inks by Walden Wong
Colors by Jim Cambell
Lettering by VC’s Cory Petit
Written by James Asmus
Art by Tana Ford
Colors by Andres Mossa
Lettering by VC’s Travis Lanham
“Mutts Ado About Nothing”
Written and Penciled by Hannah Blumenreich
Inks by Jordan Gibson
Colors by Jordie Bellaire
Lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles
“The A-May-Zing Spider-Aunt”
Written and illustrated by Cale Atkinson
“The Superior Octopus”
Written by Dan Slott
Pencils by Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inks by Cam Smith
Colors by Jason Keith
Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Covers by Alex Ross; John Tyler Christopher(Action Figure); Dave Johnson (Venomized); Gil Kane, John Romita Sr. and Jason Keith(Remastered);Stuart Immonen; Wade von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia
Published by Marvel Comics
3 out of 5
The upside in having a comic book with an larger-than-average page count and a variety of stories is having more content. The downside in having a comic book with a larger-than-average page count and a variety of stories is also having more content. Because, of course, quantity doesn’t always equal quality. Or, in the case of collecting multiple stories into a single comic, consistent quality. It can contain several great yarns which make up for a single prosaic one, or have a shining, extraordinary gem of tale stuffed between mounds forgettable, dreadful waste. Which can make all the difference in one’s willingness to invest their time and money into something that, at the end of the day, could prove a poor investment. This is the blessing and the curse of the anthology, and the (third) twenty-fifth anniversary issue of The Amazing Spider-Man is no exception.
Still reeling from the aftermath of The Clone Conspiracy, Spider-Man’s on the hunt for his long-time nemesis, Norman Osborn. This is no small task as Osborn, via frequent facial reconstructive surgeries, now adopts various disguises and identities, including a notorious drugs and arms dealer named “El Facoquero.” So when chapter one of “The Osborn Identity” opens, Spidey, along with Bobbi Morse, a.k.a. Mockingbird, leads a S.H.I.E.L.D. strike team on a raid of El Facoquero’s Latin American compound. Unbeknownst to them, Silver Sable, who Spider-Man believes died during “Ends of the Earth,” is secretly targeting Osborn for assassination. Thus for the first half—almost the full-length of a regular-sized issue—Slott’s narrative moves with the brisk speed of an action-heavy spy thriller, with the friendly neighborhood web-slinger himself coming across like a spandex-clad Jack Bauer. So single-minded and determined is Peter Parker that he barely has time to make a wisecrack, as he literally charges head-long into firefights. It’s an effective reminder from Slott that, when Spider-Man cuts loose and gets serious, he’s not someone to be messed with.Credit: Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25
But once the mission ends and Spider-Man returns stateside, Slott starts applying the brakes, driving the story along at a plodding pace from which it never fully recovers. In fairness, much of this is unavoidable, as the second-half of the story devotes it time on establishing Peter’s emotional state after Clone Conspiracy and reconnecting with classic supporting characters such as Aunt May, Harry Lyman (née Osborn), and Betty Brant. Unfortunately, these story beats feel recycled from Slott’s previous outings. Just like with Clone Conspiracy: Omega #1, we get another scene of an apologetic Peter addressing Uncle Ben’s remains. Like the end of “Power Play,” we’re told how Peter’s obligations as Parker Industries’ CEO means less time being with family and friends, despite many of them also being company employees. There’s even another instance where Aunt May gripes about not having grandchildren because of Peter’s lack of game. By the time Spider-Man and Mockingbird are back on Osborn’s trail in Hong Kong, the story already feels forty pages too long.
Then there’s Peter’s motive for finding Osborn: his guilt over not saving Gwen Stacy’s clone. Aside from this being an extension of Clone Conspiracy ‘s specious logic that cloning is the same as resurrection (that Slott even has Peter utter the line “Ben Reilly [used] cloning to raise the dead” only shows how ridiculous this argument is), Peter learning to regard the Gwen clone as the real Gwen in that crossover was abrupt as it was inauthentic. Thus Peter’s grief in this issue over what was essentially a genetic duplicate of his already dead girlfriend rings both hollow and false. Besides, as motivations go, it’s completely unnecessary. Since Osborn is the person responsible for the real Gwen Stacy’s death, who constantly made Peter’s life a living hell very chance he got, it should already personal.Credit: Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25
But even we buy into Peter’s supposed guilt over the Gwen’s clone death, Slott undercuts it completely by having him clumsily ask Mockingbird out on a date. For someone who’s supposedly still reeling from having witnessed whom he calls his “greatest love” essentially dying a second time, it’s incredibly bad taste for Peter even considering a possible new relationship this soon. Besides, there isn’t any genuine spark of romantic chemistry between Peter and Bobbi, no matter how hard Slott tries conveying otherwise. It’s also obvious that this, along with Silver Sable’s return, is Slott setting the stage for an obligatory love triangle between Peter, Bobbi, and Sable. Come to think of it, Slott setting up Sable’s attraction for Spider-Man in past issues of Amazing Spider-Man felt sudden and random, too.
But once again, as has been the case throughout Slott’s tenure, it’s the better-than-average artwork make up for the script’s deficiencies, and Stuart Immonen proves a good fit for this international Spider-Man team-up. The opening raid sequence is energetic without being confusing, and Immonen creates a sensation of gravity and weight whenever characters are jumping or landing a blow. During quieter, conversational scenes, he instills them with distinctiveness and personality. His Peter Parker has smooth, boyish features, made all the more so with an occasional half-smile; by contrast, Bobbi looks more sophisticated, even while sucking food off her pinky, or snoring while wearing a sleep mask. His line work and cross-hatching, however, can be distracting at times, giving some panels, along with Wade von Grawbadger’s inking, a hurried appearance.Credit: Todd Nauck and Rachelle Rosenberg (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25
By contrast, Todd Nauck’s art, in the comic’s second story, “Police & Thieves,” looks smooth and polished. He, too, illustrates action well, and with lots of fine detail, and, with the aid of Rachel Rosenberg’s coloring, with realistic looking lighting and shading effects. As for the story itself, it’s a nice if somewhat incomplete follow-up to Christos Gage’s own Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man miniseries. It’s also Spider-Man facing a typical who are real good guys and bad guys moral dilemma, and considering how Clayton Cole, a.k.a. Clash, is robbing Marvel’s signature evil corporation, Roxxon Industries, it’s pretty obvious from the jump where our sympathizes are being directed. Even so, re-branding Clash as a modern-day Robin Hood feels like good direction, while also further developing the concept of Clayton being a reflection of Peter.
Speaking of minor characters, James Asmus’ contribution has Spider-Man revisiting the staff at Parker Industries’ Shanghai branch. It’s a shame that it’s marred by some awful looking artwork from Tana Ford, because unlike this issue’s main story, Asmus does a better job conveying the dire straits Peter’s company is in post-Clone Conspiracy. Although Peter, as Spider-Man, has more resources to fight super villains and saving lives, he’s allocating those resources during a time in which Parker Industries can least afford it. After all, what good is Peter using Parker Industries for becoming a better Spider-Man if it means spending more money than the company earns? Is being in the business of saving lives worth the risk if it’s business practices result in endangering the jobs and livelihoods of its employees?
Less consequential are the three more jovial back-up stories. Jacob Chabot and Ray-Anthony Height’s “Spider-Man Tsum Tsum” is a glorified Disney product placement disguised as a Marvel Team-Up. Cale Atkinson’s latest installment of “The A-May-Zing Spider-Aunt!” is cute but not quite as hysterical as the one from 2015’s Amazing Spider-Man Annual. The best of these, and the best story of the issue, is fan-comic writer and artist Hannah Blumenreich’s official debut with Marvel. Although her story about a young Peter Parker’s efforts in adopting a stray dog doesn’t quite gel with continuity, Blumenreich injects a sense of authenticity and heart not often found in superhero comics created by the so-called professionals. It’s a wonderful reminder of how, behind the costumes and powers, these are still stories about people first and foremost. Not to mention her art style is effective in its simplicity.Credit: Giuseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, and Jason Keith (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25
Which leaves the final story by Dan Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli, where we learn what happened to Doctor Octopus, which also acts as a prologue for Amazing Spider-Man‘s upcoming tie-in for Marvel’s next big summer crossover, Secret Empire. Seems the “Proto-Clone” Otto created and downloaded his mind into is a genetic hybrid of himself and Peter Parker, resulting in him having spider-powers, a more chiseled physique, but still sporting a bad haircut. Him being a literal Spider-Man/Doctor Octopus mash-up is also reflected in his new, sleek-looking, Hydra-inspired “Superior Octopus” costume which was leaked online prior to this issue’s release. It’s a logical development for Otto, but also gives the impression Slott’s running on creative fumes. This isn’t just a redo of The Superior Spider-Man, it’s a redo of the final season of Disney XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man.
Thus Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25 as a whole is simply average. Which would be fine if this was an ordinary comic. But since this comic has seven stories offered at a ten-dollar cover price, being simply average just won’t cut it, least of all for Marvel’s signature superhero. Say what you will about Amazing Spider-Man #700, or both 2014 and 2015’s Amazing Spider-Man #1, but the occasion seemed to justify their extra pages and cost. This, however, just feels like an excuse by Marvel to capitalize on the goodwill of their fans. After all, if this issue was branded as the 743th issue of Amazing Spider-Man instead of its twenty-fifth, not many would see this as a must read. They’d see it as just another oversized, overpriced comic with one or two better than average gems packed inside a lot of waste.
Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (spoilers ahead)Credit: Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, and Marte Gracia (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25
- “[Peter Parker] company, Parker Industries, has now has offices…” So how many editors supposedly work on this comic again?
- Who’s “Stuart Immnonen?” And does Stuart Immonen know about him?
- Why this S.H.I.E.L.D. calling this mission “Operation Bug Hunt” simply because Spider-Man is leading it? First, spiders are not actually bugs. Second, wouldn’t make more sense to call the mission “Operation Pig Hunt” since the guy they want to capture is calls himself “The Warthog” in Spanish?
- Um…Abeula isn’t “Translated from Spanish,” comic. It is Spanish.
- “I can live with the collateral…” Except, Ms. Sable, firing your gun into air to scare away the civilians suggests you can’t live with the collateral.
- Good question, Taranula? Why didn’t Spider-Man’s spider-sense warn them ahead of time?
- *Sigh* Peter…you saved the entire world from your own clone. Like I asked before, how was that not considered a “win?”
- Does having Norman Osborn admit he’s copying the Chameleon via using disguises also an admission that’s he’s now a second-rate Chameleon?
- Hey? I thought Peter asked Mary Jane to look after Aunt May after Jay’s funeral, not Betty and Harry. Not that it matters anyway because May’s acting awfully chipper for a supposed grieving widow.
- Hey Peter? Believe or not, some journalists do seek spiritual guidance and counsel. Besides, who are you to question Betty’s religious beliefs anyway? Have you learned nothing from your fiasco with the Santerians?
- So the only reason Betty Brant’s even in this story was so she could tell Peter about the call she got from Ned Leeds’ clone and thus make Peter feel more guilty. Otherwise, she contributed absolutely nothing. Thanks, comic!
- Hey Bobbi? You left out the part where you cheated on your now ex-husband, Hawkeye, with said “cowboy” you later murdered, the Phantom Rider. Or at least that’s the retconned version of your story.
- Aunt May keeps naked baby pictures of Peter in her wallet? Why?!
- So an entire page of a forty page story devotes itself towards a joke about Spider-Man wondering if he’s racist or not for beating up Asian gangsters in Hong Kong? And this scene is necessary because…?
- Norman, did you forget that you already disinherited Harry during “American Son?” So why are you so shocked and angry that he’s going by your wife’s maiden name? And no, you can’t use the “because I’m insane” excuse anymore because you’re supposedly sane now.
- “…you just saved Norman Osborn!” Except weren’t you aiming your rifle at Harry, Sable?
- “[My parents] wanted me to be a corporate stooge like them.” But Clash? I thought your parents we’re complaining about you being a corporate stooge for Parker Industries during Civil War II: Amazing Spider-Man?
- So what do the Tsum-Tsum’s sound like if they only speak in emoji?
- Hey look everybody? It’s the return of Asian Cissy Ironwood, Lian Tang! Or is it Lien Tang? Hey, if the writers and editors at Marvel can’t even remember her correct name, then why should I?
- Credit: Hannah Blumenreich (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #25
Perhaps the subtle for “Mutts Ado About Nothing” should have read “Starring Peter Parker: The Spectacular Dumpster-Diver!” And why did Peter think feeding a half-eaten sandwich from a garbage bin to a stray dog was ever a good idea?
- So Peter has posters of Neil Degrasse Tyson and Akira in his bedroom? He really is a stereotypical nerd.
- Okay all you biology majors…if Doc Ock is now technically his and Peter’s “son,” how does he have the same vocal chords and voice-print as his old body? Wouldn’t they be different?
- “Octopus-sense tingling!” Um…no, that just doesn’t roll off the tongue like “Spider-sense tingling” does, Otto.
- If Doc Ock’s hideout is accessible by his voice-print, how did Hydra and Armin Zola get inside before Doc Ock?
- And Armin Zola would know his clones and approve of Doc Ock’s handiwork. Because unlike Miles Warren’s cloning process, Zola’s clones never melted. Perhaps Doc Ock should’ve just gone to him from the start.