Stillanerd Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man (2018) No. 9 review

Spider-Man once again joins forces with his ex-flame, the Black Cat, while his current flame, Mary Jane, looks into an unusual support group.

Amazing Spider-Man No. 9 (LGY No. 810)

“Heist, Part Two”

Writer: Nick Spencer

Pencilers: Humberto Ramos and Michele Bandini

Inkers: Victor Olazaba and Michele Bandini

Colorists: Edgar Delgado and Erick Arciniega

Covers: Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado; Clayton Crain (Uncanny X-Men variant); Mike Wieringo, Tim Townsend, and Jason Keith (Wieringo Black Cat variant)

If you’re at all familiar with the work of Nick Spencer, then you know that when it comes to comics, he has a talent for finding the seriousness in the absurd. Many comic book writers do this, of course. The difficulty is they tend to sway into extremes. Dan Slott, for instance, wrote some very fun, wacky stories, but often times the silliness outweighed whatever drama he tried to convey. J. Michael Straczynski, however, definitely made even the most outlandish premise dramatic, but you also felt that comedy wasn’t exactly his strong suit. Spencer, though, seems to find that sweet spot.

Take these last two issues of Amazing Spider-Man, but especially issue No. 9. What could be more ridiculous than a bunch of seemingly magical bandits burglarizing and pickpocketing superheroes’ stuff? Or even the notion of superheroes in general? What makes us accept both premises comes down to character, and Amazing Spider-Man No. 9 (LGY No. 810) serves as a fine demonstration of this principle in action.

Credit: Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, and Edgar Delgado (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2018) No. 9
Obviously, trust is a major theme of [Amazing Spider-Man No. 9]…For Peter and MJ, their actions, along with how they perceive the situations they’re in, and how they handle the issue of trust, are congruent with who they are as characters.

To begin with, Spencer divides Amazing Spider-Man No. 9 into two parallel narratives, each one illustrated by a different art team. The first, illustrated by Humberto Ramos, is a direct continuation from the previous issue. Here Spider-Man, while investigating the mysterious superhero heists, has his own web-shooters stolen. He’s saved by his ex-lover, Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. Black Cat, who then proceeds to scratch his face. After the obligatory misunderstanding, Spidey and Cat join forces to steal the superheroes’ belongings back from the New York Thieves’ Guild. Needless to say, Spidey knows this is a really bad idea, but he never really could turn Felicia down when she needs a favor.

The second narrative, drawn by Michele Bandini, involves Peter Parker’s current flame, Mary Jane Watson, meeting with another of Peter’s ex’s, forensic scientist Carlie Cooper. Seems while Carlie was away, she became involved with the Lookups, a support group for friends, relatives, and loved ones of superheroes where they can talk about their unusual relationships in supposedly complete anonymity. Since Peter and MJ are back together, Carlie figures it’d be good for MJ to attend the Lookup meetings, or at least take it into consideration.

Credit: Michele Bandini and Erick Arciniega (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man No. 9

Obviously, trust is a major theme of this issue. Spider-Man, of course, wants to trust Felicia given their history; however, it’s that same history which makes him know that Felicia tends to have ulterior motives. For MJ, the very idea of the Lookups seems like the ideal outlet given the years of stress she’s endured in knowing Peter’s secret. Yet knowing Peter’s secret has also made her extremely intuitive, especially over things which seem far too good to be true. For Peter and MJ, their actions, along with how they perceive the situations they’re in, and how they handle the issue of trust, are congruent with who they are as characters.

From a meta-textual standpoint, this comic also involves a different kind of trust: the one between the creator and the reader. It wasn’t that long ago, as a direct result of Superior Spider-Man, that the Black Cat went from femme fatale thief to a villainous, murderous “Queenpin of Crime.” The effect this had on her as a character proved disastrous. Reverting her back to having more classic, albeit still somewhat antagonistic, dynamic with Spider-Man could be seen as a mea culpa to the fans. The flashback showing her as a little girl with her father also goes a long way in making her more empathetic than she has been in some time.

As for the Lookups, while there have been superhero (and supervillain) support groups in comics before, there hasn’t been one for confidants. Plus, when we, along with MJ, see who organized the Lookups and how the group functions, it comes off as an even more refreshing and intriguing concept. Yet it’s also precisely how the Lookups function is what also makes you suspect that it’s a recipe for a disaster waiting to happen. Hence why, out of the two narratives, it’s also the most fascinating. At the very least, MJ’s encounter with the Lookups definitely has the makings of a long running subplot.

Credit: Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, and Edgar Delgado (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2018) No. 9
…it’s the humanization of these characters, giving them emotional reactions and responses we’re able to relate to, which allow us to look past the silliness and, for a short time, find it plausible.

I also think, whether it’s because the issue required a fill-in artist or not, having different illustrators for the two narratives was the right call. Ramos, with his penchant towards exaggeration, fits the flavor of Spider-Man and Black Cat’s team-up. Also, while he’s done this in past issues, the flashback scenes–appearing as faded, unfinished sketches–look especially great. Meanwhile Bandini’s art, with its softer tones and simple realism, helps ground MJ’s story all the more.

There are drawbacks, of course. The Spider-Man and Black Cat portions are overburdened with exposition with minimal action to speak of. Ramos’ figures look even more disproportionate, irregular, and double-jointed than ever before. It also has the odd effect in making Bandini’s art look too plain and conventional. Though I have to say, there are a couple of distracting moments in which Bandini depicts MJ having some oddly wide shoulders, at least to proportion to her head.

Yes, the Thieves Guild story is still silly on its face, as are the details surrounding the Lookups, right down the name of the group. Yet with Amazing Spider-Man No. 9, it’s the humanization of these characters, giving them emotional reactions and responses we’re able to relate to, which allow us to look past the silliness and, for a short time, find it plausible. It also makes for a pretty good yarn, too.

Stillanerd’s Score: 4 out of 5

Next: Stillanerd Reviews: Amazing Spider-Man No. 8 review

Stillanerd’s Nerdy Nitpicks (possible spoilers)

 

Credit: Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, and Edgar Delgado (Marvel Comics); from Amazing Spider-Man (2018) No. 9
  • Okay, stealing the Fantasti-car? No problem! Reed can build a new one. Stealing Clint Barton and Kate Bishop’s arrows. They both know how to fight hand-to-hand. But kidnapping Squirrel Girl’s favorite squirrel, Tippy-Toe? That’s a line you just don’t cross!
  • You know, I’m surprised during Spidey and Cat’s “which animal can’t change its stripes” debate that tigers didn’t come up. They have stripes and they’re cats.
  • Huh? Of all the reasons I would’ve guessed for Black Cat being angry at Spider-Man, his isotopic genome accelerator produced doppelgänger putting the moves on her definitely wasn’t on my list. Pretty neat way for Spencer to tie in his first story in like that. Although…
  • Shouldn’t Peter remember everything “Spider-Man” did once the two of them fused back together again?
  • Hmm…technically, Carlie never specifically told MJ where she was heading when she decided to leave New York. All she said was she had some friends “down south.” Thus MJ thinking Carlie meant “Memphis” instead of “New Orleans” is forgivable. Wait? New Orleans? That’s where the original Thieves’ Guild comes from? Dun-Dun-Duuun!
  • Also, how did Carlie’s eyes go back to normal? Last time we saw her, they were solid black with green scales around them, a side-effect from the goblin-formula which changed her into Monster.
  • As for MJ’s answer to Carlie’s “Who’s there for you?” Spot on!
  • Yes, the 1831 City Bank Heist, the Sentry Armored Car robbery and the Lufthansa Heist were actually real-life crimes.  As for the purchase of Manhattan by the Dutch in 1626? It may not have been quite the steal as urban legends would have you believe.
  • What are you talking about, Spidey? Tabletop board games have grown in popularity for some time. And that’s not even getting into tabletop RPGs.
  • Okay, if Black Cat had that Thieves’ Guild tattoo all this time, how is it that Spider-Man never noticed it during their more intimate moments? He can’t have been that distracted, could he?
  • Couldn’t help but notice that the face-obscuring drones lent by Tony Stark are called “Who-Vers.” Did anyone else instantly think of these? Methinks Tony really donated them to avoid a copyright lawsuit.
  • That’s right, Jarvis would remember MJ. Only, because Dr. Strange’s “psychic blindspot” erased his memory that Peter is Spider-Man, he’d only remember MJ was Spider-Man‘s girlfriend, right? Would he also still remember Aunt May and that he had romantic feelings for her?
  • “Friends and Loved Ones of Super-Powered Individuals Anonymous.” Or FLOSPIA for short?
  • Looks like the Lookups include Foggy Nelson, Wong, Peggy Rae, Ganke Lee, Pepper Pots, and Willie Lumpkin. Seems like the face-obscuring drones need some work. Wait a sec? How would these safeguards the Lookups have work on an astral projection?
  • Huh? Interesting how Spidey didn’t seem to gain the powers of Nova from trying on Nova’s helmet. Equally interesting, too, how his spider-sense didn’t go off when the Thieves’ Guild surprises him and Black Cat. Looks like both the Nova helmet and Spidey’s spider-sense needs some fixing.
Next: Top 50 super heroes in comic book history

What are your thoughts and theories about Amazing Spider-Man No. 9? Did you think Black Cat is now redeemed as a character, or does Spencer need to fix her some more? What do you think about the return of Carlie Cooper, and how would you feel if she became more involved in the series again? Finally, any thoughts about the Lookups. Is Mary Jane right to be uneasy about it? If so, what do you think is really going on with them?