The Amazing Spider-Man #1

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The Amazing Spider-Man #1

Writer: Dan Slott, others
Artist: Humberto Ramos, others
Publisher: Marvel
Release Date: April 30, 2014

Okay, honestly: did anyone ever really believe Peter Parker would stay dead? Even writer Dan Slott never appeared to take the concept of Peter’s (permanent) death too seriously. After all, he established the continued existence of Peter’s consciousness fairly early in the Superior Spider-Man run and, as such, provided our nerdy protagonist with a potential escape avenue.

As entertaining as Superior Spider-Man could be, it’s safe to say many readers longed for the return of Peter Parker. And so, after sacrificing his own memories so that Peter could live again and save the day, Doc Ock is no more (for now) and Peter is back in the Spidey suit.

Despite the inherent grandeur promised by this reverse paradigm shift, however, Amazing Spider-Man #1 doesn’t so much provide a massive rehaul of the Superior universe as a palate cleanser following the bombastic conclusion of the “Goblin Nation” arc. Not that the issue lacks a sense of history; in an obligatory nod to the comic’s past, artist Humberto Ramos opens the issue with a beautifully sketched, sepia-colored recreation of the spider bite incident from Amazing Fantasy #15 that changed Peter’s life forever. The issue promptly brings us back to the present day, where Peter is battling The Menagerie, a group of robbers dressed as assorted animals. One of the member’s superpowers appears to be cloth manipulation and, upon arriving at the scene, Spider-Man finds every item of clothing (except his mask) torn from his body, forcing Spidey to spend the majority of the fight with little more than an pair of impromptu web-briefs covering his nether regions.

These opening moments set a jovial tone that carries through the rest of the issue. While Slott has proven himself capable of executing more somber tales, like the acclaimed “No One Dies” arc, this issue is a good reminder of the jokey, tongue-in-cheek humor that once drew the writer comparisons to ‘60s-era Stan Lee. With all the wisecracking Peter does in this issue, Slott appears to be letting loose all the signature quips and one-liners that have been storing up in his head over the past year.

That’s not to say Peter’s return is all roses. Swinging around New York, he quickly realizes that Ock-Spider-Man ticked off quite a few people with his abrasive attitude. What’s more, Peter is surprised to learn he is now CEO of his own company and, unfortunately, has little idea of how to work the technology that Ock-Peter invented. Oh — and upon seeing his mostly naked body on TV during The Menagerie fight, Peter-Ock’s girlfriend Anna Maria Marconi deduces that Peter is Spider-Man. Adding to the awkwardness is the fact that Anna Maria discovers Ock-Peter’s engagement ring along with a marriage proposal, which, in typical Doc Ock fashion, has been outlined in phases.

As stated, Slott keeps things on the lighter side this time around. If there’s any major misstep to speak of, it involves the comic’s lack of momentum. The plot relies heavily on the assumption that witnessing Peter’s triumphant return is simply enough. This ultimately makes the issue feel uneventful and meandering. Moreover, as good as Slott is at penning humor, some bits inevitably fall flat. The most egregious example occurs during Spider-Man’s fight with The Menagerie, when an elderly woman takes issue with his nudity and comments, “Who do you think you are, Miley Cyrus?!?!” Not that I’m opposed to topical pop culture references in my comic books, but … come on … considering the prestige that a new #1 brings, including such an easy pop culture punchline is the quickest way to date the book.

Overall, Amazing Spider-Man #1 is a story of reactions more than actions. Indeed, most of the seeding for future plotlines comes with the back-up stories. “Recapturing the Old Spark” (co-written by Slott and Christos Gage, with art by Javier Rodriguez) depicts a down-on-his-luck Electro attempting to regain his former glory by freeing the inmates at Conway Penitentiary. After pumping up to maximum power, however, Electro realizes he can’t control the energy and ends up blowing a huge hole in the prison, releasing a few inmates but killing many more in the process. One of the escapees is none other than Black Cat, whose story is expanded upon in the next backup, “Crossed Paths” (also by Slott and Gage, but with Giuseppe Camuncoli on art). In this tale, an imprisoned Black Cat bemoans her feelings of betrayal at the hands of Ock-Peter. Upon escaping, she swears revenge on Spider-Man, unaware that he is no longer the same person.

The issue also includes a fun little kid-friendly comic called “How My Stuff Works” by writer Joe Caramanga and artist Chris Eliopoulos that illustrates Spider-Man’s various abilities. Finally, the comic ends with teases for three comics involving Spider-Man 2099 (by Peter David), Scarlet Spider (by Chris Yost) and a project titled Amazing Spider-Man 1.1 (by Slott and artist Ramon Perez). Of the three, Amazing Spider-Man 1.1 demonstrates the most promise, with its revisionist take on Spider-Man’s origin story as well as beautiful line work courtesy Perez.

For those expecting something monumental, Amazing Spider-Man #1 may feel a bit underwhelming. That being said, Slott clearly understands the importance of giving the audience a breather before throwing them into the next epic adventure, so perhaps a little patience is needed. In the end, however, it definitely seems as though this comic’s hype proves to be its own worst enemy.