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Amazing Spider-Man #1 – REVIEW

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Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 3) #1 has the tricky obligation of both being the jump on point for a ton of new readers excited for the return of Peter Parker as Spider-Man and to appeal to those of us who have been loving his absence in Superior Spider-Man for the past year and a half. It could play it too safely and only appeal to those just now coming on to the book, eschewing all of the troubles Peter faces from Doctor Octopus’s time behind the mask, or dive too deep into the continuity and risk alienating those just picking up the book for the first time.

ASM1_031-653x1024Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos’s first issue of the new book manages to swing cleanly past both of those concerns to deliver a Spider-Man book that is fresh, fun, and exciting right out of the gate (well, right after the brief teaser for Original Sin). The issue is chock full of plot introductions that I hope future issues will allow to develop into full stories. All these isolated threads never allow the story here to develop into anything substantial outside of a fun fight with the “Menagerie.” However, when a book is this breezy and enjoyable to digest, without feeling like meaningless filler or padding, one can hardly complain.

Dan Slott quickly establishes Peter’s new responsibilities (having gained a company and PhD from Otto’s time in his body), relationships, and complications. All the supporting cast have stories here and their roles and interactions with Peter make sense to their histories. All of this wouldn’t be as satisfying if Dan Slott didn’t nail the voice and attitude of one character in particular, Peter Parker.

It took only seconds for me to recognize Peter Parker’s lame humor, unfortunate luck, and clumsy optimism. The reduced levels of anxiety from the Superior Spider-Man era allow the story to breathe a great deal more.  This in turn allows Slott to formulate character moments and to just have fun. The jokes work, the emotions feel real, and Peter actually faces some serious consequences for Otto’s actions, though still not as much as I would have liked.

Amazing Spider-Man #1 feels strangely apologetic to Otto in places, choosing to highlight the positives gained from his time as Spider-Man, which make sense considering the bizarre tone the ending of Superior Spider-Man took. There seem to be some dark clouds on the horizon for Peter in the form of Electro and Black Cat, but Peter’s death is hardly hinted at for a character that has been dead for months and months of in-story time. That being said, it is intoxicating to see Peter’s lust for life and desire to just get his face back out into the world, even if it isn’t as dramatically different for him as I would have liked. His joy might as well stand in for my joy to see him return; it’s like getting an old friend back.

ASM1_021-667x1024Humberto Ramos’s proves yet again that he isn’t just the best, constant artist on the Spider-Man team but is a defining artist in the history of the Amazing Spider-Man series. While he was rather strong in parts of Superior, the tone and style of Amazing Spider-Man better suits his pencils. His visual storytelling is zippy and packed full of detail and fun (though I wish his women looked a bit less like pornstars). One hardly has to imagine Spider-Man swinging around, as Ramos’s pacing and sequential imagery leads reader’s eyes all over the page. His splash pages land exactly at the right time and make for enormously dramatic and comedic reveals. The surprise of a naked Peter Parker fighting crime and the city’s reaction to that is priceless.

Every page is packed full of goodness, particularly from the supporting cast. Each and every new wrinkle is one that is engaging and exciting. Jameson is no longer the mayor and has been rejected by the Bugle; what is the future for that character? What will Anna Maria do with the knowledge that Otto was planning on marrying her? What does Felicia Hardy have in store for Spider-Man? How will Peter run “Parker Industries” now that he can’t access Otto’s knowledge of cybernetics? I want answers to these questions! These moments are what #1’s are about and Dan Slott provides them in spades.

ASM1_06Even the backup issues offer some wonderful character moments while also being a bit more of a mixed bag. The Black Cat and Electro stories are beautifully rendered by Camuncoli and Rodriguez and hint at intriguing futures for the characters that will redefine their relationships with Spider-Man. Joe Caramanga’s quick summation of the Spider-Man power-set and recycled story structure was cute and clever.  Peter David’s Spider-Man 2099 preview was a bit of a head-scratcher. Will Sliney’s art continues to be a bit stiff, though better than in Superior Spider-Man #31, and the story ends with a confusing thud. Was this really the best story Peter David could come up with to reintroduce his writing and tease future adventures for the character?

The best and most intriguing of the backups is the Amazing Spider-Man: Learning to Crawl teaser, which promises a reverent look back the early days of Spider-Man. Ramon Perez’s art is beautiful and the perfect blend of retro and modern styles. Watching an outsider’s perspective of the birth of Spider-Man is hugely intriguing and presents an interesting question about how Spider-Man mistreated his celebrity status.

Amazing Spider-Man #1 brings the series back with a ton of fun and plenty of teases at stories to come. It isn’t the most unforgettable relaunch of a series or change in a status quo for a character, but sometimes the return of something so beloved is just enough when it is handled just right. Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos… you handled this just right.

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