Amazing Spider-Man: Learning to Crawl #1.2 continues to tell the developing story of young Peter Parker’s slow growth into the Spider-Man we know and love today contrasted against the story of Clash who we mysteriously don’t know. This time around, the story focuses on the first “adventures” of Clash, aka Clayton Cole, and his quest to gain infamy just like his inspiration, Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Peter continues to struggle with balancing his troubled high school life with the monetary needs of his family.
The story allows for some interesting developments between Peter and the people that make up his young life, particularly Flash Thompson. Peter’s secret identity and the lies he has to tell to maintain it are already getting him into trouble and forcing him to find the right balance between what is best for him and what is morally sound. It adds dimensions to the characters involved and fleshes out some of the broad characterizations that were standard in 60’s comics.
The characterization of Clayton is developed a bit more in this issue as well. It is fun to watch him try and mimic Spider-Man’s characteristics, including his trademark puns, even if how his sound powers work without deafening those around him doesn’t make a ton of sense (comics logic!). It’s fascinating to see how Peter and Clayton differ in their actions and motivations as two young men with very different relationships with money. That said, Clayton’s motivations aren’t always clear. First he’s Spider-Man’s biggest fan and then he decides to stage a mock battle between the two… well which is it?
Additionally, a larger, inherent problem with the nature of the Amazing Spider-Man: Learning to Crawl series has begun to rear its head. By telling a story that exists in continuity in-between issues #1-5 of Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) and referencing those books, the off-panel actions begin to tear down the weight of this story as a standalone. The story zips past these moments, doing its best not to dwell on them, while attempting to provide enough clarity for casual readers. With so much going on, the story begins to feel a bit scattered. These nods to continuity are great for Spider-Man enthusiasts (a group I would happily include myself in) but will go right over the heads of those who haven’t read the first few issues of Amazing Spider-Man (vol.1). No matter the number of notes from the editor, the book is detrimentally affected by these moments, particularly when pages are wasted setting up that Peter is going to a science exhibit only to whisk him away to fight the Chameleon off-panel.
What is without fault is the work done by Ramón Perez, as he continues to channel his inner Steve Ditko. Outside of the wonderful visual callbacks to the first two issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Perez uses his panels to wisely guide readers’ eyes through the panels to slowly reveal new information and dramatics of a scene. The fight between Spider-Man and Clash is particularly notable, as the broken layout moves beyond the standard, retro panel-work that the story has utilized so far and the colors quickly invert for a more modern feel. It’s a great meeting of two distinct eras that echoes the attitude of each battling character.
Overall, Amazing Spider-Man: Learning to Crawl #1.2 is still a fun look at Peter’s earliest days, with smart characterization and reverence for early Spider-Man history. However, the main question that I left the issue with was whether or not this story would be better told from one consistent point of view from either young man.