For the past several issues of Amazing Spider-Man I’ve done my best to accept the dramatic changes in Felicia Hardy’s behavior, accepting that this is the way the character is going to be written. “Love it or hate it,” I thought, “This is the Felicia that is here to stay.” I realize now, perhaps it just took some time, that this change in Felicia has had serious detrimental effects on my enjoyment of reading her character and in my anticipation of the conclusion of this first story arc of the relaunched Amazing Spider-Man.
In Amazing Spider-Man #6, the final chapter of this Black Cat/Electro team-up, the Black Cat’s motives remain as underdeveloped as they have been before. She started out seeking revenge and apparently now wants to run the entire underworld. What happened to her, what did she lose, that she now has to lash out at the world and throw away her life in this way? I’m still waiting for an answer, as with the conclusion of this book it seems that the character isn’t going away anytime soon.
What makes the whole thing even more frustrating is that Black Cat acknowledges during her final attack on Spider-Man that how he reacts to it will reveal whether or not Doctor Octopus or Peter Parker is inside his head. In Slott’s writing he seems to be trying to have it both ways with the character, did she or did she not believe Peter when he told her his brain was switched? The book seems unsure and so does Felicia, which is unsettling considering that she’s content to murder people as a result of her belief that it was Peter who got her locked in prison.
There are just too many questions surrounding the motivations of the characters here to really allow the story, which has plenty of wonderful art and jokes (including a brief appearance from the Superior Foes of Spider-Man), to properly shine. That said, a great majority of this story is just a retread of the previous issues where Black Cat and/or Electro show up somewhere and cause a scene, Peter changes into his Spider-Man garb, and they do battle (granted, that’s the basis for 90% of comics). For this reason, the most interesting parts of this story have been the ones that featured the developments outside of Electro and Black Cat and yet the villains remain the focus here.
I continue to feel that Slott has wasted the enormous potential set up by Peter’s return by keeping the focus on these characters and the introduction of Cindy Moon. By rushing so quickly from major event to major event, Slott has had to introduce Cindy Moon into the middle of what should arguably be Peter’s comeback story. Sequences that involve Peter dealing with the changes that Ock brought into his life, like mismanaging his company and his awkward relationship/living situation with Ana, that dominated the first two issues are more interesting and consequential than any of the newly introduced developments in his life.
Instead, Cindy steals the spotlight and manages to solve pretty much all of Peter’s problems for him. I’ve been tolerable of their powers being balanced, one is stronger the other is more aware, but when Cindy breaks out her ability alter the chemical makeup of her webbing I felt the balance was overturned. For a book that’s meant to tell the story of Peter, he has exhibited very little self-awareness or control over his own progression in this story.
This is made especially apparent during the best part of this story when Peter risks everything to save his moral enemy, Electro. It’s a strong moment and clearly differentiates what makes Peter different from the Superior Spider-Man. It shouldn’t feel this refreshing to see Peter make a decisive choice that showcases his particular brand of superheroics by risking his life to save another. Even then, the only reason he is successful is because Cindy Moon’s Silk saves him at the last second.
I don’t think its fair to ask that Peter be the sole heroic force in his book but after such a long time absent from the pages of Amazing Spider-Man perhaps I’m just going through serious withdrawal. After reading the solid Superior Spider-Man titles and witnessing Peter’s downfall and replacement by someone far more efficient, it is hard to watch Peter rush into battles and bumble his way through his life. Peter has never had the best of luck, but I always felt that he was confident and composed enough to get a handle on his life. Unfortunately for him, his life always turned out to be anything but handleable. That’s where the fun came in.
There are just so many twists and turns in the plot that by the end it’s hard to tell what anyone’s concrete goals are and what the stakes in each situation might be. The end of the issue dramatically changes a major character but the resolution happens off-panel and is wrapped up through a newsbreak. Ramos’s artwork is as strong as ever here, with a few panels that feel overcrowded and feature bizarre framing, but it’s not enough to cover up muddled plotting, characterization, and the incredible missed opportunity of Peter’s return to the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.