I have to admit that I believe that I’m in the vast minority when I say that I typically really enjoy reading annuals and one-shots stories, especially when they focus around Spider-Man. I would venture to say that most of my favorite stories of the wall-crawler are brief, self-contained stories that give us a brief glimpse into the life of Peter Parker (that includes Amazing Fantasy #15). A smart editor can also utilize annuals to fit in new talent and test them out on how they handle the character.
“I Can’t Help Myself” from the Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 is one of those stories that just melts my heart and helps me to forget about my troubles if only for a minute. As someone who is in the midst of writing his final papers for his graduate studies, my mind often wanders to the things that I’d rather be doing instead. Here Peter is tasked with reading a lab report for a presentation that he needs to present the next day and literally finds a way to do anything but that. In this case he spends his night swinging around the city hoping to return a lost cellphone to two German tourists.
While the main Amazing Spider-Man series is focused on “Spider-Verse” it might seem like an inappropriate time to release a story like this but I honestly found it refreshing. “Spider-Verse” and so much of Dan Slott’s run on the book has been so plot focused that its nice to get a quiet and funny character piece about Peter every so often. Spider-Man has rarely felt as trivial as a hero as he does here but when it is used for great humor and characterization I can’t really complain.
The juxtaposition of Spider-Man dodging an explosion with him screaming at a cell phone, as it plummets towards the ground, “It doesn’t have a case!” had me chortling with laughter. When Hawkeye suggests the Doctor Strange might be able to assist him, as if the Doctor was some sort of phone line that all heroes call to help them with trivial problems, I found myself laughing all over again.
Writer Sean Ryan absolutely nails the voice of Peter Parker and allows for Brandon Peterson’s art to fill in the gaps with some wonderful action sequences and an incredibly detailed depiction of New York City. Colorist Antonio Fabela and Brandon Peterson utilize photographs of the city to flesh out the backgrounds and really help sell that the New York that Spider-Man swings around is the very same one many of us live in.
The primary story is supplemented with two back-up stories of “The A-May-zing Spider-Aunt” and “The Quiet Room.” The first story tells a highly stylized series of jokes about Aunt May’s responsibilities of raising and managing Spider-Man and his assorted villains. There is really only one word to describe such a collection, and that word is “cute.” The art by Cale Atkinson is full of a myriad of funny details that deserved to be poured over.
“The Quiet Room” introduces some truly Z-list villains to the Spider-Man universe, including a man named Dr. Bong, his head is a bell, who plans on conquering the multiverse by creating a “Cosmic Bong” in the world’s quietest room. I’m not exactly sure how this might work but before he and his team are able to succeed our friendly, neighborhood Spider-Man shows up and begins to fight back. The story is decently funny and really only serves to deliver a mediocre joke about why Spider-Man hasn’t said a word the entire issue. What is great about the story is when artist Ron Salas and letterer Travis Lanham allow their letters to do the talking. A beautiful splash plage of Spider-Man kicking enemies in the face with the associated sound effects is tremendously fun to read.
Is Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 a book that will blow people away and change everything they know about the character? No. Is the book in keeping with decades of annuals that are genuinely disposable and inconsequential to the main plot? Yes. That aside, if you are looking for some humorous Spider-Man tales with some nice character work, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 may have just enough to sustain you. I was sold by the genuine smile Peter displayed as he looked out his window towards the speeding police cars. That’s the Peter I love to read.