As part of the push to introduce the Inhumans as their next biggest franchise, an effort that hasn’t quite seemed to take off, Marvel has released the inevitable team-up between the super-powered characters and Spider-Man, the company’s unofficial ambassador. Amazing Spider-Man Special #1 is the first of the three-part “Inhuman Error” story that will continue in the pages of special Inhuman and Captain America comics.
Like most team-ups, Amazing Spider-Man Special #1 seems to exist outside the continuity of the main Spider-Man story save for a few brief references to his adventures in the Inhumans book. Writer Jeff Loveness writes a less confident and battle-seasoned Peter Parker that’s reflective of much of his recent characterization. Numerous are the jokes and witty narration from Peter, presented here as a clownish superhero who is more comfortable in his costume than out of it. The character’s voice is a bit too silly for my liking but it’s a consistent one and if the reader enjoys a funnier Parker they’ll find that here in spades.
The story opens with Peter at his local Barstucks, I guess the Coffee Bean was closed for reconstruction, debating whether or not to talk to a girl ahead of him in line. I found it refreshing to see Peter even thinking about romance as I think that it is an element of the series that has been sorely missing for quite some time, especially considering how much trouble the editorial team went through to restore Peter’s single status. New York also plays an important part of Loveness’s story in a way that I haven’t felt since the Brand New Day era. Loveness must be a New Yorker himself as the script continually references cultural signifiers that only a Manhattanite would appreciate. Spider-Man destroys his enemies with CitiBikes, poses for pictures in the street, makes fun of the Applebee’s in Times Square, and even manages to sum up the appeal of New York City with a stunning full-page reveal of the wild-locked Medusa. (Note: The book suggests that Spider-Man only recently met Medusa in the Inhumans book but the two met all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #62)
Artist Luca Pizzari’s detailed linework illustrates a chaotic attack on the city by a group of villainous bird-people whose skeletal city hovers sixty stories up. I’ve rarely read a Spider-Man comic paced this well with such fun and metered framing of its images. Mirrored images bleed into crowded, chaotic fight sequences which themselves give way to powerful depictions of New York City, only enhanced by some truly extreme angles. Only in Pizzari’s depictions of the human face, particulary the Inhumans, does his comical extremities go a bit too far.
With so much going right for this book it is a shame that the Inhumans themselves are such uninteresting characters that represent the worst of comicbook design and naming conventions. If Marvel is hoping for the Inhumans to become the next X-Men the first thing they could look to change is the names of Naja, Iso, Inferno, Gorgon, and Triton. I suspect even Loveness recognizes just how silly they characters are as he adds in a hilarious sequence of Spider-Man making fun of just how “vague” all their names are. I’m glad the book has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek but it doesn’t make me want to learn more about the Inhumans or their plight when they talk, read, and look like rejected concept art.
Still, the consistent character writing on the behalf of Spider-Man and dynamic art are more than enough to inject this story with all the fun that the best team-up issues are able to conjure. When the villain behind the attack reveals himself, Loveness hints at a depth to his actions that could provide interesting drama in subsequent issues but instead of ending the book on an interesting character note our character are flung out into space over New York City. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity to be sure, just how many titles in one month can end with a character falling without a net, but I’m interested to see where the story will take me next.