A wise old, 1960s-era fictitious ad man once said, “if you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”
When the new status quo for Amazing Spider-Man was announced months ago — how eight months after Secret Wars had ended (whoops, just ignore the fact that it’s still currently publishing), Peter would find himself as a successful tech mogul, traveling the world with beautiful foreign women on his arm — there was some pointed criticism from fans. And that criticism all inevitably reached the same conclusion: “What you’re describing isn’t Spider-Man. It’s Tony Stark/Iron Man.”
Even the most ardent supporters of Dan Slott’s long-term run on the Spider-books were saying that.
So after months and months of interviews from Slott and others at Marvel telling cynical readers to just give the book a chance with an open mind, they did a very smart thing about halfway through the first issue of the now fourth volume of Amazing Spider-Man — they acknowledged the 900 pound gorilla in the room and metatextually addressed the critics.
Is this new status quo for Peter and Spider-Man just a not-so-subtle rehash of Iron Man? Sorta, but not really. So just move on and focus on what’s happening in the story because in typical Slott fashion, there’s a lot of plot and setup for future plots condensed into this (oversized) comic. Consider the conversation changed.
This latest iteration of Peter is indeed successful and business-savvy, which feels strange considering the 50-plus years of stories that tell us otherwise about the character. But Slott makes sure that all of Peter’s wheelings and dealings are done true to character, which allows the reader to cheer for Parker’s newfound luck while simultaneously cautiously waiting for the shoe to drop (and there’s plenty of hints — including a well-placed reveal with the Living Brain which many readers have been predicting for months — to indicate that the good times will be short-lived for Spider-Man).
Amazing Spider-Man #1 presents a fun new spin on the age old “with great power, must also come great responsibility” mantra, as we learn that Peter is using his big ol’ brain not to save the world but to “create a world worth saving.” This book demonstrates exactly what one should expect a successful Peter Parker to do with his time and money. His monologues can be a bit over-the-top in their aw-shucks-ness at times, but there is absolutely no mistaking the main character of the series as a close parallel, if not clone, of the narcissistic Stark.
The book’s narrative moves briskly with some spring in its step as the reader is treated to a Spider-Man team-up with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Mockingbird that showcases all of the whiz-bang cool technology Parker Industries has been churning out; followed by check-ins with a number of supporting characters new and old (with more, presumably to come considering we got nothing from two longtime cast members, Aunt May and J. Jonah Jameson). We also get introduced to an old-school S.H.I.E.L.D. villain, the Zodiac cartel as the chief adversary for Peter and Parker Industries. While linking Spider-Man to the S.H.I.E.L.D. universe might come across as a bit of the tail wagging the dog in light of the recent shared cinematic universe agreement between Marvel Studios and Sony, the Zodiac at least presents a sensible antagonist in a story about a hero who provides tech to Nick Fury and co.
As easy as it to associate the dynamic stylings of Humberto Ramos with a Slott Spider-Man book, new “main” penciller (in that he’s been named the penciler for the first arc) Giuseppe Camuncoli is made for this new status quo. As we witnessed during some of his fill-in work during “Spider-Verse,” Camuncoli brings a sleek, modern look to Amazing Spider-Man, and considering how this book is chock full of fast moving Spider-Mobiles and other high-tech doo-dads, Camuncoli absolutely delivers some top notch page renderings and layouts.
Amazing Spider-Man #1 does has its flaws. While it might seem slightly unfair to judge the Marvel Universe “leap ahead” after only one issue, creating so much back-plot does have the potential to lead to some sticky narrative situations. This comic is just begging for some exposition to fill in the blanks — how did Parker Industries go from a pile of rubble in the last issue of volume 3 to this very successful company in so little time, especially when you consider some of the folks that were trying to undermine Peter (chiefly Sanjani) are very much apart of the current narrative. There’s obviously time to address these issues and the reluctance to bog down a No. 1 issues with exposition is understandable, but the longer some questions go unanswered, the more frustrating this status quo will become. And when you add in all of the new plot Slott introduces in this issue, there’s a legitimate fear that what happened in the past will stay in the past.
The remainder of the oversized issue includes a number of teasers for upcoming Spider-office books including Spider-Man 2099, Silk, Web Warriors, Spider-Man (with Miles Morales) and Spider-Woman. All of these pieces are short and inoffensive but don’t provide much information beyond what you’ve already likely read in the monthly solicitations. Still, they certainly provide the reader with a little more “bang” for the proverbial buck.