Several weeks ago, I praised the debut issue of Jose Molina and Simone Bianchi’s “Amazing Grace” story in Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 for presenting a grounded, if unfocused, tale of Spider-Man dealing with crime in New York City. A return to Peter Parker’s hometown brought with it a refreshing familiarity that I had found absent in the main Amazing Spider-Man title, even if it didn’t quite mesh with his newfound Steve Jobs-wannabe characterization seen elsewhere. So, I was quite surprised to discover that Amazing Spider-Man #1.2 is truly the first book in relaunched All-New All-Different universe to fully utilize Peter’s globe-hopping lifestyle in a way that is more than just set dressing.
Puerto-Rico born writer Jose Molina stuffs Amazing Spider-Man #1.2 to the brim with cultural references, political conversations, and folklore ruminations about Cuba, that make Peter’s travel destination feel like a real place and him feel like an outsider who is in over his head. Cuba is a country in change, particularly after the lifting of the United States’ embargo last year, but the characters here are quick to remind Peter that he’s still treading in a repressive dictatorship that abuses the faith its people place in their government and leaders. It’s all a bit much to take in for one comic, as most of it reads like a personal political platform being sold by the writer which in turn makes it hard to ferret out which of the information is ultimately important to the story at hand. Still, it is a welcomed inclusion that sells Peter’s international status in a way that the Dan Slott series has yet to deliver on.
Cultural flavor aside, Jose Molina’s script begins with a strangely abrupt introduction that skips past the teased introduction between Spider-Man and the mysterious Santerians and instead has Spider-Man both freeing chickens and saving them from some hungry canines. This odd opening paves the way for several exposition heavy pages of introductions to the Santerians and discussions about the mystery behind the odd resurrection of Julio, who never appears herein.
The Santerians still feel perfunctory to this plot, as they did in Daredevil: Father, and their explanation for why Spider-Man should get involved is overly complicated and never fully convincing. There is a nice reference back to Peter’s new Uncle Ben Foundation and an acknowledgement that now that Peter has gone global his initiatives are missing all the local action in favor for the big worldwide issues, but so much of this issue seems to be jumping through hoops to justify how this story fits into Peter’s new status quo rather than embracing it fully.
Molina also adopts a flashback/flashforward storytelling technique for half the issue wherein Peter is riding on the back of his private jet one panel and dealing with the Santerians the next. It’s an oddly implemented technique, meant to break up the large blocks of dialogue in the book, and it quickly becomes confusing before it reveals itself to be largely perfunctory.
Molina’s Peter maintains his overly goofy personality, as represented in Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man title, wherein he makes jokes at almost every opportunity and sings pop-songs while swinging around town. I’ve stressed that this is a misunderstanding of how Peter Parker’s put-on confidence brings forth humor when he dons his Spider-Man attire, but at least it is consistent with how he is being represented in the flagship title. As with the last issue, the best writing in regards to Peter occurs in a quiet moment with a local where he offers a sober answer to the locals’ personal needs that may be helped by Parker Industries.
Simone Bianchi’s pencils are a bit more of a mixed bag in this issue than they were in the previous. His signature style that mixes rich details with caricaturistic human figures is present throughout, but is hampered by inconsistent color work by over four colorists (Israel Silva, Java Tartagla, Andres Mossa, Marte Graca) and the forced, lingering, 90s design aesthetic married to the Santerians. Like in the “Spiral” series, the washed out colors of New York against Spider-Man’s classic, bold-colored costume are distracting and an ill-fitting pair. However, the luminescent glow and beautiful sunsets of Cuba really bring the city of Havana to life. Though, I’d be remiss if I didn’t’ mention that the Puerto Rican flag is shown flying over Cuba due to an unfortunate color mix-up.