When it was announced that the second Amazing Spider-Man story arc featuring superstar artist Stuart Immonen’s pencils would be a tie-in story to the “Secret Empire” event, I’m sure there were a number of people who groaned, sighed, and were prepared for several months of a throw-away tale. Event fatigue has gripped Marvel and its diminishing number of readers, enough that they announced they would be doing no new events after “Secret Empire” concluded.
Fortunately, the last issue of Amazing Spider-Man proved that stories could be told under the umbrella of “Secret Empire” without diverting the narrative of the title’s story completely. This week’s issue, Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 4) #30, is not quite as successful, while still having its own unique charms. The book has been uneven since the new volume started, recently coming off an incredible hot streak, and this book compounds some of the series’ reoccurring fumbles with some unnecessary “Secret Empire” distractions.
Those distractions come right at the start, as Peter leads members of the Champions away from the failing battle with Captain America and Hydra. The sequence is as beautifully drawn as we’ve come to expect from Stuart Immonen and his talented art team of Wade von Grawbadger and Marte Gracia, but the narration leans a bit to heavy on the repeated insistence that Peter is a leader now. It’s a characterization I’m still a bit uncomfortable with, especially since the comic calls him out moments later for always needing aid, and I’m made doubly so by how frequently the book sees fit to reassert this new role for Spider-Man.
I can’t help but feel like this whole sequence is a distraction from the events with Otto in the previous book. It underlines all the annoyances I have with event book tie-ins, except for one wonderful moment. Peter shares a quick kiss with Bobby Morse, aka Mockingbird, that is both tender and sweet, particularly in how Stuart Immonen renders Peter in a sort of boyish glow, a slight smile curling across his face. Their kiss is a wonderful honest moment, if a bit sudden, that’s completely sold by the art, punctuated by Gracia’s glowing colors.
The majority of the rest of the book features Peter preparing his staff and building for the eventual arrival of Otto Octavius and his Hydra goons. Writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage reintroduce us to the Shanghai branch of Parker Industries, checking in with a number of the players there. The encounters are a bit sloppily constructed, mainly because we’ve gotten so little time to know these characters, much less care where their ultimate allegiances lie. It’s a shame, because it seems that in this particular issue the negative effects of tying in to the time-jump of “Secret Wars” and events of “Secret Empire” rear their ugly heads. With all these “secrets”, who can really grasp onto anything these days?
In the final pages, the story suddenly comes to life with the reappearance of Doctor Octopus and his incredibly long tentacles (is he compensating?). Otto’s been a bit played out recently, appearing in more of these books than he doesn’t, but it’s a thrill to see Immonen render him as a threat to Peter and his company. These sorts of high-stakes, large-scale battles are exactly what makes this volume of Amazing Spider-Man unique and while fisticuffs haven’t been thrown yet, the build up is incredible.
We’ve got vehicles of all makes and models climbing up buildings, two Spider-Men leaping towards each other, and all manners of artistic goodies. Joe Caramagna’s lettering blares sounds, Immonen twists his layouts and perspectives, and Gracia plays with the headlights of the vehicles. It’s all a bit disorienting, in a great way. Slott and Gage produce a decent twist, which isn’t all that surprising, but the crown jewel of the whole thing is a simple visual logo that’s been right in front of us the whole time.