If there’s one thing that has defined the Dan Slott-era on Amazing Spider-Man it’s a high level of chaos and disorder for its main character Peter Parker. Regardless of whether or not things were going well for Peter (“Big Time” and the entire “Parker Industries” arc) or not-so-well (Superior Spider-Man), almost every major story scripted by Slott has been defined, for better or worse, by just how far out of everyone’s comfort zone he was willing to take Peter and Spider-Man.
Enter Marvel’s “Legacy” initiative and Amazing Spider-Man #789, a not-so-covert effort by the “House of Ideas” to restore a fair bit of order to its entire publishing line after years of high risks and major status quo upheavals. While the most recent iteration of Spider-Man wasn’t as drastic of a change as what readers were getting in books like Thor or Captain America, it’s still no surprise that Marvel and Slott would use this company-wide event to introduce a more “traditional” kind of Spider-Man story. But whether or not you want to call this first offering by Slott and artist Stuart Immonen a “back to basics” approach, or a “reboot,” one thing that is undeniable is that ASM #789 is a joy to read and is probably the most character-centric (and true to that character) story we’ve received from Marvel since the “Brand New Day” era of Spider-Man.
Granted, like “Legacy,” “Brand New Day” was prefaced with a fair amount of behind-the-scenes drama for Marvel and the Spider-Man character, but in the same vein out of that controversy arose some of the more entertaining Spider-Man stories in recent memory that were equal parts Roger Stern/Tom DeFalco-era throwbacks and modern reimaginings of the character. In “Legacy,” Slott has returned to a tried and true theme for our titular character: Parker Industries has gone belly-up thanks to Peter’s “mismanagement” (the fact that his actions saved the world from catastrophe with Doctor Octopus and Hydra getting control of his company is suitably irrelevant to the overall narrative of this story), and Peter is basically persona non grata. And his alter ego Spider-Man, who’s spent the past umpteen months serving as the “bodyguard” for the most hated CEO in the world, is not doing any better in the popularity department.
And while crusty old Spider-Man readers will tell you that there’s nothing revelatory or groundbreaking about portraying Peter as a loser/outcast and Spider-Man as an untrustworthy vigilante, “Legacy” feels vibrant and fresh all the same. Perhaps because it’s been a good six or seven years since we last traced this ground together. Plus, the approach allows Slott to flex his continuity muscles regarding Spider-Man/Peter’s supporting cast and family.
Speaking of which, is there a greater supporting cast in comic book history? All of our favorites get serviced with subplots in ASM #789: Harry Lyman, Liz Allan, Flash Thompson, Joe Robbie Robertson, Aunt May and Betty Brant to name a few. The only big name missing from the bunch is J. Jonah Jameson, but if Slott’s approach to this issue is any indication, it’s only a matter of time before his story becomes interspersed with Peter and Spider-Man’s.
Meanwhile, ASM #789 serves as a reminder that as sincere of an effort it was for Marvel to get readers to buy into new Spidey supporting characters like Cindy Moon or Philip Chang, this title is always at its most comfortable when it “plays the hits” and leans on its history.
At the same time, ASM #789 gives us a rather substantial look at one new character dynamic in Spider-Man’s universe: Peter’s romantic relationship with Bobbi Morse, aka, Mockingbird. The scenes in Bobbi’s apartment, where Peter is “couchsurfing,” were completely owned by Immonen’s expressive artwork and humorous costuming choices (Peter in the “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda” t-shirt elicited a legit snortle from me). Immonen would later get another chance to shine when Slott went back to the “Spider-Man fights some D-list villain for some yuks” well (this time involving the empanada-stealing Griffin, but see also some Slott stories featuring White Rabbit and the Iguana), but it was an otherwise quiet (but well-executed) issue for this superstar artist. At the risk of sounding repetitive, everything about Amazing Spider-Man has seemingly been rejuvenated since Immonen came aboard earlier this year. Whether that’s a coincidence or not remains to be seen, but either way, Immonen clearly renders Slott’s zany plots better than anyone who has worked on this book in recent memory.
Overall, ASM #789 is a great story for this new status quo. Don’t be mistaken: the bulk of this book is set-up and exposition. But it’s bouncy and jubilant set-up and exposition at that. In many ways, “Legacy” reads like everything many Spider-Man fans had wished the opening issues of ASM vol. 3 (following Peter’s return to the “living” post-Superior Spider-Man) was going to be.
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