The “big two” comic book publishers are often loathe to label a new branding initiative a “reboot” but the fact of the matter is that Marvel’s “Legacy” event marks one of the most significant shake-ups for the Amazing Spider-Man’s status quo in recent years. What makes the recent transformation of this book even more remarkable is that this shake-up is being accomplished without the use of clones, mind-wipes, mystical marriage annulments or the death of a major character. Perhaps the title of the front of the book should read “The Amazing Stress-Free Spider-Man.”
Which is not to say that Amazing Spider-Man #790, plotted by Dan Slott, with a script by pinch-hitter extraordinaire Christos Gage and art by Stuart Immonen, is a book without a conflict. It’s just that the conflict found within its pages is so un-Slott like, or more broadly, un-21st century event-driven Marvel like, that this comic feels rather tame by comparison to its recent predecessors.
ASM #790 manages to execute dual task of both continuing to lay the groundwork for Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s new status quo, while also leaning heavily on previous events from the “Parker Industries” driven volume 4 and then some (aka, playing the “long game” as we sometimes jokingly talk about on the podcast).
At this juncture, “The Fall of Parker”‘s drama is primarily driven on a rather clever inversion on an otherwise classic Spider-Man narrative. Going back to the character’s earliest days as a Silver Age phenom, Spider-Man has always had to deal with having his good deeds and intentions being nullified by the public perception that he is a menace and untrustworthy. In “Fall of Parker,” as Spider-Man, Peter seems to have his groove back, serving the citizens of New York and the “friendly neighborhood” street level by doing everything from webbing up bank robbers to moving double-parked cars on crowded city streets (there’s truly not a worse criminal than a double-parker if you ask me).
But Peter in his civilian identity is the ultimate zero and faces an outpouring of public shame and scorn far worse than anything he’s ever faced before — including his days as Midtown High’s only professional wallflower (where he could at least shirk into the background as a bullied outcast). There is no escape for ASM #790’s Peter. The comic opens with a gloriously awkward montage of Peter apologizing to the whole gamut of people he wronged during his tenure as CEO of Parker Industries. And regardless of how he attempts to justify why his company failed, the conclusion everyone he talks to comes to is that he’s either incompetent or a corrupt Wall Street crook. By issue’s end, the only allies Peter has are the select few he’s opened up to about his secret double life as a masked vigilante.
Speaking of allies, ASM #790 also includes another showdown between Spider-Man and Human Torch over the future of the Baxter Building, though this one is far less convoluted in how the confrontation has been framed by the creative team (though I admittedly was one of the few reviewers who seemingly enjoyed that vol. 4 issue). A Johnny/Spidey throwdown is always a good time, especially when rendered as dynamically as Immonen does here (extra props to Gage for a laugh out loud line regarding Harry Lyman resembling a “finance bro”), but the sequence is a great example of how Legacy’s overall embrace of Marvel history brings some legitimate stakes to the table. Part of the issue with the aforementioned vol. 4 story was that because of “reasons,” Marvel had gone to such great lengths to kiss off the Fantastic Four as relic of the past, the issue’s conflict between Peter and Johnny was tempered by just a general nonchalance about the fate of the Fantastic Four. With rumors that the team might finally be reforming in some iteration for Marvel’s “Legacy” initiative, the fact that the Baxter Building might be turned into luxury condos adds some real angry desperation to Johnny’s fight with Peter. Not only did his business decisions let down employees and customers, they’re trickling all the way down to affecting some of his bestest friends in the world.
If there’s one major ding against ASM #790, and “The Fall of Parker” as a whole (through two issues), it’s the lack of a central villain to drive the conflict beyond Peter’s own internal struggle to properly deal with the collapse of his company and reputation. At the end of the day, these are still superhero comics where punches and kicks between two costumed characters are par for the course. Clayton “Clash” Cole shows up to needle Spider-Man/Peter in this issue (duly noted, that no one writes Clayton’s dialogue better than Gage, and with Immonen on pencils, the character’s physical appearance continues to improve), but the character disappears from the scene just as quickly. At some point, an actual villain that threatens to disrupt this status quo needs to be introduced or else the lack over-the-top dramatics that are most often associated with Slott’s Spider-Man run, will start to resemble more aimless storytelling. But we’re honestly a handful of issues out before that truly becomes a concern, and with a Venom mini-event on the horizon, I don’t suspect that’s going to happen, so it’s best to just enjoy this highly character-driven, beautifully rendered tale as it unfolds.