The third installment of Amazing Spider-Man’s “Marvel Legacy” reboot ends the initiative’s first first arc (“The Fall of Parker”) in similar fashion to the first two: another tidy, well-executed done-in-one story from Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen that spends the bulk of its time laying groundwork for the year (or, more appropriately when Slott is at the helm, years) ahead, rather than bombarding the reader with an over-the-top, big “event” feel.
And while such an approach remains deliriously refreshing after the past few years of needlessly anxiety-filled mega arcs about the multiverse and end-of-the-world threats, Amazing Spider-Man #791 also reads as an appropriately-timed end of the breath-catching period for this title. It’s not that this book’s recent meticulous attention to character development is unappreciated, but the general lack of stakes in Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s world is starting to feel a bit unsettling and out-of-character for this creative team.
Also, the issue falls into some old habits of trying to cram too much exposition into too small of a window for some of the natural character beats to feel organic and earned. Peter begins his new gig as the science/technology section of the Daily Bugle, and while the familiar banter and father/son-style relationship between Peter and Joe “Robbie” Robertson brings this old-school reader back to the days of Roger Stern/John Romita Jr., or Tom DeFalco/Ron Frenz, ASM #791 also introduces a whole slew of new characters in the Bugle’s team of writers in rapid succession.
This in of itself is not necessarily a problem, but given how by issue’s end we’re supposed to relish in this team’s journalistic victory together (with Peter at the helm, ‘natch), it would have been nice to get a little bit more time to know these characters and their distinct talents. Instead, all we really know from one issue is that they’re all a little incredulous about the “new guy” and his past relationship with Robbie.
The same kind of rushed introduction/development can be said of the issue’s primary villain, Dr. Xander Zynn. Zynn, a rival tech-genius who, in keeping with the Iron Man analogies of the volume four days, appears to be the Justin Hammer to Peter’s Tony Stark, seems like a pretty good antagonist for the down-on-his-luck Peter in this arc. But the character is quickly introduced as somewhat shady, has his diabolical scheme exposed, and is pushed out the door all within the span of one comic. As enjoyable as the previous two encounters with the Griffin and Clash might have been, perhaps Zynn’s story would have been better served with a bit more of a slow burn. It also would have better served the arc as a whole, which, as noted in the ASM #790 review, was missing an overarching villain that provided Peter with some more urgency to start picking up the pieces of his life.
Still, despite these frustrations, Slott continues to do a borderline magical job in selling the Peter/Bobbi Morse romance. While it still feels a tad unnerving to pair a guy like Peter with a (comic book) lifelong spy and Avenger like Bobbi/Mockingbird, and as rough and awkward as their initial romance was depicted, things have truly settled into a groove during “Fall of Parker.” There’s just a natural chemistry between the two characters now and both get their moments in this issue to show why, despite the odds being discernibly against them, they are together regardless. They also make a very good team in fighting off the A.I.-takeover of Zynn’s lab, with Mockingbird also functioning as a moral center that can cheekily remind Peter that not all sand-based villains have to be the masculine Flint Marko. Double kudos to Immonen who manages to really accentuate Bobbi’s natural beauty out-of-costume, without resorting to any eye-rolling cheesecake.
Of course, Immonen’s phenomenal work extends beyond his depiction of female characters, as ASM #791 contains multiple scenes of beautifully-rendered dynamic action, which are basically just trademarks of Immonen’s since joining this book earlier this year. Getting to see Spider-Man/Bobby (“Spockingbird?”) take on an army of “BB-8” style droids is as much of a joy as it sounds.
Now things seem to be taking a more familiar turn for Spider-Man and co. as a multi-part crossover with Venom is slated to begin next issue, and some seeds are planted for another inevitable showdown with a certain “gobin-based” villain. Again, as tedious as some of the big events of the past few years have been for Spider-Man (and Marvel as a whole), kicking off some longer-form stories involving classic baddies like Venom and the Osborns seems like just the medicine to get this book moving into the next gear.