Judging by comments I’ve seen on Reddit and Twitter a lot of folks wait for the trade paperback of their favorite comics. That’s to not only get a full story arc as intended by the writer, but also a cheaper overall price for it too. Enter Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 5 which collects five of its issue and the annual. It’s 144 pages of Spidey goodness,
but is it worth a look see?
Writer: Dan Slott and Christos Gage (Annual by Humberto Ramos, Christos Gage, James Asmus, Wayne Brady & Jonathan Mangum)
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli (Annual by Francisco Herrera, Cory Smith, Bruno Oliveira)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
Death is no more, and the Clone Conspiracy rocks the life of the Amazing Spider-Man! And if things weren’t bad enough for the wall-crawler, now Doctor Octopus has returned from the grave! What does he have to do with the Jackal? Plus, the return of Carrion means big trouble for…the Scarlet Spider?! Where has Kaine been and what role will he play in the Jackal’s twisted plan?
Why does this book matter?
Collecting Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #20-24, Annual #1, this collection covers much of the “Clone Conspiracy” saga. Reading this essentially gets you caught up for Ben Reilly: The Scarlet Spider #1 and also caught up on how Ben Reilly came to be where he’s at now. If you’re interested at all in this character–and growing up in the 90’s how can you not–check this out.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is an interesting volume as it’s clearly missing pieces of “The Clone Conspiracy” and yet tells a story arc that’s satisfying. Having read and loved the Superior Spider-Man series this was a treat, as it ties directly into Doctor Octopus taking over Spider-Man’s body and tying that story into Ben Reilly’s. Much of this volume focuses on showing us how he came to gain the cloning abilities of the Jackal and that portion is cohesive and complete. You might wonder what Doc Ock has to do with him and writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage weave in his purpose well, so that by the end the story come together nicely. If anything this could be a prelude to Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider as it paves the way to explain why he lost his mind over the years and what he’s been put through. The final pages are a direct bridge in fact and include a Jackal appearance that’s reminiscent of the Clone Saga days.
Doc Ock is a major player in this volume.
Penciler Giuseppe Camuncoli has become a mainstay of this series and it’s obvious why as he captures Spidey with a strong build that’s got the hero’s resolve in his body language. There are plenty of beautiful splash pages in this book too, from a flashback of Spidey’s past (in web like panels of course) to the epic moments between Gwen and Peter. Speaking of that moment, a lot of the character acting is subtle in this sequence and Camuncoli does a lot of work to make their interaction feel real.
This volume ends with the annual issue which contains three stories written by five writers one of which is Wayne Brady of Who’s Line is it Anyway fame. The first story opens in Mexico City and has one hell of a cool looking villain rendered by artist Francisco Herrera. In fact, Herrera draws Spider-Man very well with an extra emphasis on spider like qualities. The second story focuses on Cloak and Dagger and has some of Spider-Man’s Chinese villains jump make appearances. Finally the Wayne Brady story kicks into gear with Spidey going to an improv lesson to work on his humor. Overall it’s a nice collection that focuses on the more international side of the modern Spider-Man with a dose of oddball humor.
Francisco Herrera should draw Spidey more often!
It can’t be perfect can it?
It’s hard to deny this is missing pieces from “The Clone Conspiracy” as the narrative jumps around a bit. There’s some flashback tales in this volume that tend to work in okay with a narrative that jumps around, but there’s a major piece missing between issue #23 and #24 that’s jarring. The fact is you can buy “The Clone Conspiracy” in its entirety already (and it contains the issues in this volume minus the annual) so I’d wager this TPB is more for a completist than anything else. Doc Ock, in particular, gets stiffed as he’s a major element in the early parts of the volume, but never gets a resolution here. That said, there’s still a complete story arc for Ben Reilly within this book.
I wanted to like Wayne Brady’s story in the annual, but unfortunately it falls very flat. It seems to tie into improv simply because it’s what he knows, but is never clever enough to warrant a laugh.
Aside from these gripes, anyone who hasn’t read Superior Spider-Man or those who are not interested in Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider probably won’t love this volume. Much of the enjoyment in reading this volume is the payoff of extending the Superior storyline and starting Ben Reilly’s future one. Outside of this you might be lost, or have a hard time caring.
Is It Good?
Being familiar with “The Clone Conspiracy” and following most of that adventure made reading this easy to follow, but if you’re new to that story arc you might be scratching your head after finishing this. That said, Superior Spider-Man fans should read this to get answers to that series and readers of Ben Reilly: Scarlet Spider must read this just to get a primer on the new series.