Nick Spencer has done what many thought impossible when it comes to the web-head: he’s got Peter back with Mary Jane, simplified his life in an organic and believable way, and made the character funny again. With his life practically in shambles again, how can he not joke? The Amazing Spider-Man second trade paperback from Marvel Comics is out this week and it collects the second arc in Spencer’s run.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Wondering when Boomerang’s status as Spider-Man’s roommate would blow up? Well, the time has come and it’s all here in this continuation of Nick Spencer’s action-packed take on everybody’s favorite web-head!
Why does this matter?
This collects Amazing Spider-Man #6 through #10, highlighting a period for Peter where his roommate is a super-villain, Black Cat draws him into some shady Thieves Guild business, and Mary Jane makes a choice to go to therapy so as to stay in a healthy relationship with Peter. In simple terms this collection has a lot going on that will be very important down the road. You can tell writer Nick Spencer is doing some heavy lifting for future stories.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Spencer has a knack for taking a hero and reminding us they are human, like how in one issue here Peter gets annoyed over simple things like his roommate not doing chores (or getting extra channels charged on the shared cable bill). You know a writer is good at what they do when they can take a no-name villain and make them more interesting. Tom King did it with Kite Man, and this collection does it with Boomerang. The character gets some humbling bits as well as some fun ones. You get the impression if he wasn’t so interested in making money the illegal way he’d probably be an okay dude to hang out with. Peter sees that too and that adds a new layer to their relationship which will be fun to see. It’s just one new relationship Spencer has fostered here.
Another big one is Black Cat, who isn’t quite on good terms with Spider-Man. Her last time hanging with him left her quite pissed since it was actually Doc Ock as Spider-Man who she was working with. Nothing like dragging a person you’re pissed at to a not-so-fun Thieves Guild party. Spencer is building up this organization, which has been an often underutilized one in the Marvel universe. At one point Gambit was a big part of it, but it has lots of potential given their depiction in this collection. It’s a major driving force behind the conflict in this collection and it’s nice to see this conflict get an end, but it also comes with a surprise or two adding new layers to the Thieves Guild’s purpose. The fact that Spencer wraps it up with a clever joke or two (Mr. Fantastic and Tony Stark both look a bit dumb) is icing on the cake. There’s also a great emotional moment between Peter and Felicia that Black Cat fans will love.
The art by Ramos is fantastic, as you might expect, but I was taken aback by how good the flashbacks were throughout the collection. The style was somewhat different from his usual style, in part because of the great colors by Edgar Delgado, and it works well to look a bit aged and fuzzy, as if we’re remembering. His ability to draw elastic limbs helps enhance the look of Spider-Man. He’s not just some dude in tights. Black Cat can look sexy, but also strong in a single panel, helping to give her the reader’s respect. There’s also an exceptional epilogue-like scene with Peter and MJ cast in a sepia-like tone that’s drawn in a way that feels natural and relaxed. It’s a key relationship moment and the weight of what Peter says is strong visually.
There are some nice extras to come with this collection, including full-page sketches from Humberto Ramos and some variant covers in the back of the book too.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Two things stand out. The first is how Spencer keeps teasing the new villain we’ve been wondering about since Free Comic Book Day nearly a year ago. At this point, it’s just a cheap tease and nothing more. The second is how the world building and development can be laid on too thick at times. There are chunks of pages in this collection where we don’t even get Spider-Man in the suit! Instead we’re getting a backstory on characters other than Peter.
Is it good?
Part of the joy in reading Nick Spencer’s take on the character is how it’s quite obvious he’s doing a lot of foundational work for future stories. It can be a bit obnoxious in some sense, but it’s also exciting. We’re essentially getting a good, funny take on Spider-Man now with clear planning and stories for the future building up from scratch. This is an exciting time to be a Spider-Man fan.