Whether you like Marvel’s “fresh start” new series or not you have to admit these books are giving longstanding characters brand new directions. Or at the very least, things are changing in big ways. I’ve enjoyed Venom, Doctor Strange, and Immortal Hulk due to their ability to create new directions for characters that have been in a circular rut for ages.
This week it is writer Nick Spencer and artist Ryan Ottley’s turn to change everything for Spider-Man.
So what’s it about?
Read our preview.
Why does this matter?
This is the flagship Spider-Man series everyone must read to truly understand the character. It also offers up a new writer after Dan Slott’s longstanding run and that means new direction and new ideas! The New Comic Book Day comic was also stellar (I gave it a 10/10).
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is a dense read with a verbose writing style that adds a layer of value to this very fresh start to the character. If you’re jumping on this series it does a good job reminding readers what Peter does for a job, what his living situation is, and how he’s perceived by the superhero community. By the end of the issue it’s quite clear Spider-Man’s direction has pivoted, bringing the character to a place that’s more grounded and relatable. It’s a direction that will remind longtime readers of the early days when Spidey couldn’t pay rent, had constant troubles with peers and generally had to fight against the negativity through his banter. Spencer lays out a lot of hardships for Peter to swallow in this issue (which can be quite depressing at times) but it’s Spider-Man’s resolve that makes him so great and that shines through clearly.
Spencer sets all this up and hinges it on an alien attack that requires every superhero under the sun to save the day. Being a Spider-Man book you know he’ll be the hero who is the deciding factor, but since heroes like Cage, Human Torch, and Daredevil aren’t too happy with Spidey it’s a bittersweet situation. This action allows the book to cut back and forth between superhero stuff and personal life choices well. The issue also ends with an epilogue of sorts, developing a looming threat and positioning Peter for a new set of daily life struggles involving school. This is a fresh start to be sure (he’s not a super-rich CEO anymore for instance), but at the same time, it brings this character down to his roots where something as simple as having enough money for subway fare is impossible.
Ryan Ottley draws some stellar work in this book and he’s very good at managing the superhero fight scenes with the street clothes lifestyle. If you’ve read Invincible you’ll probably recognize his style and it suits this character very well. This book is dense with words be it captions or dialogue and Ottley keeps things moving very well. Case in point, a scene with Aunt May who is very disappointed in Peter. In this scene we get six panels, two going left to right at the top and four wide panels running down the rest of the page. The first two panels set up the emotional punch May will deliver to Peter, and then the four running down the page pan across her face as she delivers different looks of dismay. This scene works very well because we get a sense of her emotions and what they mean to Peter as we look on from his point of view.
It can’t be perfect can it?
As I’ve said above this book is verbose as heck. It took me at least double the time to read this than a conventional comic. Expect a slower pace and a lot of detail delivered via talking heads and off-panel narration. The slower pace is also noteworthy because the issue spends a lot of time delivering exposition and heartbreak for Peter, but not a lot of fun or even quips. There are quips, don’t get me wrong, but the bubbly nature of Spider-Man isn’t quite as good as it was in the New Comic Book Day comic. That gives me hope, but if you were just reading this you might think this series is going to be a depressing slog.
My only other very slight gripe is how Ottley draws Mary Jane and Peter. They both are very reminiscent of Invincible and Atom Eve, though Mary Jane is much closer to Atom Eve than Peter is to Invincible. It caught me off guard a bit and kept nagging at me. It’s not a huge issue obviously, but it might pull you out of the story ever so slightly.
Is it good?
If you’re reading this series expecting a fresh start Amazing Spider-Man will be a huge success. The character is back to being an unlucky loser with no friends and only his tenacity to never give up driving him forward. Spencer throws a lot of lumps at Peter in this issue, but you’ll read them knowing it’ll only make the character stronger. Spider-Man is back to being the ultimate underdog and better than ever. This is classic Spider-Man done in a new way.