Sometimes you read so many comics and watch so many movies that you forget what a good old fashioned character arc is. At least, that happens to me. Well, Nick Spencer is here to deliver one — tepid as it is.
Amazing Spider-Man #13 opens with Spidey and his frenemy, J. Jonah Jameson, still trapped in some kind of simulation room that flashes Jameson’s life before his eyes. But at the same time, they’re being assaulted by a litany of villains.
I won’t spoil who the mystery villain is, but their inclusion is thematic for Jameson. Admittedly, they’re a deep cut who fans of classic Spider stories will appreciate. The problem is, the villain is trying to convince Jameson to hurt Spider-Man–but we know Jameson won’t do it.
If there was some kind of doubt about Jameson’s loyalty to the wall-crawler, this villainous challenge might have been really compelling. But it’s deafened by JJJ’s clear heroism. The part of Jonah’s arc that does work is him putting down Kingpin, stifling his own ego. So it’s not all bad.
Another problem is the villain himself. Because he’s just been revealed now, he has to spend literally pages explaining his backstory and plan for new readers. If Spencer had shown him from the get-go of this arc and let us really see and understand his position, it’d be so much more effective than being mansplained. I’m not surprsied. Spencer has struggled through his whole run with shoe-horning in exposition like a ’90s X-Men comic.
Speaking of villains, Scorpion comes and goes with little consequence. I understand that Spencer is building a roster of classic villains, but they clutter up so much page space to just show up so fanboys will post about it.
Ryan Ottley’s art is a tricky thing. His cartoony style is instantly recognizable and brimming with personality. There’s an angular power to his character expressions and action scenes. But he avoids showing environments and setting to a shocking degree. Draw a skyline of NYC? Nah. How about a shadowy outline? A scene in an aristocratic ball room? Let’s just show a couple tables and some ornate doors behind them.
But let’s end on a positive. Nick Spencer’s dialog is consistently funny. Certainly it feels like he’s trying to tell jokes, but most of the humor comes from the characters’ personalities clashing, thus tying into the story and themes. Peter’s speech to Jonah at the end is both laugh-out-loud funny and touching. Spencer’s talent is blending pathos into the absurd.