Dan Slott’s run on Spider-Man has come to an end. In his place Marvel has tapped former Captain America and Secret Empire writer Nick Spencer to pick up where Slott left Peter Parker and his supporting cast. Spencer is a writer that I am not a fan of as his Captain America run and Secret Empire event were some of my least favorite comics in the last decade. Those comics do not breed much confidence in what Spencer can do with Spider-Man. That said, I will say that I did enjoy a good portion of Spencer’s run on Superior Foes of Spider-Man. That series showed Spencer has a good understanding of Spider-Man’s Rogues Gallery. If Spencer can tap into that than his Amazing Spider-Man run can turn out to be quite surprising. Let’s find out if that is the case with a brand new Amazing Spider-Man #1.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: Laura Martin
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Years ago Peter Parker, while still wearing his black Spider-Man costume, takes Mary Jane Watson to look over New York City from the top of a tower.
Just as MJ gives him a kiss Peter wakes up because of the noise his roommate, Fred Myers (also known as Boomerang) playing the new Call of Duty game in the living room.
Peter takes his other roommate and best friend Randy Robertson to the side to tell him that they should kick Fred out. Randy says Fred isn’t a bad guy and even helped him by being his wing man at a bar the other night.
Randy then reminds Peter that he was supposed to be up early anyways to go to a conference at ESU. Peter nervously remembers that fact.
Suddenly in the middle of the city the Avengers, X-Men and Defenders are fighting off an alien invasion. When Spider-Man shows up to help out the Defenders groan at his sudden appearance.
A few weeks earlier Spider-Man busts what he thinks is a bank robbery. It turns out to be a fake robbery staged by Mayor Wilson Fisk. Fisk reveals that he wants to present Spider-Man with a key to the city in appreciation to all his heroic efforts. Spider-Man quickly rejects the offer as he does not buy it as being real and swings away.
Fisk’s assistant is confused that Fisk would make such an offer to Spider-Man after he declared a war on supeheroes as part of his mayoral campaign. Fisk reveals that he wants to break Spider-Man in a different way from the others. He goes on to state he wants to isolate Spider-Man from the other heroes by creating a schism in his relationship with them.
In the present Spider-Man continues to get brushed off by Daredevil and Human Torch, both not willing to put up with Spider-Man’s nonsense.
Flashing back to an unknown time Peter arrives to cover a press conference at ESU titled “Brand New Day” that is being done by his former classmate, Cindy Lawton. Cindy unveils WatchR, a new program created by her team and herself to catch people who plagiarize their school assignments.
Cindy then calls Peter to the stage and uses WatchR to reveal that Peter’s graduate papers were actually work done by Otto Octavius. Peter tries to explain the situation (since those were turned in when Otto controlled Peter Parker’s body during Superior Spider-Man) but Cindy says that Peter is out of excuses.
A little later, at the Daily Bugle Robby fires Peter from his job. Peter tries to convince Robbie not to do so. Robbie tells Peter with circulation dying forcing jobs to be cut that he can’t have something that damages the Daily Bugle’s credibility like Peter’s plagiarism scandal just did. Robbie then says that he hopes that one day he and Peter can sit down so he can get the real story behind the current scandal surrounding Peter.
Afterwards Peter meets up with MJ, who ends up laughing at Peter suffering from his bad luck yet again. Peter says that he couldn’t control things since Otto was in control of his body at the time and this just again shows how his Spider-Man life is ruining not just his life but of those around him. MJ sadly turns her head away and agrees.
Suddenly the TV at the restaurant shows a report on Sajani Jaffrey’s (Peter’s old Horizon Labs colleague and business partner at Parker Industries) recent comments on Peter’s scandal and revealing her intentions to sue Peter.
Just as Peter can’t think it could get worse he realizes something.
Peter heads over to his Aunt May’s place and quickly hides the newspaper and turns of TV that are reporting on what just happened to him.
Aunt May walks in and reveals she already knows everything since an alert came up on her phone. Aunt May says even with all the ups and downs Peter has been through and how it affected the Uncle Ben foundation she was still proud of him. She goes on to say that this situation along with the fact that Peter isn’t taking responsibility for it makes her ashamed of him. Peter tries to explain without actually revealing what really happened which makes Aunt May remind him that she and Uncle Ben raised him to be better than he is being right now.
Back in the present Spider-Man and the other heroes struggle with the alien invasion. As that happens Spider-Man thinks about all the people he has hurt because of his mistakes. Spider-Man suddenly notices something in the sky above and decides to slingshot his way to it.
When he gets to the top of the sky Spider-Man hits the base Mysterio is using to create his illusions and control his robots. Spider-Man busts in and quickly takes out Mysterio.
After leaving Mysterio tied up for Iron Man to arrest he swings away slightly embarrassed that it was one of his villains that caused this mess.
Afterwards Peter admits that nothing has felt right for a long time and he has always turned to the person he is talking to at the moment for help. He goes on to say that he understands that what he came there to say may be a mistake. Before Peter finishes MJ interrupts him and gives him a kiss. MJ then says that whatever happens they will face it together.
Sometime later Mysterio is making his opening statement for his trial. The judge quickly grows tired of listening to Mysterio’s rant tells him to stop.
Suddenly Janice Lincoln (the daughter of Tombstone and the current Beetle) shows up and says she will be acting as Mysterio’s lawyer. Mysterio complains that Janice stole his idea of the Sinister Six.
Janice starts feeling sick and throws up a bunch of bugs. The judge has a similar reaction and bugs come out of his body. The entire courtroom fills up with bugs. Mysterio tries to run away when a voice starts talking to him about being disappointed in him. When Mysterio offers to reveal what he knows about Spider-Man, a mysterious person covered in bugs (this may be the Spider-Man villain known as The Other?) shows up.
The mysterious person says he knows everything about Peter and reveals he hired Janice for Mysterio. Mysterio begs for another chance. The mysterious person doesn’t think he should but ends up feeling sorry for Mysterio and gives the villain one last chance.
Back in the normal courtroom Mysterio freaks out on the stand and Janice apologizes for her client acting erratically.
At Empire State University Peter meets up with Cindy. Peter thinks tries to apologize and take responsibility for what happened but Cindy says that the investigation is done. Cindy then hands Peter some paperwork and books. She then reveals that a ESU faculty member gave a impassioned defense of Peter and convinced the university to give Peter a second chance to get his academic credentials and degrees.
Peter steps into a classroom and is welcomed back by the Doctor Connor’s in his full Lizard form. Dr. Connor’s then tells Peter to have a seat in class. End of issue.
The Good: Nick Spencer clearly had a goal with Amazing Spider-Man #1 to live up to the title of his opening story “Back to Basics.” To accomplish that Spencer pushes forward with the iconic “Parker Luck” that has been part of Spider-Man’s character since being introduced by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. For those looking for this type of Spider-Man and Peter Parker story it can be seen as a win. But unfortunately the way Spencer execution of this angle does leave Amazing Spider-Man #1 looking like it will be a divisive start to a new creative team run.
By far where Spencer succeeds the most is with a large portion of the events that take place involving Peter Parker in Amazing Spider-Man #1. Spencer clearly understands that one of the things that has made Peter an appealing character is the fact that he is faced with as many failures as successes, with the former sometimes overshadowing the latter. For Amazing Spider-Man #1 Spencer does a good job using what Slott established, specifically with the latter half of his run, to give weight to his first issue. Using things like Doctor Octopus taking over Peter’s body and Parker Industries failure got across how Spencer will be using what his predecessors have done with Spider-Man to enhance his planned stories.
Having a clear idea of continuity gave weight to how Spencer characterized Peter throughout Amazing Spider-Man #1. Specifically, his former classmate Cindy Lawton revealing to the world that Peter “plagiarized” his graduate papers instantly reminded you how much was left resolve from Slott’s run around the events. This was something that was easy to forget since Peter as Spider-Man had to deal with The Clone Conspiracy, Secret Empire, Venom Inc, Zodiac and Green Goblin during the end of Slott’s run.
What was good about this is that Spencer used how distracted Peter was during the period of the fall of Parker Industries to the story’s advantage. Because as we saw Peter was in denial of any involvement. While it is true that Peter had no control of what Otto did while his nemesis had control of his body the reality is that Peter never admitted to something going on. Instead Peter let everything go to his head and during the Parker Industries period he marched ahead while covering up this big secret.
Peter’s own ego being hit so hard as he was not only fired by Robbie Robertson but also got told by Aunt May how, for the first time in her life, she was disappointed in him was what needed to happen. This was a reality check for Peter that resets his character to remember the importance of why he is Spider-Man and how he needs a balance with his personal life. And Peter now having to go back to school at ESU to recover his credibility is a solid starting point for a lot of stories for Spencer to tell.
This story of the “Parker Luck” also gave Peter’s supporting cast time to shine. Aunt May, in particular, shined in her one scene with Peter. In this scene Spencer showed how strong of a character Aunt May is as she shared her honest disappointment in her nephew. It was exactly the kick in the ass that Peter needed to show how much he let his ego get in the way of living life with the lessons his aunt and uncle taught him.
This was also a good way to give Robbie some time on screen. Robbie has always been one of my favorite Spider-Man supporting cast members and it was great to see how Spencer tackled his character. In the short scene Spencer showed that Robbie is Peter’s friend. Even when he had to fire Peter he still made sure to reach out to Peter to show that he’ll have his back when he truly wants to open up about what is really going on. This set-up gives the reader some optimism in the fact that Peter can turn things around as not every door has completely closed on him.
Speaking of doors, with how much Peter was beaten down in Amazing Spider-Man #1 it was great to see Spencer bring back his relationship with Mary Jane Watson. As with a lot of fans I was disappointed with Peter and MJ’s relationship ended. While I did not mind Peter’s relationship with Carlie Cooper, Silk or Mockingbird, none of them got over the way Peter and MJ’s relationship did. Spencer did a very good job throughout this issue showing that MJ will be the rock Peter and this series need as we move forward. And the fact that MJ knows everything that has happened helps make the relationship grounded as Peter can actually talk to her as an equal rather than hero forced to keep up his double life.
Kingpin’s plot to destroy Spider-Man’s credibility also gave this series a strong sub-plot to follow. Spencer was able to quickly reestablish Kingpin as a Spider-Man villain with this scene between the two characters. It also further drove home how Wilson Fisk is currently the Mayor of New York City. Given this spot the former Kingpin of Crime is in Spencer has a lot to work with when it comes to Spider-Man and Wilson Fisk’s rivalry.
Helping Amazing Spider-Man #1 story was Ryan Ottley’s artwork. Ottley’s art elevated Spencer’s story, which was especially needed for the Spider-Man parts of this issue. Throughout Amazing Spider-Man #1 Ottley did a great job giving characters lively expressions that made their dialogue jump off the panels. Cliff Rathburn and Laura Martin deserve just as much credit for how great the artwork looked. Their inking and coloring made this issue look stunning.
The Bad: When it comes to Amazing Spider-Man #1 the biggest thing that keeps it back from being a complete success is everything involving Spider-Man. Spencer tried so hard to show how the “Parker Luck” affected Peter’s Spider-Man life that it did not work with present day continuity. Because as we’ve seen over the last decade Spider-Man has built a lot of credibility with the Avengers, Defenders, Fantastic Four and superhero community at large. For the most part Marvel has actually established Spider-Man as one of the veterans that other heroes look to thanks in part to the fact he has been an Avenger and Fantastic Four member.
So given all that it was head scratching to see Spencer try to get over how all the superheroes hate or are annoyed by him. This does not align with anything that has been established. It was made even worse by the fact that Spencer does not actually give a reason why everyone hates Spider-Man. Especially since only a handful of heroes know Spider-Man’s real identity, we know it does not have to do with Peter’s personal situation. Spencer not establishing a credible reason for this animosity made his execution of all the Spider-Man scenes look lazy.
Making the Spider-Man parts of this issue worse is the fact that Spencer quickly makes the Mysterio plotline go down the ridiculous road with his hallucinations. Just as Spencer showed that Mysterio could actually be a credible threat in the Marvel Universe again, we are given a storyline with zero set-up. Spencer never gives us an idea of why Mysterio had his whole hallucinations involving someone that may be responsible with his resurrection and knows Peter is Spider-Man.
It is made even worse because we are actually not informed who this villain actually is. While the character design does make him look like The Other from J. Michael Straczynski run that is never made clear. Not giving that clear idea makes this sub-plot not go over as Spencer intended it to. Given that Spencer had a rich collection of villains to use this was disappointing to see since the execution left a lot to be desired.
The Mysterio sub-plot is made even worse by the fact that it is not presented in a new reader friendly way. As Amazing Spider-Man #1 was Spencer’s first issue in his run he needed to make the large part of this issue be about bringing in new readers. He does that with the Peter Parker stuff. But when it comes to the things involving Spider-Man there is just to much that is head scratching with how little attention to detail their is to attract new readers, much less long-time readers. And Mysterio’s sub-plot just summarizes this major problem with Amazing Spider-Man.
Things are so bad with this sub-plot that it ends up affecting the impact of the ending involving Lizard. With how much effort Spencer made to ground Peter’s personal life seeing the Lizard as the professor who vouched for him just takes the reader out of this world. It would have been much more effective if we saw a hybrid Dr. Connor’s and Lizard version of the character. At least then we would see a greater connection as Dr. Connor’s plight with what Peter’s going with. It would have also given the reader a good idea of what Dr. Connor’s arc will be during Spencer’s run. Instead the ending just comes off as cartoony and something that was hard to take seriously.
This all goes to put a bigger spotlight on one of the biggest problems with Amazing Spider-Man and that is how hard it was to keep track of when events in this issue were going on. Outside a brief showing of Spider-Man and Kingpin’s meeting taking place a few weeks ago there is nothing to clue us into when things happened. And given that there were so many scene transitions it ended up hindering the pacing of this issue since you started to question if we were in the present or the past.
The only thing I’ll have to get used to is how Ottley drew Peter and MJ. Their designs looked like older versions of Invincible and Atom Eve. It’s not a big deal but something that for Invincible fans may be something to get used to get used. Though I do kind of hope Ottley changes Peter’s hairstyle to help the transition between his work easier to adjust to.
Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #1 showed that Nick Spencer’s run on this series has a lot of potential to shine. Spencer did a great job resetting Peter Parker’s life in a way that does build a future that creates a lot of interesting story possibilities. That said, there are definitely some things that need to be improved on from the Spider-Man side of things. Thankfully Ryan Ottley is on board to draw Amazing Spider-Man because, as this issue showed, we are in store for some great looking Spider-Man comics. If you’re a Spider-Man fan I suggest checking this out and at least sticking around for the first arc to see if Spencer’s run is something for you.