Nick Spencer’s run on Amazing Spider-Man has been fun so far. There have been a few problems here and there but for the most part Spencer has been able to nail Spider-Man’s world. As he showed in the recent story arc, Spencer has been able to use recent developments in other creative runs, such as J. Jonah Jameson knowing Peter Parker is Spider-Man, to enhance his stories. Now with each passing issue Spencer has been building towards the major Hunted story arc with Kraven at the center. Before we get to that storyline Spider-Man will have to deal with another one of his villains in the form of Rhino. Will Spider-Man be able to deal with Rhino’s latest stampede? Or will something else get both of them? Let’s find out with Amazing Spider-Man #14.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Chris Bachalo
Inkers: Al Vey, Wayne Faucher, John Livesay and Tim Townsend
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: At his place in Bagalia, Arcade is talking to someone on the phone about the current way superheroes and villains interact.
He hangs up the phone when Kraven walks in. Kraven tells Arcade he wants his help in building something.
In the sewers Peter and MJ have dinner with the Connors’ family. MJ mentions it is good to see Professor Connors teaching again. Professor Connors says that it has been good being in a lab again, which is why he wants Peter to work with him. Billy Connors says Peter should take the job because he would give anything to go back to school.
Professor Connors reminds Billy why he can’t go back. Billy still wants to interact with kids his own age again, even mentioning one of his old friends being a mutant and still in school. Professor Connors reminds Billy shouldn’t be interacting with others. Billy leaves angrily because of how his dad thinks he will be a monster like him.
After the dinner Professor Connors apologizes for being in his Lizard form. Professor Connors says he does that so Billy and Martha aren’t uncomfortable around him, especially with Billy who has been through a lot for a young kid. Peter says it is okay as he knows personally what it is like to not be a normal teenager.
A little later while swinging around as Spider-Man, Peter thinks back to his life with Uncle Ben and Aunt May along with recent events with Jay Jameson’s passing.
At a restaurant May talks with Jay’s attorney, Brett, who reveals that because of how Jay’s will was written she is broke due to his investments in Parker Industries and other businesses. May says that this is just part of her “hot streak” and will finds way to make things work, mentioning his online poker account. Brett tries to hit on May but she just throws her wine at him. May tells Brett to find another helpless widow to take advantage of and walks out of the restaurant.
While walking May comes across some guys trying to pay a homeless man to fight them. May interrupts and suddenly transforms into a large monster, scaring the guys enough to run away. May deactivates her device to reveal her transformation was a hologram.
May decides to treat the homeless man to a meal and takes him to the restaurant she just left. The guy shares details of his life and how he ended up in the spot he is currently in. As they bond Rhino suddenly charges through the restaurant.
Elsewhere MJ asks Peter why he hasn’t accepted Professor Connors’ offer. Peter says it is because he feels like it is a step back and that if he did take the offer his Spider-Man life would just get in the way it always does. MJ stops Peter to show him what the news is reporting on the screens across the city.
Back at the restaurant Taskmaster and Black Ant ask May where Rhino is. May says she didn’t see anything. As Taskmaster is about to kill May, Spider-Man shows up and webs up Taskmaster and Black Ant.
Before he can check on everyone Spider-Man finds Rhino nearby. Rhino reveals that Taskmaster and Black Ant have been hunting him. Spider-Man offers Rhino a team-up opportunity, which Rhino agrees to.
While Spider-Man and Taskmaster go back-and-forth with their fight Black Ant struggles to damage Rhino. Black Ant takes out a big gun and fires a powerful laser at Rhino. Rhino is barely able to dodge the attack. Unfortunately because of that the laser ends up hitting the restaurant May is in, causing a large explosion. End of issue.
The Good: Amazing Spider-Man #14 is another showing of the strength of Nick Spencer’s run on this series. By focusing on a few characters Spencer is able to show what makes their dynamic with Peter Parker and Spider-Man compelling. At the same time, Spencer continues to place more building blocks for what the “Hunted” story arc will be about.
Opening Amazing Spider-Man #14 up with Arcade and Kraven got across to the reader that everything that has been happening thus far is building to something bigger. Even with a character like Arcade, who has never been more than a throwaway villain, Spencer gives him instant importance with Kraven’s appearance. Even if he still serves a supporting role with whatever Kraven has planned there is some credibility given to Arcade.
Bringing in Kraven at the beginning help set the stage for how this issue showed his plot is starting to get accelerated. We’ve seen over the past few issues that he has been taking the animal inspired Spider-Man villains in, with Taskmaster and Black Ant’s help. What we don’t know yet is how it will all come together to take down Spider-Man as his plan comes together.
Seeing how now with Kraven having Taskmaster and Black Ant hunt down Rhino became public it will be interesting to see how this changes his plans. Because up until now Spider-Man has been largely in the dark for what Kraven has been doing. Now that Rhino revealed that he has been hunted for several days by Taskmaster and Black Ant those plans won’t remain a secret anymore. That creates a good starting point for the “Hunted” story to start sooner rather than later.
With what Kraven is planning it created an unique scenario where Spider-Man and Rhino had to team-up. This isn’t something we have seen outside a few rare instances. The interaction between Spider-Man and Rhino did a good job following up on how these two former nemesis relationship has evolved over the last few years. The friendly way they talked showed their relationship has progressed to the point they can team-up without throwing punches at each other first.
It was also a good move to not have the fight between Spider-Man, Rhino, Taskmaster and Black Ant not last long. Given the players involved things escalating very quickly was the only way things could go. This allowed Amazing Spider-Man #14 to end in a dramatic way that keeps the momentum going into the next issue.
Outside of the “Hunted” content Spencer further developed the things going on with Peter Parker and his supporting cast life. Going back to Peter’s current personal status of being a college student at ESU again was something that we haven’t seen addressed a lot in recent issues. It was good to get back to that with Peter and MJ interacting with Professor Connors and his family.
This dinner scene worked out well as it tackled how Peter once again finds himself in a state of limbo with his personal and professional life. While he is back with MJ and their relationship is going well everything else for Peter is still in a state of unknown. We don’t really know what he wants to do next now that he is a college student again. MJ being there to push him into taking Professor Connors offer was a good way to get him to get out of his funk. Even if he hasn’t accepted the offer yet, having MJ their to push him is exactly what Peter needs because it is obvious his recent professional failures are keeping him from moving forward again.
The dinner scene also helped in further establishing what Professor Connors current status quo is now that he is back as a respected teacher. Most importantly we got to see what his current home life now that his wife and son were resurrected during Clone Conspiracy. Spencer was smart not to bring up the details of Clone Conspiracy as part of Billy and Martha’s resurrection. That would’ve made things to convoluted for readers who did not read that story or the rest of Dan Slott’s run.
In keeping things simple Spencer was able to focus in on the drama within the Connors family. It grounded the dynamic of the family even if there is no way to relate to the lizard transformation of Billy and Martha. But what we can relate to is Billy’s current feelings of isolation as Professor Connors and Martha are not allowing him to go to school or interact with anyone outside his parents. With how young Billy is it is only understandable that he would be visibly frustrated with his current status quo. This helps set up a bigger story for the Connors family as there is no way Professor Connors to keep this a secret for much longer. How this all ends up turning out will be interesting to see when Spencer circles back to spotlight the Connors family in their own story.
All that said, the most interesting part of Amazing Spider-Man #14 is how Spencer brought Aunt May into the story. With what was recently revealed wit Aunt May having cancer over in Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, it was surprising to see how Spencer added to the drama around her character. On top of having cancer we now learn that all the money her deceased second husband, Jay Jameson, is all but gone due to how his investment going south and how the language of his will. This is brutal thing to learn as we see how Aunt May is having even worse luck in life than her own nephew.
At the same time, unlike Peter, we also see that even with yet another major problem to deal with it does not make Aunt May a weak character. It is actually the opposite. This latest development only further drives home how strong of a character Aunt May is as she is able to keep a positive attitude through all of this. The fact that she does not hesitate to help a guy being bullied by others showed that even with everything going on she is not going to let life bring her down. It all built nicely into how she ended up standing up to two dangerous mercenaries in the form Taskmaster and Black Ant towards the end of Amazing Spider-Man #14. All this showed how much of a strong rock she is in the Spider-Man franchise.
Chris Bachalo’s artwork was at its best when getting to draw Spider-Man, Rhino, Lizard, Taskmaster and Black Ant. In these scenes he is able to put over what the skills and powers of each character are. The framing of these final few pages help put over what is at risk in the next issue.
The Bad: Where Amazing Spider-Man #14 does falter is with how much exposition Nick Spencer throws at the reader. Part of the reason Spencer does this is to get over the current status quo of all of the characters in this issue. Unfortunately Spencer ends up going to far with this. It gets to the point that it feels like we are just reading a Marvel recap page rather than a comic book.
All of this exposition ends up hurting the overall flow of the story. The transition from one scene to another does not feel as smooth as it could have been. That is mostly due to getting bored at times because of how much exposition there is in certain pages. If Spencer would have toned it back a bit and let readers understand what is going on with just the characters talking Amazing Spider-Man #14 would’ve been much better for it.
Because of how exposition heavy Amazing Spider-Man #14 is this issue does not work to the strengths of Bachalo’s art style. Bachalo’s artwork, especially when drawing a Spider-Man comic, has always been with Spider-Man. When it comes to drawing people he isn’t the best at that. All of the talking head scenes looked to cluttered to stay focus on the main characters of each scene. On top of that, Bachalo’s style of drawing at times clashes with what characters are saying as the way he draws characters does not match the dialogue. Peter in particular looked like he just lacked emotions in his scenes that did not involve him in the Spider-Man costume. With this being a dialogue heavy issue this is a major problem for the overall pacing of the story.
Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #14 does a good job progressing the series into its next major story arc in the form of “Hunted.” Adding in some strong character work by Nick Spencer helps in creating a compelling narrative for this story arc. That makes it even more disappointing that due to Spencer’s reliance on a lot of exposition and the story not working to the strengths of Bachalo’s art style Amazing Spider-Man #14 isn’t as great as it could have been. It’s still a solid issue that just misses reaching its full potential.Amazing Spider-Man #14 Review