Amazing Spider-Man is entering 2020 with an odd energy around its momentum. There was an odd identity crisis that Nick Spencer’s Amazing Spider-Man has gone through. Because while Spencer is continuing to develop the Kindred storyline everything else about this series has been about building up others. Whether it is Amazing Mary Jane, Absolute Carnage or the returning 2099 Universe, Amazing Spider-Man was given the responsibility of building others while trying to have its own life. To Spencer’s credit, along with the Kindred storyline, we’ve seen some story choices for Peter Parker’s life slowly take a an intriguing hook as he has gotten more time as a student of Empire State University. Now how will Spencer start 2020 off for Amazing Spider-Man? Let’s find out with Amazing Spider-Man #37.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Story Rating: 4 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: While swinging around the city as Spider-Man, Peter Parker thinks about all the things that are going on in his life. He then suddenly hears people calling for help from a burning fire, Dinosaur Men attacking citizens and the Fast Five robbing a bank that he has to swing into action.
Elsewhere, J. Jonah Jameson is trying to host his radio show but is kicked out by the DJ’s for the next show who decide to prank him so they can segway into their show. Jonah storms off in anger over being pranked in transitioning between radio shows.
Norah Winters shows up and tries to talk to Jonah about the harassment he is putting up with. Jonah plays it off as peers ribbing each other. Just then the DJs who kicked him out make an old man joke at Jonah’s expense. Norah invites Jonah to grab lunch.
While eating pizza Norah talks to Jonah about how she was able to find journalistic success in embracing the future of digital. She then talks about how people are listening to podcast not radio as the world is moving more into consuming things that are mobile, social and constant.
Jonah does not take this serious journalism in the digital and mobile space. Norah reminds Jonah of the things he did to fabricate stories, even creating his own villain and that Spider-Man is now in a permanent state of being “Canceled.”
She attempts to make an offer but Jonah rants about how she can shove whatever offer she has. Norah fights through this and shows Jonah something on her phone that immediately causes him to agree to her offer.
Elsewhere, Spider-Man is able to quickly save people from a burning building, stop the Fast Five and defeat the Dinosaur Men.
Later, Peter works with Jamie on solving the power source problem with the Clairvoyant (a device Jamie create that Spider-Man used to defeat Doctor Doom). Peter questions Jamie on how from all their testing they haven’t gotten close to 100% prediction level. Jamie says that is because their is always an outside element out of the frame of being able to predict. Peter is all to familiar with this from Civil War II.
As Spider-Man, Peter decides to consult with other heroes on how the Clairvoyant device should be used. Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Mr. Fantastic, Black Cat, Daredevil, She-Hulk, Human Torch and Man-Thing don’t really give Spider-Man clear advice. Finally Captain America tells Spider-Man that he trusts that Spider-Man to be responsible in testing Clairvoyant himself.
Spider-Man then uses the Clairvoyant to stop the events he earlier saved the day by stopping fire from starting, keeping the Dinosaur Men from escaping containment and working with the bank workers to surprise attack the Fast Five.
Spider-Man then uses the Clairvoyant to give himself a win personally. He then goes buys some groceries, flowers and a newspaper and heads home without being noticed entering his room.
Once in bed Peter takes off his mask and Facetimes with MJ. Peter and MJ then watch Janet Van Dyne’s Extreme Super Villain Makeover show on TV together while on Facetime with each other. Eventually Peter falls asleep.
At some graveyard Kindred is shown to be bothered by his interaction with Norman Osborn at Ravencroft earlier. Kindred fights through that and uses his powers to resurrect Sin-Eater. End of issue.
The Good: For the first time in several months we finally get a story that feels that it is about Amazing Spider-Man. Nothing against the last few issues but there is a distinct feeling about Amazing Spider-Man #37 that felt like it was about Peter Parker’s character in and out of costume. That is so important to establish as we enter a new year were the series can have a fresh start while continuing the storylines Nick Spencer has been slowly developing over his run.
What made Amazing Spider-Man #37 work better than the last few issues was that we saw more signs of Peter realizing where he is in his life. There has been a lot of going through the motions for Peter in and out of his Spider-Man adventures. That is where this issue works best as Peter comes to realize this about himself. Being self-aware in this way allows there to be a potential for Peter to break away from how he has been doing things lately.
That is best shown with the expression on Peter’s face when he is interacting with his lab partner, Jamie, and at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #37 with MJ. When he is talking with Jamie, Peter is still in that state where he knows he is just going through the motions. Even in the experiments they are running Peter isn’t finding much challenge or difference from what he normally does. A victory like spending the night watching TV with MJ is a big deal as it is not a normal occurrence for him.
Another storyline to watch will be what Spencer plans to do with J. Jonah Jameson. It’s not a fact that has been hidden that Jonah has lost some of his fire now that he knows Peter Parker is Spider-Man. It is a revelation that has changed Jonah as a person. Even when he is still his loud usual self it is not with the same passion as when he was in his whole anti-superhero crusade that was based on his previous hate for Spider-Man.
Bringing in Norah Winters to push Jonah to embrace the digital age, particularly the podcast world, is something that makes sense of the character. We saw how well a podcasting J. Jonah Jameson can work as an evolution for his character in Marvel’s Spider-Man PS4 game, where that version of the character was an Alex Jones-type person. Now it is not likely that Jonah will suddenly turn into the Spider-Man PS4 version but there is potential in seeing what he does in the world of podcasting.
Through this Spencer is able to bring back Norah Winters character back into the fold in a way that works. Norah is an underrated supporting character in Peter Parker’s world so it is good to see her being paired up with Jonah. She is someone that, as she showed in Amazing Spider-Man #37, will not be afraid to challenge Jonah and see each other as equals. Seeing how she showed Jonah something that peaked his interest there is now a hook to what is motivating Norah to re-enter the picture the way she has.
What helped all of this character work for Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson and Norah Winters work as well as it did was the artwork by Ryan Ottley. Once again, Ottley showed why he is one of the premiere artists in the industry that Marvel has working for them. The way he draws Spider-Man in motion is second to known. He is able to tell the story of all the different things Peter gets into as Spider-Man through the way he draws the character in action. The sense that the character is going through the motions is clear by the way Ottley draws him.
At the same time, Ottley gets over how Peter, Jonah and Norah are all in the crossroads of their lives. The energy he brings to characters just talking helps keep things moving forward. The personalities of these three characters shine throughout Amazing Spider-Man #37.
The Bad: In Spencer’s attempt to be self-referential when it comes to Marvel’s continuity he ends up having Amazing Spider-Man #37 trip up on itself. Civil War II and the events after it were not well received, including his own Secret Empire. Going back to talk about what took place in that event with a character that could see into the future is not character progression for Spider-Man. Rather, it is a reminder of all the things that are wrong when a writer introduces something that could predict the future like the Clairvoyant device.
Even with Spencer showing Spider-Man putting it to good use in this issue it is one simple test. We’ve seen far too often how things can quickly go wrong when it comes to a device like Clairvoyant. All Spencer accomplished by going flashing back to Civil War II was highlighting why that is.
Bringing in the Avengers and Fantastic Four to give their opinions on what Spider-Man should do with the device did not help this storyline at all. Rather than using all of Earth’s mightiest heroes to warn against its creation all Spencer had them do is look stupid by not really giving advice. If you are going to have Captain America, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Mr. Fantastic and others way in on something you better use them in a way that highlights their veteran experience. Instead Spencer just made all of these great heroes look like they lack foresight in how things could go based on their vast amount of experience.
In the end all Spencer ends up accomplishing is making Spider-Man look like a naive character. Everything with the way Peter as Spider-Man handles the situation makes it seem like he is just starting out as a superhero. At this point, what would really be progressive is showing how Peter has grown as Spider-Man and using his own veteran experience to guide his decision making. That is never apparent here, even when Spencer attempts to do so with referencing past events.
The Kindred storyline is also reaching a point where Spencer really needs to just finally move forward with the story. There is nothing different that Spencer is doing with Kindred that we saw before. All of the villains solution to cause trouble for Spider-Man is bringing characters back to life. There needs to be more to the character than this. At this point we need to see Kindred get directly involved in what is going on with Spider-Man. Kindred has spent way too much time in the background to be invested in seeing the character doing the same rant over and over again.
Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #37 has introduces some interesting plot points for the direction Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson and Norah Winters are going to go on moving forward. Nick Spencer’s writing is at its best when he is just writing these characters day-to-day interactions. That is helped by the excellent artwork that Ryan Ottley provides throughout this issue. The problem Amazing Spider-Man #37 runs into is the fact that in trying to be smart by referencing events like Civil War II what Spencer actually accomplishes the opposite. All he ends up doing is highlighting all the problems their is with the big stories he is trying to tell in this series.
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