Nick Spencer’s run on Amazing Spider-Man has been a weird rollercoaster. When at his best Spencer shows how well he is able to write Peter Parker in and out of costume interacting with his supporting cast. While that is when Amazing Spider-Man reaches its greatest height there have been lows like “Hunted” that just do not deliver the way they should. That rollercoaster ride has had more dips than normal recently with Spencer clearly trying to build the story of Kindred to be the next big thing for this series. Now while that builds it looks like Spencer is going to give us an explosive issue that center around a confrontation between Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson based on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #39. Will the bond that has formed over the last year between Peter and Jonah meet an explosive end? Let’s find out with Amazing Spider-Man #39.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Iban Coello
Colorist: Brian Reber
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: J. Jonah Jameson begins his podcast by introducing his listeners to his latest guest: Spider-Man. Spider-Man tries to say hi but is interrupted by Jonah running through the sponsors of his podcast, much to Spider-Man’s annoyance.
Flashing back to hours earlier Spider-Man swings over to TNM (the new online news/gossip organization Norah Winters recruited J. Jonah Jameson to work at) to talk with Jonah about how pissed he is for publishing the story about the SHIELD secrets.
Jonah happily welcomes Spider-Man at his new media empire and shows off how his SHIELD story is being covered by all the traditional media. Spider-Man calls Jonah out for publishing the things about SHIELD he told him in secret. Jonah states he was just trying to make things right.
Norah Winters shows up and tells Spider-Man about what TNM does in the digital era. She then mentions that when Jonah joined TNM he only had one non-negotiable clause in his contract: they must show the world Spider-Man is a hero. Hearing this Spider-Man decides to agree to be on Jonah’s podcast.
Back in the present the podcast between Jonah and Spider-Man gets off to a calm start, with the two complimenting the other. It does not take long for things to break down when Spider-Man begins to talk about how Jonah turned his opinion on him around after spending years trying to label him as a menace to the world.
Over at The Palace (a casino on an airship that the villain known as Chance is running) Chance makes fun of the Foreigner for losing. The Foreigner calls Chance out as a cheater. Chance offers Foreigner a chance at a double or nothing bet. Foreigner agrees and makes a bet that Chance can’t steal the web-shooter from Spider-Man. Chance tries to back out but when he sees the other villains around him agrees much to Foreigner’s delight.
Back at TNM’s podcast room Jonah and Spider-Man argue if the stories the Daily Bugle published about Spider-Man years ago were bogus or not. While Jonah calls Spider-Man a hero there was some truth to his reporting back in the day. Jonah brings up the mistakes Spider-Man made in his early days and how he terrorized him. Spider-Man admits he made some mistakes when he was still learning to be a hero but denies threatening or terrorizing Jonah.
At the The Palace exit Chance has put his gear on and is given Spider-Man’s location by the Foreigner. Chance sarcastically thanks the Foreigner for his kindness. The Foreigner smiles while stating Chance is going to make him a rich man.
While listening from their office Norah and her co-worker are celebrating the fact that Jonah’s podcast with Spider-Man is getting so intense.
In the podcast room, Jonah tells Spider-Man that ever since their relationship change he has been trying to help Spider-Man but has been rejected each time. He goes on to talk about how other heroes would love to have Jonah’s assistance with their image. This creates a back-and-forth about Spider-Man’s standing in the superhero community.
As Jonah begins to go on an even bigger rant Spider-Man’s Spider-Sense goes off. Spider-Man dives at Jonah to get him in cover as Chance blows up one of the podcast walls up. End of issue.
The Good: Amazing Spider-Man #39 is a good example of the frustration around Nick Spencer’s run on this series. This issue is at its best when the focus is simply on the character interactions between Spider-Man and J. Jonah James and Chance and Foreigner. As strong as those interactions are there the story falls apart when it comes to how we got to this point. The reason we get to the point we are in Amazing Spider-Man #39 comes across as Spencer rushing a story rather than letting it develop over time.
Before getting into that further I have to give credit to Spencer for knowing how to write Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson. The whole podcast setting of their conversation allowed Spencer to give these two an extended period of time for them to talk with one another. That is not something they’ve gotten to do since Peter Parker revealed he is Spider-Man to Jonah back in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #6. Up until now the conversations between the two has been kept short.
Having this extended period of time where the two sit down to talk showed that the tension between them has not been erased. Even with Jonah now wanting to help Peter by showing the world Spider-Man is a hero that animosity they’ve had for years still exists. That is not something that can go away even with how their relationship has changed.
The way the podcast explodes with Spider-Man and Jonah throwing digs at one another shows just that. Spencer writes this explosive conversation in a way that you get the sense these are all things they’ve been repressing since their relationship changed. The problem with that is that Peter and Jonah never had the chance to let all these things out before they did this podcast. Which made it make sense that they would explode with a conversation they probably should have had in private. But now that they’ve had this conversation in a public way Spencer creates a question of if Spider-Man and Jonah will slide back to if their antagonistic relationship will return.
Through this podcast between Spider-Man and Jonah, Spencer is able to further develop how Norah Winter’s TNM news outlet will serve a similar role that the Daily Bugle had back in the day. Having this new news outlet opens the opportunity to adapt how the news cycle works in the real world into the Marvel Universe as everything is digital now.
This is also a good chance to expand on Norah’s part in Spider-Man’s supporting cast to be more on the forefront. Norah is a character that has largely been poorly utilized in the past. Being the one to push Jonah to join the digital age and lead TNM is a good way to have Norah be in a more prominent position. Now there is a story around Norah that Spencer can develop as one of the main supporting character sub-plots in Amazing Spider-Man.
All the scenes at The Palace airship casino works right where Spencer excels when writing villains. Spencer is at his best when he is able to write villains who are seen as lower tier bad guys like the Foreigner and Chance. There is a lot of opportunity to not only elevate but also play into allowing them to be silly or slimey like an old school villain. That is what we get with how the Foreigner manipulates Chance into stealing Spider-Man’s web-shooters for their new bet. Chance’s reaction and the reason he agrees to it because other villains are watching them works because it is these characters and not Green Goblin or Kraven in the spot.
With Amazing Spider-Man #39 being a talking heads heavy issue Iban Coello stepped up to inject the story with the energy it needed. Coello did a very good job building the tension between Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson. The whole podcast goes from a friendly conversation to an explosive argument. The story of how that transitions is told very well by Coello with how the face of Jonah in particular changes from how he was when we open Amazing Spider-Man #39.
The Bad: For as much as the strength of Amazing Spider-Man #39 is J. Jonah Jameson’s podcast, it is also this issue’s greatest weakness. The reason why the podcast ends up bringing the story down is simply for the fact that Spencer rushed this story. While Jonah has known that Peter and Spider-Man are the same person for a little over a year now there hasn’t been a lot done with that. Spencer in particular has not made a big point to have Jonah be a more proactive member of Peter’s supporting cast. Not being a bigger part of Spencer’s Amazing Spider-Man run is one reason that the whole direction of the podcast does not feel earned.
Adding to how unearned this podcast between Spider-Man and Jonah was is the fact that we haven’t had time to get this new news organization Norah Winters in charge get developed. Spencer just threw it at Jonah and the reader to be this big deal. The problem with rushing to this point is the fact Spencer puts Jonah and Nora in danger of being unlikable characters. But the fact that Spencer goes in on making TNM the new TMZ of the Marvel Universe paints both characters in a bad light. Even if Jonah had the best intentions in his Spider-Man and SHIELD story it just came across as a cruel thing to publish.
That all goes back to the fact that Spencer has not spent a proper amount of time building the relationship between Peter and Jonah in his Amazing Spider-Man thus far. If we’ve seen how far the relationship has developed into one of deep trust that Peter would reveal SHIELD-level secrets to Jonah it would be one thing. But the way it is written Spencer just makes Peter look dumb for putting to much trust in Jonah. It also makes Jonah look like he has no common sense in what revealing such a high level secret to the public would do to Spider-Man’s reputation.
This all makes the fact that Spencer spends so much time reminded the reader how much experience Peter has as Spider-Man and Jonah has as a journalist a further example of the lack of development for both characters. It is such a big waste of potential that this is all done just so we get back to Spider-Man and Jonah having an antagonistic relationship again. This shows that Spencer isn’t trying to progress the characters, at least within this relationship, as he wants them to keep the same antagonistic status quo as they’ve always shared.
Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #39 is a comic book that checks off just about every box for a successful story. The one big box Nick Spencer misses checking was if the way J. Jonah Jameson and Spider-Man’s podcast brokedown was an earned moment. The reality is that this podcast does not come across as something Spencer has properly built up for both characters during his run. Because of that Amazing Spider-Man #39 turns out to lean more into the disappointment category.
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