Nick Spencer’s run on Amazing Spider-Man has had its fair share of ups and downs. The one thing Spencer’s run hasn’t had is stability. The quality from issue to issue always seems to vary. The latest “Breaking News” story arc is a good example of that as there are a lot of intriguing things going on with J. Jonah Jameson’s new job and how Spider-Man factors in. At the same time, there are specific decisions made with characters and story beats that keep it “Breaking News” from fulfilling its full potential. Maybe with this new chapter Spencer can break through with strong developments. Let’s find out with Amazing Spider-Man #40.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artists: Iban Coello and Ze Carlos
Colorist: Brian Reber and Pete Pantazis
Story Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis:While J. Jonah Jameson and his producer aren’t happy Chance interrupted his podcast with Spider-Man the villain does not care. Spider-Man quickly goes in to fight Chance before the villain can kill Jameson.
Meanwhile up The Palace airship casino the Foreigner watches Spider-Man and Chance. Foreigner talks to himself, wondering what everyone would think if they discovered the truth about his operation.
Back at the fight Spider-Man is knocked back. Jameson tries to ask a question about how he is feeling about his opponent. Spider-Man says annoyed and lunges at Chance. Spider-Man then knocks Chance down with a punch.
Suddenly Jack O’Lanterns appear to “help” Chance. Spider-Man immediately goes after the Jack O’Lanterns. During the fight one of the Jack O’Lanterns is able to slash Spider-Man’s web shooters off his wrist. Chance catches the web shooter much to Foreigners glee, as he has been watching it all go down. The Jack O’Lanterns then escape with Chance.
Jameson comments that this is Spider-Man’s chance to ditch his obligations. Thinking about what just happened Spider-Man decides to finish the podcast with Jameson.
For some time Jameson and Spider-Man go back-and-forth arguing, joking and back to arguing.
The podcast is released immediately after recording. People around New York City listen to the podcast between Spider-Man and Jameson. The podcast quickly becomes extremely popular. This leaves Spider-Man to wonder if Jameson did actually help him.
Over at The Palace casino The Foreigner celebrates Chance’s accomplishment. Chance is pissed over how Foreigner winning their bet ruined him. Foreigner smiles and says this is the start of a beautiful partnership between them.
Elsewhere, Peter gets back to his apartment and finds Randy Robertson sitting in the fetal position mortified. Randy tells Peter that “she” is waiting in his room.
Peter finds Norah Winters sitting on his bed twirling the Spider-Man mask she found. Norah plays off finding the mask as role play between Peter and MJ. Norah quickly gets to why she is there: a job offer. Norah says since Peter is close to Spider-Man she wants offer him a job at Threats & Menace. Peter is shocked by this. Norah tells Peter to look over her offer and get back to her.
Back at The Palace casino people crowd around someone who has just won their eigth game in a row and wonder how they are doing it. The person is revealed to be Jamie (Peter’s ESU classmate), who says that his name is Clairvoyant.
Elsewhere Norah gets a call from the mysterious Threats & Menace investor. Norah tells the investor she wants to give Peter time to accept her offer. The investor does not like that and reminds her that their support does not come without strings. A terrified Norah tells the investor she understands and calls them by their name: Chameleon.
Chameleon is then shown in a prison cell wickedly smiling. End of issue.
The Good: Reading a comic book like Amazing Spider-Man #40 is incredibly frustrating. There are so many good ideas that Nick Spencer has for all the characters and storylines he is writing. Those ideas are backed up with dialogue that captures the characters’ voices. Unfortunately any good will that is built is quickly torn down by story decisions that just leave you scratching your head out of frustration.
One of the things that Nick Spencer did very well in Amazing Spider-Man #40 was using the relationship between Peter Parker and J. Jonah Jameson to enhance the action. Spencer tapped into the tension of the podcast that they were recording to seep into the fight with Chance and the Jack O’Lanterns. Having that be part of the fight made the action be more than just another superhero vs super villain battle.
The payoff from all that tension between Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson worked well to the direction Spencer takes their relationship. Spencer makes it clear that these two can never just be normal friends. They’ve been at each others throats for such a long time that arguing is just a natural part of sharing a room with each other. At the same time, they have become friends since Jonah learned Peter is Spider-Man. That friendship now allows them to be think it is better that they don’t just have tension between them.
Norah Winters inclusion in the story with Threats & Menace also continues to show potential. Norah is a character that keeps Peter on his toes. That is something Peter needs as when he is too comfortable he is prone to becoming overconfident. Norah also brings a different energy to scenes as we see with how Randy Robertson and Peter deal with her.
The story around The Palace airship casino for villains also took a fun twist with Foreigner becoming Chance’s partner in the venture. Having locations like The Palace for villains to hang out at opens up the opportunity for Spencer to tap into what he does best in developing low-tier villains. He does some of his best villain writing when using lesser known villains. We saw that with his run on Superior Foes of Spider-Man and he taps into that with Foreigner and Chance’s interaction. The two characters being opposites helps with their chemistry to have a fun energy, giving way for a lot potential future stories with the two.
Iban Coello and Ze Carlos deliver artwork that is a reminder of the style that Ryan Ottley established with Spencer’s era for Amazing Spider-Man. The fight between Spider-Man, Chance and the Jack O’Lanterns had solid energy. They also did well with the comedic moments like Chance’s reaction to when Foreigner talked up their new partnership. Its scenes like this where the artwork really helps sell what arc the writer is trying to tell and Coello and Carlos nail it.
The Bad: For all the good that Amazing Spider-Man #40 does it all quickly falls apart in the final pages with the choices made for Norah Winters and Jamie’s characters. For Jamie there has been no point where the character has not come across as an asshole. The development of him using his Clairvoyant tech to win at The Palace casino just emphasizes how unlikeable the character has been. For a character like Jamie to work we should’ve at least been given some redeem part of his character. That hasn’t been the case, which makes you less interested in his character development.
Things are much worse for Norah Winters. As mentioned before, Norah is a fun character who always keeps Peter, Randy and others on their toes. She brings an energy that no other Spider-Man cast member brings. The potential with Norah’s character is all thrown out the window with the revelation that Chameleon is bank rolling her Threats & Menace news website.
Especially since Spencer just reintroduced Norah back into Peter’s life in Amazing Spider-Man #38 we haven’t had a lot of time to buy into her direction with Threats & Menace. There was already a shady aura around the direction Norah established with Threats & Menace mission statement. Now that shady aura gets even bigger as Norah and her news organization becomes nothing more than a plot device in their introductory story arc.
Tying Norah’s arc to Chameleon immediately makes her lose all credibility with her intentions with Threats & Menace. As a new organization that Spencer introduced there needed to be time to establish how Threats & Menace can be the new Daily Bugle from when J. Jonah Jameson was running it. Gaining that credibility is all washed away because now we know Chameleon is involved with the news site. This makes Threats & Menace now be nothing more than just something one of Spider-Man’s villains is using to defeat and/or kill him.
It is all such a waste because this also ends up affecting how real the direction for Jonah feels. With Jonah and now potentially Peter involved it would’ve been better if Spencer spent more time developing Threats & Menace’s credibility within the Marvel Universe. Revealing this tie to Chameleon three issues into the news organization’s introduction makes you think how this is just a plot device rather than character development for Jonah, in particular. Now his involvement is directly tied to a villains plot rather than be developed as his own character that just happens to have ties to Spider-Man through Peter.
Overall: Nick Spencer provides examples of both the good and bad of his current run with Amazing Spider-Man #40. On the good end we have the developments with Spider-Man and J. Jonah Jameson’s relationship. On the bad side there is the development with a major Spider-Man villain that ends up being a negative for what Norah Winters return means for this series. This balance of good and bad just shows how much work Spencer still has ahead of him before he can make his run on Amazing Spider-Man memorable.
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