Amazing Spider-Man #1 would be a daunting issue for any creative team. Not only is there the history and popularity of the title to consider, but there is also the past decade of comics, one of the most distinguished runs from any creator at Marvel Comics ever. This framing is important because the debut issue is as much a response to Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man as it is declaring its own identity. Sequences are broken down into necessary legwork for a new status quo, laying the groundwork for future stories, and the rare few that manage to accomplish both. This effort makes elements of the issue a chore, while those that are largely free from continuity promise much brighter tomorrows.
Spencer has worked in both the dregs of Marvel characters in the acclaimed Superior Foes of Spider-Man and on the top-tier titles and events. His Spider-Man represents a fusion of the two. Its scope and scale are immense, revealed by an action sequence packed with guest stars and a seemingly massive threat. It treats Spider-Man as the beloved hero he is with adventures to match his stature, yet never forgets that he is ultimately an everyman figure. While recent issues in the series have done a great deal to wipe away Peter Parker’s wealth and status, Amazing Spider-Man #1 does everything possible to reduce him to the lows of his Silver Age stint at Empire State University.
The rapidity at which Spider-Man is drug low, and how quickly he is dismissed by those dearest to him in both identities creates a narrative whiplash. This shift is approached with the philosophy of ripping off a band-aid; the process is not necessarily fun to read or the best storytelling, but it delivers the series to the place it wants to be. To Spencer’s credit, this approach pays dividends in the final moments of the issue. Both the last sequence of the main story and both epilogues feel like an altogether different series. They encompass the fun of Spider-Man’s soap opera life without relying so heavily on poorly formulated jokes, and initiate the process of building something new in the form of a conspiracy. There is a real life to the back half of the issue that promises a more coherent reading experience in the future.
It is this back half of the issue that also clarifies why Ottley’s work feels somewhat out of place in the first issue. His designs for all of the top-tier Marvel characters carry a tremendous amount of energy, and his knack for making mundane, comedic sequences is every bit as skillful as it was in the page of Invincible. A generic alien attack and long lines of mainstream superheroes shouting and punching are not nearly as dynamic as the cover that built excitement for his stint on the series. He is an artist that excels with violence, magnified anatomy, and gore. These are elements that are shown off in an epilogue drawn by Humberto Ramos though. Peter Parker and his cohort appear too young given their roles and histories as well. It is apparent how Ottley can excel within the series, but this first issue is not the clear fit that many may have imagined.
Amazing Spider-Man #1 is no reason for longtime Spider-Man fans (or even returning ones) to despair. All of the elements of a great run are present and the issue delivers several truly excellent moments. Yet it mirrors the journey of Peter Parker from its first to final page, struggling through difficult decisions and changes before landing on a single great idea. Ottley’s storytelling is as compulsively readable as ever and Spencer has a clear idea of what his Spider-Man ought to be. It’s in the last moments of the issue that promises are made about the relationships, villains, and themes that will populate what is still to come. There’s no reason to believe that Amazing Spider-Man won’t achieve them all given some time.
Published by Marvel Comic
On July 11, 2018
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Ryan Ottley and Cliff Rathburn
Colors by Laura Martin1comments
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Ryan Ottley and Laura Martin