I’m usually not one to do single-issue reviews or reactions. I tend toward essays with a larger focus. That’s just how my mind works. But after Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s debut on The Amazing Spider-Man #1 (or #802 as I see it; I love the legacy numbering) I just couldn’t wait. To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, I got excited. I just wanted to…shout it from the top of a mountain. But I didn’t have a mountain. I had this blog. Look, I write about comics, that’s what I do. And today’s top story, in Michael Miller’s world read something like this – I love Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s The Amazing Spider-Man!
I’ve said before, when I began my life’s second phase of reading comic books, The Amazing Spider-Man was the title it took me the longest to pick back up. I was just…worried. As the fictional character I love the most, it was hard to go back. I left Peter and Mary Jane on a happily-ever-after note back in 1998 with Peter Parker: Spider-Man #98. Granted, it was a short lived happily-ever-after. But I had it! I went out on a high note! So I was nervous to return to a character I loved who had experienced so much without me. Peter Parker had become an Avenger, learned he was the spider-totem, fought on both sides in the Superhero Civil War, sold his marriage to the devil to save his aunt (…ugh), lost his body to Doc Ock, teamed up with every version of himself, and on and on and on. It was a lot and while any good comic fan’s used to jumping into the middle of stories, I was worried he’d gone too far without me. The loss of his marriage to Mary Jane was particularly hard. I was scared I’d open The Amazing Spider-Man and find a character I no longer recognized.
Slowly but surely I came back. I met and immediately fell in love with Miles Morales. I tried out Spider-Man/Deadpool. Then I FINALLY tried Dan Slott’s Spidey with The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows. I followed that with the “Spider-Verse” storyline before just jumping into the present with “Spider-Man: Worldwide.” I even went back to look at The Superior Spider-Man. I got what everyone was saying. Dan Slott is certainly a fan and he writes with an encyclopedic knowledge of the character. I got used to a single Peter Parker, always close to Mary Jane but (heartbreakingly) unable to reconnect. I enjoyed his relationship with Bobbi Morse. And I thought Dan Slott’s finale – having Peter face off against the Red Goblin was freaking genius. It was the ten-year-old version of myself’s dream villain…if, you know, I was that creative at ten (which I wasn’t). I learned Dan Slott is deserving of his hype and he’ll always be the author who welcomed Adult Me back to The Amazing Spider-Man.
But would you like to hear something I’ve never shared before? I’ve never written about it and I doubt I’ve even said it out loud. I always felt like a visitor to Dan Slott’s Spider-Man. He never felt like mine. I think it was because I always felt like I was playing catch-up, late to the party when everyone else already had their opinions and their favorite story or character or whatever. Now, I know this is largely illogical. As I said above, comic books are a medium where you’re almost always coming into the middle of a story, especially if you started reading them in 1987 like I did. Preplanned, trade paperback-fitting, four-to-six issue arcs weren’t a thing. You picked up a comic and went along for the ride. Still, Dan Slott was this HUGE and IMPORTANT part of Peter Parker’s life that happened, largely, without me. He did a decade of Spider-Man stories…and I came in with a year left to go. I always felt behind, even with the trades I read.
Needless to say, I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Amazing Spider-Man #802 (I said it above…I’m sticking with the legacy numbers). I’m sad to see Dan Slott go and his finale was beautiful, leaving me with tears in my eyes. But I was ready for the dawn of this new age, to be there at the beginning and take this next step with Spidey.
I couldn’t’ve been more excited with the creative hands guiding the ship! I’ll be honest, I hadn’t much experience with Ryan Ottley before this. I hadn’t read any of Invincible. But I did pick up the Free Comic Book Day preview of The Amazing Spider-Man and I was excited by what I saw! The Amazing Spider-Man #802 (I’m still not saying #1!) was perfect. I often say I doubt my ability to talk about art. I’m not an artist. I don’t know the language or the technical terms so I always feel funny (at best) and ignorantly unprepared (at worst) to discuss my thoughts on art. I can deconstruct a narrative with far more comfort/confidence but, with the art, I just sort of feel it you know?
I will say I was impressed with the movement of Spider-Man in this issue. Spidey is a very visual character, from his costume to the acrobatic way he bounces through the city. I felt the movement with Ottley’s art. His Spider-Man looks great too and damn…the guy nails splash pages and double-page spreads. WOW. However, and this is important, with Spider-Man it’s never just about the action. Ottley certainly delivers there, but he also presents the quiet, intimate moments in a way that fills them with warmth and makes them feel as personal as they should be. So his Spider-Man is as exciting and mobile as I want him to be and, perhaps even more importantly, his Peter Parker is as real (whether he’s being funny, frustrated, thoughtful, or vulnerable) as I hoped for too.
Again, I’d say more but I lack the technical know-how to be more detailed. Suffice to say I’m very happy Ryan Ottley is handling this chapter of the webhead’s life! I hope this is the beginning of a loooooong run.
As to the author, I was ecstatic when I heard Nick Spencer was taking over! As even casual readers of this blog will know, I have nothing but respect and admiration for Nick Spencer. His Captain America run – with Sam Wilson, Steve Rogers, and all of Secret Empire – was the most powerful, important, and moving Cap story I’ve yet to read in my life. So he can do the epic, character-defining, soul-shaking and stirring thing. His time on Ant-Man showed he can also handle the smaller focus, funny, goofy, and heartwarming stories too. My immediate reaction to him taking over was…this will be absolutely perfect. I wasn’t wrong!
The first thing that struck me about Spencer’s Spider-Man is how often he had me laughing out loud. One of the things I most appreciate about Ryan North’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is how often I laugh out loud while reading it. That’s one of many reasons it’s my favorite book Marvel’s publishing right now. Nick Spencer is delivering the same sort of joy with The Amazing Spider-Man. And Spidey should be funny! One of the reasons I’ve always preferred Spider-Man to Wolverine or the Punisher or that dude who wears the pointy bat hat…his name escapes me at the moment…is because he always jokes around in the face of danger and has me laughing right along with him. The world can be a dark, scary, frustrating place. Art that brings us joy can’t be overvalued. I love Spidey for that and I love that Nick Spencer’s delivering! I laughed out loud multiple times with both the FCBD preview and The Amazing Spider-Man #802 (I’m going to keep doing this…hoping everyone starts saying #802 too).
In addition to the humor, it’s clear Nick Spencer is aware how important Peter’s supporting cast is. While Spidey’s a solo hero, his book has always been an ensemble piece (or rather, it is when it’s at its most interesting). Peter’s looking for a new place so he’s rooming with his friend Randy Robertson and they have the prerequisite douche roommate in Fred Myers (who also happens to be the villain Boomerang (who Pete’s keeping an eye on (so this will be entertaining and/or interesting))). We also see Robbie, Mary Jane, Aunt May, the Black Cat, and all sorts of Avengers, Guardians, and X-Men popping in for quick cameos too.
And the villains! It seems ol’ Wilson Fisk is up to no good, weaving some sort of big threat around the webhead. I was excited to see the Kingpin show up. I always liked him as a villain but when I was a kid he was mostly in Daredevil comics which I didn’t read very often because of the aforementioned preference for non-brooding heroes :). We’ve also got Mysterio and Boomerang hanging around!
As a teacher, I loved that Pete attended a presentation at ESU by Cindy Lawton on new anti-plagiarism “Watchr” software too. You would not believe some of the plagiarizing I’ve seen. I’ve had a kid copy directly from a comment section online, thinking I wouldn’t look in the comments when Google pointed me to the article. I had a kid give me a four page paper that opened with one sentence that was theirs before they opened the quotation marks and copy and pasted four pages of text before closing the quotation marks and saying it was fine because they cited it. I had a kid tell me it was natural their paper matched Wikipedia verbatim, since every single source ever written about the person they were researching said the exact same thing, word-for-word about them. I mean…c’mon. So anytime we’re talking about how bad plagiarism is, I’m all for it!
Okay…I want to write more. There are some REALLY AMAZING things that happen in this issue I haven’t touched on yet. But I’m not going to. Why? Well in his write-up at the end of the issue editor Nick Lowe said, “It’s really hard to keep secrets from readers in this day and age. Not only do we solicit each issue and cover more than a month in advance, but we also live in an age when people are trying to reveal story points early. We’re going to do our best to save secrets for you to read, but do yourself a favor: put ASM on your pull list at your favorite local comic shop and stay away from spoilers. We’ve all got so much cooking for you.” I was surprised a lot in this comic. In fact, I was surprised at how much I was surprised by! And yes, I know this comic came out last week. And I’m sure everyone was tweeting and posting about all the exciting surprises as soon as they finished reading it. For some reason in our culture we seem to take pleasure in talking about spoilers as soon as we’ve read or seen something, like it proves we’re a fan because we’ve seen the ending first.
Anyway, not everyone can pick up the new issue the day it drops or even read it in the first week. I was surprised. And I loved what I found in this issue! Everyone deserves those surprises too. So no spoilers here. Thank you, thank you, thank you Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley for ushering in this new era of The Amazing Spider-Man with so much to be excited about. Every page was wonderful. And, perhaps best of all, every page felt like it was mine. I’m not playing catch-up anymore. A new era has come and I couldn’t be happier to be a part of it.
May their run be long! Make mine Marvel!