With the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 this weekend in theaters, all eyes are on Marvel’s #1 hero again. Not ones to miss an opportunity for corporate synergy, Marvel is releasing The Amazing Spider-Man #1 this week, featuring the triumphant return of the original wall-crawler to the Marvel Universe.
After a year away, and Doctor Otto Octavious taking over his body and his role as the
Amazing Superior Spider-Man, Peter Parker is back from the great beyond and in his own body again. But his life sure is different from where it was before, and Peter now has to contend with the reality that, in some ways, Doc Ock was the superior Peter Parker, if not the superior superhero. Issue #1 opens with a flashback to thirteen years ago, when Peter first got bit by that pesky spider. This officially establishes that the modern Marvel universe is only about thirteen years old, which means the perennially youthful Peter Parker is now pushing thirty! I kind of love that Marvel has allowed their heroes to age at least somewhat, while DC is trying to convince us that Superman and Batman are still twenty-five. Never thought I’d see the day when Spidey was older than those two.
After the flashback (which contains a fairly big retcon to an incident that happened when Spidey got his powers, which I won’t spoil), we see Peter Parker back in the swing of things as Spidey, cracking bad puns just like the old days. We find that Peter now has to contend with the life that Doc Ock made for him while using his body, and it’s mostly… a lot better? Peter is now Doctor Peter Parker, Doc Ock fixed Aunt May’s leg, and he’s now the CEO of Parker Industries. For the most part, life has never been so good for Peter Parker, the perpetual “down on his luck” character. I know comics love to hit the reset button all the time, but if we’re to believe that Peter is a scientific genius and is pushing thirty, there’s no reason to think he’s still be begging the Daily Bugle for some cash for pics of Spidey. It’s played out, so I hope this new status quo sticks. Most of the drama in this issue comes from Peter just trying to get a handle on his new life, and not some big villain plot, which is the stuff good Spidey stories are usually made of.
A lot of the stuff in this first issue is really funny, although one scene where Peter Parker loses his costume leaving him buck naked, forcing to web up some undies for himself, while totally sophomoric, was still actually pretty funny (although for the life of me I don’t understand why all the bystanders but one said “ew” at seeing Spidey in his skivvies; He looks pretty damn cut to me.) As good as the Superior Spider-Man was, Dan Slott was born to write classic Peter Parker, complete with the quips and bad puns, so it’s refreshing to get that side of Spidey again. Equally born to work on Spider-Man is artist Humberto Ramos, who draws almost everyone in this exaggerated, cartoony and contorted way, which honestly sometimes rubs me the wrong way, but, I have to admit, is totally perfect for all those “Spider-Man swinging across the city” shots.
One of the more fun new aspects to Spidey’s world are the animal themed villains he faces at the start of the issue, called “The Menagerie.” The leader of the team is “White Rabbit”, a scantily clad (of course) villainess in Playboy bunny garb, that I can’t help but think is a dig at DC’s most recent Batman villainess of the same name, who fans more or less saw as nothing but another sexist female villain stereotype. An also ridiculously sexualized female villain is “Gypsy Moth,” who has the ability to control fabrics, which is what ultimately leaves Spidey all but naked. (She also insists on being called “Skein”, which means her preferred supervillain name is to be called after a length of thread or yarn.) Panda-Mania just looks like your average female raver, complete with panda bear hoodie (it’s unclear just what her powers actually are), and Hippo seems to be just a lamer version of the Rhino. They’re really lame in a totally endearing way – kudos to Dan Slott for coming up with those guys. I hope we see them again.
Another aspect that the best Spidey adventures always cover is the disaster that is Peter’s love life, and this issue was not different. Although Mary Jane is in this issue, watching a news feed on her laptop of her ex getting caught in his birthday suit, the focus is not on her for a change. In fact, it looks like she’s got nothing but animosity towards Peter (probably for something he did as Doc Ock), and the only thing she says is “idiot” before slamming her computer shut at witnessing his latest public humiliation. I guess those two aren’t getting back together any time soon. Instead, Peter has to contend with the fact that while Doc Ock was in his body, he was dating his fellow genius Anna Maria Marconi, a woman he has absolutely no memory of being with (although it’s clear they’ve been together in the biblical sense, something that’s revealed in a fairly hilarious way to Peter.)
One thing that’s not clear, at least from the art, is whether or not Anna Maria is a little person, or just, ya know… a short person. Ramos’ style makes everyone’s proportions look kind of crazy, so I couldn’t tell if Peter was dating out of his usual type or really out of his usual type. Thanks to Google, I found out that she’s indeed a little person, but it’s one of the places where Ramos’ art bugged me, because I just couldn’t tell. I kind of hope that real Peter and Anna Maria do stay together, if only for the possibility that the true love of Spidey’s life isn’t some tall, leggy red head or blonde (or cleavage showing villainess) but the exact opposite. How rad would that be?
So for now, I’m back on board the Spidey train, and if you were ever a fan, chances are you’ll enjoy this first issue and want to stick around to see what comes next.
Parts of this review previously appeared in Nerdist’s Pull List roundup last week.