Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Amazing Spider-Man: Worldwide Vol. 1 (comics)
Artist: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Collects: Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #1-5
With the man now closing in on a solid decade with Spider-Man, without much in the way of major stumbles, Dan Slott is probably going down as a definitive writer of the character when all is said and done. It hasn't been without its low periods, though - Ends of the Earth pissed me off so bad I stopped reading until Superior - and it's had the worrying trend of slowly but surely pushing the character away from the kind of situations and stories that make him compelling in the first place.
The trend reaches its its peak here - in the second Amazing Spider-Man relaunch in a year, because Marvel is run by insane people - where Peter Parker has essentially become a low rent Iron Man, a fact directly addressed in the story. Sure, the last series had a similar setup, which saw Peters life in a far better place after everything Doc Ock did with it in Superior, but in that book Peter was absolutely not ready to run a company, constantly fighting to keep its head above water, struggling with people screwing around behind his back, all on top of the personal problems caused by Ock living his life for a spell. Now, he's pretty much Tony Stark, right down to calling Spider-Man his bodyguard, without most of Starks obvious, compelling personal failings.
I was absolutely not interested in that. After all, if I want to read Iron Man, I'd pick that up; or not, I guess, given what's apparently happening there. So I put it off for a long time. Now that I've read it, I've turned around on the idea somewhat. This comic is good. Very good. In five issues, it's better than half the prior relaunch by far, with superior artwork, snappier dialogue and all the fun of international crime fighting. I don't know the Zodiac from Adam, but I'm interested enough in the book overall that I'm even interested in finding out whatever it is he's doing.
One good upside to this status quo is that Spider-Man is all over the place, now. Personally, there isn't much I love more than superheroes getting out of their comfort zone and visiting different countries. The rare occasions Batman does it are always a treat. Even if it's just aesthetic and nothing is done with the local culture, it always offers a different look for the typical heroics, spicing things up. I love Gotham and all, but geez, sometimes you just want to see the Bat family go somewhere else. Same for Spider-Man and New York City. Seeing the wall crawler in China, England and Africa offers a nice change of pace.
If I have a complaint, it's that we're already involving Norman Osborn again. When you think Spider-Man arch-enemies, he's definitely in the top three, maybe even at number one, but they use him as a crutch so much that it occasionally feels like the guy is behind everything that happens to Spider-Man. The character ended up being the overall villain of Superior Spider-Man, then continued his machinations in the prior volume, right into now. The book has let Ock cool longer than Osborn, and Ock is the more interesting character after Superior.
I do enjoy the structure of the series so far, though. While there's an overall story arc going on here with Zodiacs shenanigans and it plays a role in each issue, it doesn't feel like we're reading a typical "story arc". Each issue has a clear problem and conflict, which is generally resolved in one way or another by the end of the issue. If Spider-Man has to assault an aquatic base in an issue to try and retrieve something stolen from him, the plot will see itself out by the end of the issue. Goblin dudes wrecking a small town in Africa? Done three pages before the end. It's hard to explain, but it feels less like one continuous story that takes five to six issues to play out and more like chunks that build to a whole, but feel standalone enough that they are almost like their own adventure, if that makes sense. The "arc" is far less defined.
Also enjoyable, the artwork. I've liked a fair amount of Dan Slotts tenure, but most of it has been paired with art I find unappealing. That's not an issue here. Everything is clean, bright and dynamic. Even Alex Ross steps up his game, providing some of the best cover art I think I've seen from him, which is welcome, because the whole "I only do Silver Age heroes" thing got old quick.
I'm not sure how comfortable I am with this direction long term. I feel like it almost has to fall apart at some point, given how not-Spider-Man it feels. But as a change of pace, it's working amazingly well so far. And hell, low rent Iron Man is not so bad in an age when Iron Man isn't even having colorful playboy superhero adventures like this anymore. He's too busy being comatose, replaced by two different people, because replacing heroes with new versions is the only story Marvel knows how to tell anymore. I'd recommend this.
My Opinion: Read It