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COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Amazing Spider-Man #1's web ensnares the hero's past, present, and future


The neighborhood just got a lot friendlier again.
 
The one, true Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Benjamin Parker, made his triumphant return last month in the penultimate issue of “Superior Spider-Man.” For a year and three months in real-world time, the Spider-Man swinging around in the comics was not the hard-luck hero that fans had come to know and love for five decades. One of the webslinger’s most formidable foes, Doctor Octopus, was dying, and managed to switch minds with Parker, trapping the hero in his decaying body. Learning the vital lesson of great power and great responsibility at the last moment, Doc Ock swore to become a better Spider-Man than his predecessor – a Superior Spider-Man.
 
However, during the events of “Goblin Nation,” the Green Goblin managed to seize control of New York City. Doc Ock soon realized that it was his arrogance that blinded him to the truth: the city had fallen into chaos under his watch, and there was only one man who could save it – the hero he had stolen his body from. With the fate of an entire city at stake, Doc Ock relinquished control of Parker’s body to a ghost of Parker’s memories hidden deep inside his brain. Finding himself in the driver’s seat once more, the real Spider-Man put an end to the Goblin’s plans, saved the city, and is now trying to undo the mess Doc Ock made in his personal life, one awkward situation at a time.

Enter the Spider-Men
 
Thus, “Amazing Spider-Man” was relaunched with a new issue #1 – just in time for the new movie, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” – simultaneously unleashing a ridiculous number of variant covers upon the world.
 
An extra-special event deserves a plus-sized comic book; clocking in at 92 pages (only 64 of which are actually Spider-Man-related – more on that later), “The Amazing Spider-Man” #1 features seven different tales that either add previously unrevealed dimensions to Spider-Man’s origin story or set the stage for this year’s Spider-Man story arcs.
 
The first story, written by main Spider-scribe Dan Slott and illustrated by Humberto Ramos (who also did the regular cover), begins with a flashback sequence featuring the first official appearance of Silk, the second victim of the spider that gave Parker his powers. Silk will be getting her own story arc in a couple of months, and this sequence sets it up nicely (and also gives us a definite answer as to how long ago it was in Marvel time when Parker was actually bitten).

The return of Peter Parker
 
The story then shifts to the present, starring an absolutely Doc Ock-free Spider-Man. It immediately becomes evident that Parker’s notoriously bad “Parker luck” has followed him back to the land of the living, with embarrassingly hilarious results. After writing Spider-Man for years, Slott definitely seems to have mastered the wall-crawler’s voice, and mixes a healthy dose of comedy with a couple of neat plot twists.
 
Poor Parker is left to deal with everything Doc Ock has done during his time as Spider-Man, good or bad; despite the fact that most of his personal relationships are up in flames, he now possesses a PhD (which he absolutely didn’t earn), functions as the CEO of his own company (that focuses on cybernetics – a field that was Doc Ock’s forte, not his), and has an intelligent and devoted girlfriend (whom he had never even met prior to his return). Typical Parker luck, indeed.
 
On the art side of things, Ramos brings a unique and dynamic energy to the title, with his angular linework, extreme poses, and expressive (and rather cartoonish) faces. It’s worth noting that he seems to have begun drawing Spider-Man’s lenses to closely resemble the large-eyed movie costume; whether this was an editorially-mandated decision or simply artistic preference is rather hard to ascertain. With Victor Olazaba’s inks and Edgar Delgado’s colors, Ramos’s work continues to stand out as one of the most instantly recognizable styles in today's Spider-books.
 
Slott collaborates with writer Christos Gage for two tales that re-introduce the main villains in the title’s upcoming arcs. We see the “shocking" tale of Electro’s ill-fated quest for respect and notoriety in “Recapturing That Old Spark” (illustrated by Javier Rodriguez); Slott himself has said that Electro was used as the main villain in the first arc of the relaunched title to capitalize on his appearance in the new film.

Rekindling an old flame
 
The second collaboration features Spider-Man’s former flame, the Black Cat, in “Crossed Paths” (with Giuseppe Camuncoli as penciler). The recently incarcerated Felicia Hardy blames the wallcrawler for her downfall, vowing to destroy him. In “Superior Spider-Man,” Ock-as-Spidey gave her a sound beating and allowed the police to imprison her for her past crimes; it's going to be interesting how Parker will try to explain his way out of this one.
 
Joe Caramagna and Chris Giarrusso then present “How My Stuff Works,” a handy guide to Spider-Man’s powers. In the short comic, a rather cutesy interpretation of Spider-Man breaks the fourth wall and directly converses with the readers, explaining his powers and even inviting a special guest – a certain green-skinned Avenger with anger management issues.

 
Two other prominent members of the Spider-family get their own chance to shine in this issue. Peter David returns to write the much-anticipated comic book “Spider-Man 2099,” launching in July with Will Sliney on art duties. David and Sliney partner up here to deliver a prelude of sorts for their new ongoing. Their story, “Homecoming, Sort Of,” features the time-displaced Spider-Man of the future, Miguel O’Hara, stopping a crime in the present day while pondering exactly how to get back to his own era. 
 
Meanwhile, Spider-Man’s clone Kaine, a.k.a. the Scarlet Spider, takes center stage in “Kaine,” written by Chris Yost and illustrated by David Baldeon. The story reveals that the people of Houston – a place he briefly called home in his recently concluded comic book series – still think of him as their hero and protector, despite his abrupt departure (and tendency to swear a lot).
 
Lastly, “Learning to Crawl: Amazing Reality” serves as the first chapter for the upcoming “Amazing Spider-Man” #1.1, and introduces Clayton Cole, a mysterious character who may prove to be a key figure in Spider-Man's secret history.

Barely human
 
As a bonus, Marvel also reprinted the entirety of “Inhuman” #1 in this issue – a move that industry experts speculate is a bid to increase sales for the reportedly struggling title.
 
Overall, “Amazing Spider-Man” #1 is recommended as a fresh new beginning for long-time enthusiasts of the world-famous superhero, as well as a starting point for new fans who were drawn into the web by the films and other media adaptations.
 
Here's to an all-new and absolutely Amazing era for Spider-Man. — TJD, GMA News
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