BIN SIFTIN’ with Rene LeClair: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 (MARVEL COMICS)

 

Writer: Dan Slott   Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli   Inks: Cam Smith   Colours: Marte Gracia

It has begun. Secret Wars isn’t quite done yet, but Marvel launched the first wave of titles of their “All-New, All-Different” line of comics starting with Dr. Strange #1, Avengers #0, Contest of Champions #1 and, of course, Amazing Spider-Man #1.

What can I say about Spider-Man that people don’t already know? I mean, he’s everyone’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man for cripes sake. Whether you Amazing_Spider-Man_Vol_4_1grew up in the city or the countryside, in New York City or anywhere but, you know who Spidey is. Okay, maybe he isn’t known to absolutely everyone, but most of us are in the know, and with good reason.

Since his first appearance in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962, Spider-Man has been capturing the imagination of kids, young and old, reinforcing in us the noble sentiment that “with great power comes great responsibility.” It absolutely resonated with me, anyway.

Being a longtime Marvel fan doesn’t really mean I’m all that knowledgeable about comics that came before my time. I was born in the 70’s, got introduced to comics in the 80’s and dove into actively reading and collecting in the 90’s. While I appreciate seeing the classic comics with all their first appearances and “old-timey” art and stories, it has never been a passion of mine to track down those old expensive issues for myself. I’ve always been an “in the moment” reader and collector. If I really need to know what happened in a certain plot line, the internet will provide.

So when it comes to the Amazing Spider-Man, my first point of reference is the old ’67 cartoon, which was awesome. Waves of pleasant nostalgia wash over me every time I think back to watching that show with my cousin Yves, eating
hot dogs and fries, mesmerized. Next is Todd McFarlane’s Spider-Man (later changed to Peter Parker: Spider-Man, which is a friggin’ Spidey section sorting monkeywrench down at the shop. Same series. Why change the title? Whyyyy?) from the 90’s, which I collected up until he left and was replaced by Erik Larsen. I was mostly an X-Men fan and Spidey was cool, but not that cool.

Years later, and now working in a comic store, it’s easy to sample all the different flavours on the menu. Every week there’s a slew of new comics to be gawked at. I don’t remember how it is that I started collecting Dan Slott’s fantastic run of Amazing Spider-Man (probably thanks to my little brother; he knows his stuff and is the physical avatar on earth of The Comic Hunter, s’true), but it was his Big Time story line that got me into the character. I have never encountered a writer who, for me, better captures the spirit of what I Amazing Spider-Man #1bexpect from a Spider-Man comic. Most of the stories I had read up to this point were dark and almost depressing. Like Batman level dark, and even though the stories may have been great and exciting, they were always a morose affair of someone close to Peter (or Peter himself) being mentally and physically assaulted or killed in a grisly scene. The 80’s and early 90’s comics, in my
memory we very dark, in small part due to the quality of the printing and paper, but also in the tone of the stories having to be “extreme” or gritty all the time. Obviously, not ALL comics were like this, but the ones I was reading, like the Punisher, Wolverine and New Mutants were.

Dan Slott had been writing Amazing Spider-Man for a few years before I jumped on, but the Big Time storyline finds Peter no longer working for the Daily Bugle and starting a new job at Horizon Labs. I mean, Peter Parker is no slouch in the science department. It’s what he studied in university. It’s how he was able to invent his web-shooters and spider web. It’s how he was welcomed as a full time member of the Fantastic Four when Johnny Storm “died.” He’s a scientist and inventor first, and with Horizon Labs essentially being a think tank of scientists with the sole purpose of innovating, developing and creating new, world saving technologies, it was the perfect job for Peter. Not only could he now have a job in a field he was meant to work in, earning more than enough income to finally keep a roof over his head (he had been homeless for a while), but he also now had access to expensive lab equipment to develop new tech for his alter ego as well.

Spidey/Petey was, for once, in a very good place despite there always being villains getting up to no good. The writing was quick and smart, bouncing along at a great pace, confident in it’s direction. Dan Slott’s mastery of the character really shines through as Spidey makes short work of baddies while
delivering some of the best hero/villain banter I have ever read. One of my favourite scenes is when a bunch of gigantic Octo-Robots are rampaging across New York City and Captain America and the Avengers gang are backing up Amazing Spider-Man #1cSpidey’s play against Doctor Octopus. I’ll paraphrase because I can’t seem to put my finger on the actual quotation, but Cap says something to the effect of: “Ok, Doc Ock is one of your regulars. How would you suggest we handle this?” to which Spidey replies with something like: “Well, I usually jump in and start with some jabs about his weight and then I web up his glasses. He really hates that.”

Dan Slott has, for me, hit the perfect balance between a lighthearted approach to the Spider-Man character while still maintaining strong and deep story lines. I’ve no doubt that there is a method to Dan’s madness when it comes to writing Spidey, and the end goal isn’t always what we think it’s going to be. I couldn’t have been more pleased when Doctor Octopus finally outsmarted Spider-Man. Doc Ock, on his death bed, with minutes left to live, pulls off the most out-of-the-blue mind switch with Spidey, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Peter was now stuck in Otto Octavius’ messed up, sick old man body and dies. Doc Ock’s mind, now in Peter’s body and with Peter Parker’s mind dead in his old body, he assumes his new identity as Superior Spider-Man.

To say that people were upset that Amazing Spider-Man was no more is an understatement. Folks were pissed that the only Spidey in town was evil mastermind Superior Spider-Man/Doc Ock parading around as the real deal. Not only was he an impostor, but he was better at doing Spidey’s job than Parker ever was, hence the superiority. Dan Slott got actual death threats for this story.

There were a total of thirty-three issues of Superior Spider-Man before the series ended and I pretty much loved every moment of that series. Watching Doc Ock muck around in Pete’s body, interacting with all of his close friends, accessing confidential Avengers information on heroes and villains alike, going head to head against his old Sinister Six buddies and burning bridges all over the place was a fantastic ride. It also made the return of Peter Parker’s Amazing Spider-Man #1d (1)consciousness back to his body and resuming his role as the real Spider-Man that much sweeter. I won’t tell you how that happened, but things tend to work themselves out in funny books, right?

We now find ourselves on the other side of the recent Secret Wars Marvel event and I figured the Marvel Universe was going to get a bit of a shake up to the status quo and it did. Amazing Spider-Man #1 ‘s first page is a commercial starring Peter Parker, now the head of Parker Industries, and the creator of Webware, an affordable and sleek portable device that is worn on the forearm like a Pip-Boy from Fallout. This device is “now available worldwide, bringing you affordable internet access with clear reception and unlimited data anywhere on Earth.” Spider-Man stands next to Peter as the official mascot and bodyguard to the CEO of Parker Industries. Peter’s obviously making use of some body doubles.

The action ramps up pretty quickly as we cut to a high speed pursuit of Leo, a member of Zodiac, a gang of villains each representing one of the astrological signs. I got a chuckle when Spidey refers to him as “Lion-O”. It’s a crazy car chase on the highways of Shanghai, China as Spidey and Mockingbird are speeding after Leo in what I can only describe a high tech Spidey-Mobile and it’s way cooler than it sounds. This thing doesn’t mess around, as Spidey rides it up walls and drives upside down on the “ceilings” of highway overpasses in order to catch up to Leo and put a stop to his villainous plans.

Once that’s done and a while later, Peter attends his friend Max Modell’s wedding to his partner Hector. Max was Peter’s old boss at the now defunct Horizon Labs. Everything goes smoothly up until more Zodiac dudes show up to crash the wedding. It quickly becomes clear that they are after Peter Parker, since he’s now famous and rich, and they want to steal his Webware device, because of course, it would have all sorts of overide codes and corporate trade Amazing Spider-Man #1e (1)secrets that only the CEO would have. To save the day and protect his friends, Peter gives up the device and the Zodiac make off with their prize. They, certainly don’t realize that Peter is Spidey and that the device contains a lot more than trade secrets, but Peter manages to encrypt the information before handing it over.

The clock is ticking. How is Spidey gonna get that device back before the Zodiac crack the encryption? The second issue will be out next month.

I really dug this comic. It is oversized and half of it is the Amazing Spider-Man story described above, but the second half of the book features short stories starring the other players who run in the same circles as Spidey does such as Silk (a woman bit by the very same spider that gave Peter his powers, but lived a very different life), Spider-Woman (now pregnant), Miles Morales (who became the Spider-Man of the now dead Ultimate Universe), the Web-Warriors (alternate Spideys from different parts of the “Spider-Verse”) and Spider-Man 2099 (Miguel O’hara, who is stuck in the present day.) All these heroes will have their very own titles launching with issue #1 over the next few weeks.

I expect that a lot of titles in Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” line of books (and not just the Spidey related ones) will be great fun, some will be okay and others will bomb. We’ll have a better understanding of what the Marvel landscape will look like in a few weeks as the new line rolls out. One thing is for sure, if you’ve ever wanted to get into comics, but never knew where to jump in, this is a great time to get on board with your favourite Marvel heroes right from the get go. – RENE

(Rene LeClair is an avid comic book reader and works at Comic Hunter in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, spreading the word to all who love comics as well.  He is also a fantastic musician who currently plays with a great band called FEAR AGENT.  Rene has been at his music for years, including stints with Longtimers, Four Frames, and the amazing Dead City Rebels.  At the Comic Hunter (Moncton/Charlottetown) they easily have the biggest selection in the Maritimes for all your nerdy needs. They specialize in comic books w/ over 250k back issues, an immense library of graphic novels as well as a seemingly endless selection of board/card games. Whether you find yourself that side of Quebec or not, they’ll ship anywhere. Visit their website and contact them HERE.)

If you can’t make your way to see Rene in Moncton, you can get a copy of Amazing Spider-Man (2015-) #1 HERE!