Disclaimer: All of the comics reviewed in this column were either provided by the respective creators/companies, or were purchased from Dr. Volts Comics in Salt Lake City.
BIFF! BANG!! POW … WOW!!!
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 (semi-monthly comic mini-series, full color, Marvel Comics, $5.99) (5 out of 10)
WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Peter David and others (story); Humberto Ramos, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Will Sliney and others (art); Edgar Delgado, Javier Rodriguez, Antonio Fabela and others (colors) and Chris Eliopolis (letters).
MILES MORALES: THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #1 (monthly comic mini-series, full color, Marvel Comics, $3.99) (7 out of 10)
WHO’S RESPONSIBLE? Brian Michael Bendis (story); David Marquez (art); Justin Ponsor (colors) and VC’s Cory Petit (letters).
Which version of Spider-Man is the best? In the past couple of years, Marvel Comics readers had three very different options to choose from: There was the Amazing Spider-Man, aka Peter Parker; The Superior Spider-Man, a mind-swapped Otto Octavius; or The Ultimate Spider-Man, mixed-race teenager Miles Morales.
As with everything these days, there was controversy over all three characters. There were complaints that the loveable loser Peter character had gotten stale after 50 years’ worth of tales, that he was overused and needed retiring.
But Peter loyalists outright rejected a radical status-quo change in the new, “Superior Spider-Man” title, in which Otto (aka Dr. Octopus) assumed control of the body of Peter Parker, leaving him to “die” in his injuries-riddled body, and – with his incredible abilities – he tried to fight crime in a completely different, more ruthless and cold-hearted manner.
However, the “Superior Spider-Man” recently ended, after very successful (at least sales wise) 31-issue run. The series finally saw longtime Spidey nemesis the Green Goblin seize control of New York City. Facing overwhelming odds and feeling powerless to stop the Goblin, Otto erased his own memories from the body, which allowed the semi-dormant Peter to assume control.
With that business taken care of (for the most part), the “new/old” Amazing title has re-started with a supposedly more, “reader-friendly” #1 issue that re-introduces Peter as the title character, and sees him trying to reclaim his life, as well as clear up some leftover business from when Ock was still in control of his body.
And in the “Ultimate” title, Morales took up the Spidey name and a similar costume, with similar powers, after that universe’s Peter Parker was killed during a battle with his longtime nemesis, Norman Osborn. However, his life proved to be every bit as problem-filled as Peter’s – Miles’ mother was murdered by Venom, and a world-threatening catastrophe resulted in the deaths of several of his heroic mentors.
The third “Ultimate Spider-Man” picks up the story a little while later, with Miles still mourning the death of mother and feeling abandoned – his clearly peeved father left after discovering his son’s secret identity. Unbeknownst to Miles, two figures from his past aren’t as dead as they appeared, and at least one of them reveals his existence to the hero in a shocking moment.
While the “Superior” title did have a dark sense of humor in the beginning, it got progressively dark and almost dire. The revived “Amazing” restores the balance between humor, action and drama. And it re-teams writer Dan Slott with penciller Humberto Ramos, arguably the best artist to draw the wallcrawler in recent years.
Also, several decades’ worth of Spidey-baggage appear to have been discarded in the process, so the title character may have some truly new directions to swing into. (Though some of the beloved supporting cast from both “Amazing” and “Superior” remain.)
As for the “Ultimate” title, writer/co-creator Brian Michael Bendis remains at the creative helm, and the first issue is fairly “new reader friendly” as well. Most refreshing, it manages that feat without Bendis resorting to some of his more expository, “writer-y” tricks.
And artist David Marquez has a clean style that sits comfortable between those of previous USM artists Mark Bagley and Stuart Immomen. Check out this well-crafted sequence, which changes gears abruptly between romance and action:
Slott tries a little too hard to re-introduce humor into the “Amazing” book, at least the main story. Some of Peter’s wisecracks are as leaden as those heard/seen in the recent, disastrous “Amazing Spider-Man 2” movie. Also, some of these characters and situations are going to need explanations, to make them clearer to the new readers this book is supposedly trying to attract.
And the new “Ultimate” is more character-driven than action-driven. Again, it’s a way to re-introduce the concept without resorting to exposition, but the issue could use a little more web-swinging and slinging.
The $5.99 “Amazing” #1 boasts six other stories, including shorts meant to entice readers into checking out upcoming, new titles for Spider-Man 2099 and the Scarlet Spider (who’s joining of new version of New Warriors), as well as a reprint of the sold-out but unrelated “Inhuman” #1. None of them have enough pages to establish much in the way of characters, and the Black Cat interlude again features art by Italian penciller Giuseppe Camuncoli, the perpetrator of some of the ugliest comics work in recent memory.
And at least one of the revelations in “Ultimate” will have some longtime readers fuming. It’s too early to judge whether things really are as they seem, though, and, if anyone can pull this off, it’s the crafty Bendis.
“Amazing Spider-Man” has nowhere to go but up, considering the heights and depths the character experienced as the “Superior Spider-Man.” So, while the first issue is a mixed bag at best, it does show some promises.
Its “Ultimate” counterpart is the best first issue, though – if for no other reason than that cliffhanger, which will make the month-long wait between issues a bit torturous.
THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 (5 out of 10)
MILES MORALES: THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #1 (7 out of 10)
Jeff Michael Vice, aka Jerk-bot, can also be read reviewing films for Cinephiled (www.cinephiled.com) be seen reviewing films as part of Xfinity’s Big Movie Mouth-Off (www.facebook.com/BigMovieMouthOff), and be heard reviewing films, television programs, comics, books, music and other things as part of The Geek Show Podcast (www.thegeekshowpodcast.com).