Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out. Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about.
Not to make myself the focal point of the story here, but there was something inherently stressful and anxiety-inducing about my write-ups of Superior Spider-Man #30 and #31. After months and moths of build for this audacious and controversial status quo upheaval, it felt like all eyes were laser-focused on the conclusion of this arc, ready to micro-analyze every twist and turn and plot development (or lack thereof). As someone who writes about these comics on Chasing Amazing and then records a podcast with more “definitive” reviews and grades via Superior, now AMAZING Spider-Talk, I was admittedly very self-conscious about how my feelings of these two comics jived with my readers/listeners.
As such, the inaugural issue of the third volume of Amazing Spider-Man is a breath of fresh air for a variety of reasons. At its basest level, there’s something infinitely more calming and reassuring about having Peter Parker back in the red and blues, quipping about “pee breaks” and Faberge egg omelets. But beyond that, the reboot of ASM has provided me with an opportunity to unclench a bit and get back to doing what I love to do best in this venue – talk Spider-Man, aka, the TRUE Spider-Man, Peter Parker.
Welcome back Parker!
ASM #1 (I’m assuming I don’t have to write out “volume 3” every time I refer to this issue, right?) is not the greatest story of all time, nor is it a particularly impactful one (I’m still trying to figure out what the return of “you know who” was referring to in the solicitations given my utter lack of shock and surprise by anything that transpired in this comic), but it was a lot of damn fun and it is the quintessential jumping on point for casual readers, while also moving at Dan Slott’s trademark fast pace. There were certainly a handful of moments that made me just a wee bit cynical and uncertain for a number of reasons, but also nothing that was so unquestionably “bad” in terms of characterization or story structure where I’m not willing to ride things out a bit and see where they go.
Talking in broader strokes, I absolutely loved the overarching theme and tone of this comic – Peter Parker getting a second lease on life and not taking anything for granted – because I think it so accurately reflects those of us out there who had been pining for Pete’s return as the Superior status quo wound down the past few months. As enjoyable as Superior Spider-Man could be at times, it was never as joyful or jubilant as this first issue of ASM.
Peter’s life may be a bit of a mess right now – he’s still trying to figure out exactly everything Doc Ock accomplished/destroyed in his absence, while also navigating a whole new set of relationships/dynamics with certain characters – but it’s now on Peter’s shoulders to work through it. I’m sure he’s going to stumble at times, otherwise, we’d be reading a story with no drama and that’s just plain boring, but as I referred to earlier, the non-stop stress of watching Otto Octavius, the “superior” Spider-Man is no longer looming around every corner (though Peter almost accessed Doc Ock’s memories for a second there, and I wonder if that’s going to open the door to Otto’s inevitable return).
Pitting Spider-Man against a cast of villains as ridiculous as the “Menagerie,” is the perfect warm-up act for what stands to more substantial confrontations with the likes of Electro and Black Cat in the near future (which were strongly set up in a pair of “B” stories in ASM #1). A part of me could do without ALL of the “nudity” in this comic as I think it tap dances precariously along the line of crass silliness and well-crafted humor, but the “Spidey whities” sequence also manages to mesh with the almost surreal-like tone of this book. There’s still a part of that is pre-conditioned by the last 16 months to think any new Spidey comic I’m reading stars Otto, not Peter, so there’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment period as I get reacquainted with Slott’s ASM voice and tone.
In the same vein, I do wonder if this subplot involving Doc Ock’s former love, Anna Maria Marconi, and Peter is fated to devolve into Three’s Company-esque sexual misunderstanding sitcom territory. Having Anna Maria confront Peter about being Spider-Man because of the “three freckles” he has by his belly button (which she knows because she’s seen all of his freckles), feels a little cheap or juvenile. It’s not that I’m trying to be prudish about my comic books, but Anna Maria is a smart woman and I have to think there’s a better way to go down this road with her rather than referencing the fact that she and “Peter” at one point spent a fair amount of time naked (at least enough time to learn where all his birth marks might be). Peter’s shocked (and again, sitcom-esque) reaction to Anna Maria’s discovery only furthers my concerns about the potential direction of this story. ASM is a superhero comic, not an episode of Friends.
Then there’s the situation involving the opening page of this comic – a rehash of Peter’s origin with the added twist that somebody else has received a spider bite. Any possible alterations to arguably the greatest superhero origin story of all time are going to inspire controversy, no matter how well it is told. My inner, most illogical fanboy side doesn’t want anything to do with a retcon of this level, but my more sensible, rational side wants to see what Slott and Marvel come up with here. If this second character –revealed at C2E2 last week to be a character named Silk – is crafted in such a way that engages me as a reader, then why would I have any objections, regardless of the fact that it might retroactively alter continuity?
In other words, I’m not going to stress about any of this yet, because as of right now, the sun is shining, the sky is blue, and I’m getting a steady dose of Peter Parker in my life again.