Dan Slott notoriously paced his Superior Spider-Man series so aggressively that it makes an issue like the recently-released Amazing Spider-Man #3 feel quiet and methodical in comparison. That’s certainly a strange thing to say about a comic that opens with a huge reveal revolving a character from Spider-Man’s past, a raging fire that almost becomes tragic, and a new lease on life for another longtime Spider-verse personality.
But this appears to be the new status quo that Slott is weaving throughout ASM – a series where every issue doesn’t need to end on a note that promises to blow everything up all over again. Instead, we get comics like ASM #3 which are quintessential “move every piece on the board one spot forward” stories. These comics may not be as chaotic and breakneck as Superior, but they might actually be a bit more reader-friendly for fans old and new alike.
That’s not to say this comic was devoid of moments that made me go “hmmm…” Most notably, the opening few pages starring the mysterious Cindy, the woman we already know was the cryptic “second person” bitten by a radioactive spider on that fateful day umpteen years ago in Amazing Fantasy #15. Despite only dedicating a few panels to Cindy, Slott and artist Humberto Ramos manage to up the character’s intrigue factor considerably. We know that she’s being held captive somewhere and that she’s been in contact with Ezekiel – the character who was famously introduced by J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr. in ASM’s “Coming Home” arc in the early 2000s.
Despite being legitimately shocked by the Ezekiel name drop, his role in this series seems to be inevitable. Marvel has confirmed that the big bad for this fall’s Spider-Verse will be the vampiric Morlun, and where there’s a Morlun, an Ezekiel is soon to follow (or even the other way around).
Regardless, I now find myself being quite interested in where Cindy’s story is headed. When this arc was first teased in ASM #1 two months ago, my fear was that we were just creating another spider character for the heck of it. But I obviously need to give Slott a little more credit than that. There’s a back story here, and it’s a back story that appears to be far more sinister and cryptic than Peter’s.
Beyond Cindy, ASM #3 also provides readers with some insights as to how everyone’s favorite blowhard, J. Jonah Jameson, is going to reinvent himself again – this time as a “news analyst” for the Fact Channel. Sadly it appears my prediction for “Papa Jonah’s Pizza” is dead in the water … for now (come on people, we NEED to make this happen).
In all seriousness, there is undoubtedly some potential for giving Jonah his own show on a cable news channel that’s not even remotely subtle in the way it is taking jabs at Fox News. In the same vein, this is also some dangerous ground for Slott to be treading. As I mentioned in my “Power to the People” flashback write-up earlier this week, there’s always the risk of alienating a segment of the fanbase if a writer’s own political views are railroaded into a comic book series. In the case of JJJ and Fact Channel, having sequences of Jameson just railing about Spider-Man on TV is totally fine and within bounds, but it’s going to be eye-roll central here in Chasing Amazing-land if Jonah’s new gig devolves into a monthly gag about Sean Hannity or Keith Olbermann style talk shows. As is always the case, I reserve judgment until the plotline develops, but I guess consider this my warning shot.
But the “main event” of this comic is naturally the (as promised on the front cover) showdown between Spider-Man and his former lover Black Cat/Felicia Hardy. Perhaps this is being spurred on by the fact that I’ve been reading and writing about A LOT of Black Cat stories over the past month, but after initially being okay with Felicia’s “must punish Spider-Man” storyline, I now find myself becoming a little perplexed by her characterization. While Felicia has long been portrayed as an anti-heroine who could be a thorn in Spidey’s side when the two aren’t kissing in costume together, the pure evilness and vindictiveness she’s emoting seems a little over the top – even if her stay in prison “destroyed everything” as she likes to keep reminding the reader.
Maybe this is just an instance where we need a little more showing, rather than telling. I still don’t understand to what extent Felicia’s stay in prison crippled her life, nor has there been any scenes that really zeroes in on how “everyone knows” it was Spider-Man who sent her up the river (and therefore, not only is her vengeance personal, but also pragmatic for her career as a hired gun and thief).
Additionally, I have some considerable issues with the Spider-Man/Black Cat burning building scene, in large part because of the problematic way Slott has depicted the consequences of the “Superior” era for Peter. As Felicia rages on about her humiliation, Spider-Man explains to her that it wasn’t him – that he was being mind-controlled by Doc Ock.Perhaps if we hadn’t already witnessed Peter explain his actions away to the likes of the Avengers or Mary Jane without having to deal with any consequences or incredulity, Felicia’s non-plussed, “I’m going to rip your heart out anyway” reaction wouldn’t have come across as so odd.
The story then truly goes for meta-broke when Spidey starts pretending he’s Otto again to scare off Felicia and his reaction is along the lines of, how could people hear me talk like that and not know it was me? I guess it is fun to make light of one of the bigger plot points for Superior that a lot of people criticized back in the day, but I don’t truly get why Slott would want to shine a light on something of that nature.
Regardless, the Spidey/Felicia confrontation ends on a indecisive note as the next course of action for the Black Cat appears to be an alliance with Electro (who she’s able to track down thanks to some sloppiness from some of Peter’s Parker Industry subordinates – maybe he needs to drop the Hawaiian shirts?).
Again, it still feels odd to me to be reading a Slott Spider-Man book and not have the issue end with Electro blowing up a building, or for Felicia to be holding Spidey’s still-beating heart, but I guess I’ll have to wait another month to see if that’s where things are ultimately going.