It’s hard to believe that volume three of the Amazing Spider-Man launched nearly six months ago, because now that we reached the end of the opening arc with ASM #6, it feels like we’re so far removed from the inspired, joyful series debut that I don’t even recognize the book I’m reading at the moment.
From my vantage, it’s been a hard and dispiriting fall for ASM, a series I’ve stuck with through good times and not-so-good times. No, I’m not about to announce I’m dropping the title – I’m far too obsessive about the impacts such a decision would have on both my collection, and my ability to blog about Spider-Man a few times every week. But after being such an ardent supporter of Dan Slott for so long, I find that my desire and interest to continue reading his Spider-Man content is waning considerably.
There are just far too many flaws in how he builds and ultimately resolves his plots, and how he develops and utilizes certain characters, for me to continually look the other way and tell his detractors, “yeah, but what about ‘Big Time,’ or ‘Spider Island,” or the first two-thirds of Superior Spider-Man?” Those are among his very best stories, and I’m sure there are a couple of one or two-parters mixed in that I didn’t mention that were also great. Slott was the ultimate Spider-Man fanboy writing Spider-Man. There was a certain level of unbridled joy that he brought to the book that made some of the plotholes and shaky characterizations forgiveable because his stories made me smile. But with the way Superior ended with such a thud and how that’s transitioned to the first six ASM issues (who, outside of Brian Michael Bendis, opens a Spider-Man book with a six-issue arc?), I don’t find myself smiling all that much anymore.And with the next big event, “Spider-Verse” just around the corner, I’m very concerned about my future attachment to Spider-Man comics. If this is just another convoluted, poorly executed, overhyped storyline, I think there’s going to be a real groundswell for Marvel to find a new voice for these books.
For the record, I hope I’m wrong and a year from now, I laugh about the fact that I actually wrote a post like this. For past evidence of such a phenomena, you can check out what I wrote about ASM #700 before it was actually released.
Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, let me break down what I found so unsatisfying about ASM #6, which, in isolation, wasn’t as terrible as I’m making it sound, but as part of a larger arc, exhibited some trends I found disturbing.
Let’s start with why I read Spider-Man comics: because I love Spider-Man, and his civilian alter ego, Peter Parker. The reason why I thought Superior Spider-Man was such a fascinating read was because I found the whole book to be a commentary on what it meant to be Spider-Man – how Otto’s ways, while more effective in the short-term, would ultimately upend him because he’s not a hero and he’s not Peter. But throughout the first six issues of this new ASM, the book’s focus has shifted away from Peter, to the point that he feels like a supporting and inferior character in his own book.
The biggest culprit in contributing to this shift, comes with Cindy Moon, aka, Silk. Again, I defended Slott and Silk against their detractors a few issues ago, who derided her as nothing more than a “Mary Sue,” but it seems impossible to think otherwise of the character after ASM #6. Here is this person, who’s been in captivity for the past umpteen years, and she’s charismatic, attractive, MUCH more socially adept than she has any right to be, is faster than Peter and has a keener Spider-Sense than him. She saved Peter’s life on three separate occasions in this story alone. Her superheroics reached such absurd levels in this comic, it makes you wonder how Peter managed to survive the first 52 years of his comic book existence without her (well, I guess you could say he WAS out of commission for at least 14 months during the Superior-era).
I know comic book creators understandably develop attachments to their own creations, but when you’re dealing with a beloved character like Peter who has been out of commission for the past year because of another major status quo shift, one would think that Slott and Marvel would be celebrating his return as a character. I know that for years, there’s been this company-wide mandate to characterize Peter as a bit of an incompetent goof who is more lucky than successful, but I continue to maintain that this is a terrible approach to Spider-Man. Via “Big Time” and “Spider Island,” Slott started to steer the ship away from that characterization, but that hasn’t been the case since volume three began.
What ever happened to the idea that this new ASM would focus on how Peter survived his brush with death and now had a “new lease on life,” that would provide him with new perspective? That absolutely came through in the first two issues but has been sorely absent since. Peter continues to be impetuous and absent-minded in this comic. He flies into danger, just to make a “splashy entrance.” Has this character not learned a thing since, because of his carelessness, he had his brain and body-swapped by Doc Ock? And if the actual answer to that question (from Slott or Marvel) is “no,” then my retort is that a character that shows no ability to learn from his mistakes (which is what the entire Spider-Man mythos is built upon) is not a character I have much interest in reading about.
Additionally, as the comic ends, Peter does get a fairly traditional Spider-Man “hero” moment when he sacrifices himself to save and “cure” Electro. Of course, without Silk, the character would have likely been electrocuted/barbecued. Then, to top it off, Peter celebrates by telling Cindy and Anna Maria that he considers the day a victory because nobody died… Are we really returning to Peter and “no one dies?” That was a really interesting storyline when Slott first did it in 2011, but again, the mantra played a large part in Peter getting his body swapped by Doc Ock. I’m not advocating for Peter to become a heartless killing machine, but can we get just a little bit of character development here?
As I mentioned in my last write-up, it’s not even worth harping on the absolutely brutal characterization of Black Cat/Felicia Hardy, but I can’t resist slipping in a comment about how this storyline continues to circle the drain for me. In this issue, she remorselessly jeopardizes the lives of an untold number of innocent New Yorkers by unleashing Electro, all in an effort to spite Spider-Man, and then the comic ends with Felicia assuming the mantel of mob boss. We keep getting explanations as to why Felicia is so dramatically different (in this case, she determines that her time loving the Spider made her weak), but I just don’t buy it. I’m assuming that Slott will likely just dig his heels in on this brand new creation of his, but I have to think at some point, this characterization will be rightfully retconned away, probably once (if?) Sony produces a Black Cat solo film, as has been rumored.
Just on a final note, I have to reiterate that I hate posting write-ups like this about Spider-Man comics. I find there is absolutely no joy in being negative about a story or a creator. At the same time, I hate being so thoroughly disappointed with Spider-Man comics. I believe Slott can do better because I’ve seen him do better. But the clock is now ticking. I know I’m not alone with my cynicism, and while Spider-Man might be a hot-selling commodity right now, as we’ve witnessed with some of the recent cinematic reboots, that can turn in a heartbeat in fans are unsatisfied with the content.