The Amazing Spider-Man #17
Writer: Dan Slott
Penciller: R.B. Silva
Inker: Adriano Di Benedetto
Colorist: Marte Gracia
“Our world sucks.”
I’m not sure if any other Spider-Man comic, or any mainstream comic of the superhero persuasion (outside of more adult-oriented material) has ever opened with such a declarative line of existential ennui. Either way, that line sets the tone for the seventeenth issue of this volume of The Amazing Spider-Man and, for the most part, is successful at instilling an underlying vibe of uneasiness. We’re still ultimately being set-up for the “Dead No More” arc, but, the action is picking up considerably beginning with this issue. Yet, there is something not quite right, allegiances between what is good and what is evil are left in a state of ambiguousness. And that’s even before we get to a dude dressed like a rhino!
At the crux of this issue is the working relationship between Peter Parker and Hobie Brown, playing double-duty as Spider-Man and Prowler. In short, the main plot is a simple one of industrial espionage (mixed with some science-fiction, for good measure), as Peter is interested in a new entity called New U, which supposedly develops miraculous medicinal procedures that prolong life even for those close to death. New U it turns out is nothing more than a front for the Anubis mask-wearing Jackal, a Trump University scheme for the super-villain cadre to defeat Spider-Man and his compatriots.
The script, written with a certain sangfroid by Dan Slott, is serviceable and clean, and each story beat feels interesting, if not entirely original (notwithstanding the reference to Pokémon Go, which, in all serious, is that still a thing?). While the dialogue sometimes slides towards the cheesy delivery rather than something more serious, it was enjoyable and well-paced. Seeing Hobie Brown take up the dual mantle of Spidey and Prowler makes for good repartee between Hobie and Peter; their rapport feels solid. The interior artwork by R.B. Silva is exceptional at conveying the sense that there is something not quite right going on; the choice of a palette of dark greens and spooky purples reinforces this underlying uneasiness.
It will be interesting to see how the story progresses in issues to come. I feel that, for long-time readers of Spider-Man, there will be a lot to like about this issue, even when it veers off into silliness. Indeed, even though there is some voodoo about bringing loved ones back to life, acts of betrayal (I’m not saying who will be betraying whom), and a bit of Mission: Impossible-esque sleuthing, which helps the drive the story along, this is a solid comic book. I feel that this run has been met with mixed reactions, but I thoroughly enjoyed this issue. The action moves at a quick pace, and the cliffhanger provides a nice twist. Those who read this issue will certainly appreciate the action and suspense, and the knowledge that the story is only starting to piece all its threads together.