This week, we’re three issues in on the Spider-Man Beyond storyline, so it’s as good a time as any to check in on everyone’s favorite webbed wall-crawler! How is a newly-returned Ben Reilly settling in to the role of Spider-Man?

We’ve got a review of Amazing Spider-Man #77, along with a Rapid Rundown of other new and noteworthy Marvel titles, all ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!

Amazing Spider-Man #77 Cover
Amazing Spider-Man #77

Amazing Spider-Man #77

Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Colorist: Nolan Woodard
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artists: Arthur Adams & Alejandro Sánchez

The first time Ben Reilly replaced Peter Parker as the Marvel Universe’s Spider-Man, things went poorly. The Clone Saga of the ‘90s is one of the most infamous storylines in Marvel’s history, and any time Ben Reilly has popped up in the main Amazing Spider-Man title since then it’s safe to say he’s carried a lot of baggage with him. The current Beyond storyline seems intent on facing that baggage head-on, with Ben having returned to once again don the webs, this time with corporate sponsorship. After a pair of issues that saw Peter start to come to terms with Ben’s continued existence and his claim to Spider-Man, this week’s Amazing Spider-Man #77 is the first to primarily feature Ben as the main protagonist of the series, and it gets Ben’s star turn off to a great start.

Page From Amazing Spider-Man #77
From Amazing Spider-Man #77

Kelly Thompson seems to have been born to write Spider-Man. Her dialogue, occasionally a little banter-heavy on books like Captain Marvel and Black Widow, fits perfectly with the personalities of Spidey and his supporting cast, even when that Spider-Man isn’t Peter Parker. If the previous two issues of ASM showed a Ben Reilly still adjusting to his new status quo, this week’s issue finds Ben largely settled in as the prime Spider-Man. Thompson fleshes out Ben’s life at the Beyond Corporation nicely, with entertaining interactions between Ben and his sparring partners, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing; a heavy discussion of his purpose with newly-introduced exec Maxine Danger (classic comic book name); and a revealing personal chat with psychiatrist Dr. Kafka. It all goes a long way toward introducing Ben Reilly to new readers who may not be entirely familiar with the character, and toward bringing existing readers up to speed on what Ben’s been up to and what his agenda is.

Speaking of creators who were born for Spider-Man, Sara Pichelli is on-hand with the art for this issue. She’s no stranger to alternate universe Spideys, having co-created the Miles Morales version and illustrated the J.J. Abrams-co-written Spider-Man miniseries, but this is Pichelli’s first outing on the main Amazing Spider-Man title, and she and colorist Nolan Woodard should probably never leave. Pichelli’s Spider-Man moves with a fluidity and grace that is virtually unmatched among Spidey artists, essential for the dynamic action sequences of the series. Her quieter, dialogue-heavy scenes are also masterful, with subtle, expressive characters and well-composed pages that are never boring to look at even when characters are just sitting in chairs. Woodard’s coloring is a wonderful complement to Pichelli’s linework, his work enhancing the depth and adding to the overall feel of the issue beautifully.

Pages From Amazing Spider-Man #77
From Amazing Spider-Man #77

It’s also worth noting that, here we are, 878 issues into Spider-Man’s solo ongoing series, and this is the first time neither the writer nor the primary artist on the issue are men. It’s incredible and somewhat embarrassing for Marvel to think that it took almost sixty years for that to happen. Progress is slow, but when the results are a comic as rock-solid as this one, it’s hard to argue with the results.

Amazing Spider-Man #77 is a great jumping-on point for the series, even if you happened to miss the previous two issues of the Beyond storyline. Thompson, Pichelli, and co. spin a Spidey yarn that feels both classic and modern at the same time, and cap things off with a hell of a cliffhanger that also fits nicely into the Halloween season. The storyline is overall off to a really great start. Here’s hoping it can keep up the momentum as it continues over the next few months.

Final Verdict: BUY.

Page From Amazing Spider-Man #77
From Amazing Spider-Man #77

Rapid Rundown!

  • Black Widow #12
    • Black Widow and her new team are off to stop this weird exotic animal action when, surprisingly, things go off the deep end and a mysterious figure from Natasha’s past appears amidst all the chaos. Kelly Thompson has quietly been doing this over in her Captain Marvel series as well, but her solo books tend to slowly morph into team books which she uses to her advantage, providing opportunities for fun and witty dialogue among a fairly sizeable cast of characters, mostly characters who have a pre-existing relationship with the main character; Bucky and Clint are such great additions to this book is what I’m trying to say. Ever since the Matthew Rosenberg-penned Tales of Suspense series a few years ago, I realised I could read a whole book about this trio of characters and never get bored. Elena Casagrande’s artwork remains a serious highlight of this book, and her double-page spread fight scenes have become a signature hook for this series. —HW
  • The Darkhold: Blade #1
    • In this second tie-in to the Darkhold event, we get a story that takes advantage of some surprising supporting characters from the Marvel universe (including Amadeus Cho as the Totally Awesome… Vampire). Notably, the art by Federico Sabbatini and colors by Rico Renzi are a serious departure from the aesthetic featured in Darkhold: Iron Man #1 two weeks ago… suggesting that, when all is said and done, this crossover event will be something akin to the Marvel Comics version of Treehouse of Horror: multiple standalone stories utilizing various styles and more horrific action than usual, all fitted into a loose frame (in the case of this event, Darkhold: Alpha and Darkhold: Omega). If you’re looking for some light horror in your Marvel reading this week, this issue has your number – but it will probably play most effectively in the inevitable TPB collection of this event, where it can be more readily contrasted against the other stories in the anthology. —AJK

Next week, Venom #1!