Peter Parker is getting a fresh start this week. With Dan Slott having wrapped his record-breaking run as the longest concurrent writer of The Amazing Spider-Man, the title is relaunching with a new first issue and a new all-star creative team. What will seasoned Marvel veteran Nick Spencer (Captain America) and indie comics king Ryan Ottley (Invincible) bring to one of the publisher’s most important heroes?
Plus, Laura Kinney is reclaiming her title as X-23 and moving on from her time as Wolverine. Marvel rising star writer Mariko Tamaki (She-Hulk) is taking on the character alongside artist Juann Cabal (All-New Wolverine)! We are taking a look at this week’s biggest releases here on The Marvel Rundown!
The Amazing Spider-Man #1
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Ryan Ottley and Humberto Ramos
Inked by Cliff Rathburn and Victor Olazaba
Colored by Laura Martin and Edgar Delgado
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Alexander Jones: Author Nick Spencer and artist Ryan Ottley are kicking off a bold new era for Spider-Man. AJ, what did you think of their oversized debut issue?
Frost: Hi Alex! It’s been crazy trying to keep everything straight with Comic-Con on the horizon. Spider-Man has been in a weird place lately in the comics. The end of the Dan Slott era meant there weren’t a lot of story types to explore, and aspects of the character had plateaued considerably. This new issue was a surprise for me. I’m wary of Nick Spencer’s work on the whole and wasn’t sure what he would bring to the table. I was heartened that, while this book was a reset, it positioned Peter in an interesting way. To put it bluntly, he is an outcast again and needs to build up his reputation. It was an interesting meta-take on the character and the book as a whole.
Jones: I was shocked to see Spencer return Spider-Man back-to-basics and go as far as he did with the issue. He did a pretty good job setting up the different bits of status quo and new moments with Parker. Ottley’s art seemed to give the title a fresh energy as well. Spider-Man desperately needed new blood and this issue felt like the right change in direction for me.
Frost: It was refreshing to see a Peter Parker who is a bit more grown up, a bit more sophisticated, yet still the same nudnik we’ve known over the decades. This element of his character is now front and center. The great illusion Spencer pulled off was making this story seem like a classic Spider-Man tale. All the elements are there, and even some nice curveballs. I’m not as impressed as you are with the art though, Alex. It was good, and Ottley has a great grasp of dynamic poses and big scenes, but there’s just something about it–maybe the angularity and jaggedness of the characters–which prevented me from loving the art entirely.
Jones: Spencer’s politics seed through the issue surrounding a subplot revolving around publicly shaming people for past transgressions. This definitely reflects the modern state of internet and social media as well as Spencer’s role in it. While this idea and plot point shows some of Spencer’s ideals, it is also a clever moment for the script and a gateway towards previous continuity. If Spencer injects much more of his personal politics into the story, the script may become preachy. Thankfully, the big takeaway for me is Spencer seems to be looking towards redemption based on some of the dialogue from Peter Parker. Peter even references the “with great power, comes great responsibility” mantra.
Frost: While the political content of the book was subtle, it was present, and it’s interesting to see how Spencer navigates charges against his ideology while writing a book meant for a broad and newer readership.
Jones: Marvel has milked Spider-Man aggressively over the last couple years with the frequent shipping schedule. I’m scared about the overall quality of the title because of the schedule. In this issue, I think Spencer was committed to seeding some of the larger moments with the different characters and adding those tiny wrinkles into Peter Parker’s life which will hopefully pay off in the next couple stories. This issue was massive but I felt Spencer actually justified the page count in most scenes and contexts.
Frost: The back-up story and the coda were both welcome additions to the book. Spencer really lives up to the ‘Back to Basics’ ethos and presents a Spider-Man tale which is both fresh and recognizable. It could have been a chaotic mess: there are so many characters and ideas stuffed into this book, it may have sunk from the weight of its own ambition. But, somehow, everything evened out and the final product is simple, straight-up Spider-Man. That’s not to say it’s all perfect, mind you. There are certain stumbles. The Kingpin’s quips are, at this point, a little odd. And some of the humor doesn’t fully get through. But these are minor quibbles rather than stumbling blocks to enjoying the issue.
Jones: I’m not sure why the Kingpin scene was there or why it was so large.
Frost: It was long to be sure, but Marvel really went all in to show they are setting Spider-Man back on the right track. As for Ottley’s art in this book, as I said before, it was good, but not something I was thrilled with. It’s mainstream, Big Two art. It looks good for what it is, and Ottley has a great command of action poses and dynamic splash pages. At the same time, some of the figure drawings is a tad too angular and jagged for me to appreciate it too much. What were your thoughts on the art of this book?
Jones: I think the art I had a good energy overall. I am personally not a big fan of Ryan Ottley but I do appreciate the energy he brought to the page. Some of the splash pages were kind of like a cool version of Image comics from the 1990s but updated for modern standards. It was an interesting fusion complementing Nick Spencer’s script well.
Frost: I also got a nineties vibe from some of the art, at least in the poses. So, Alex what are your final reactions to this book? Was it a success, or a step backward?
Jones: I would definitively call this issue a success. I think the creative team has the right vision and ideas to push Parker’s life forward. This installment also had a little something which is going to make longtime readers jump for joy hopefully. I think this praise makes the title worthy of a BUY. What do you think?
Frost: For the length and story alone, I’m going to give this a BUY as well. This is the Peter readers know and love, and even though he’s facing new existential crises, this looks like a step in a good direction.
Joe Grunenwald: My Marvel Rundown colleagues had a much rosier perspective on Marvel’s The Amazing Spider-Man #1 than I did. Nick Spencer is a writer whose work I have enjoyed in the past, but this issue feels like he’s trying to do too much all at once.
Yes, Spider-Man is at his best when he’s down on his luck and nothing’s going right for him, so I can see why Spencer would want to put the character back in that position. The way in which Spencer does it, though, is incredibly rushed, and ultimately not terribly convincing. Perhaps the writer wanted to get past knocking Peter down a few pegs as quickly as possible so that he can get straight to telling the stories he wants to tell. Or maybe, after the much-maligned Hydra-Cap storyline, Spencer was trying to move past the lingering backlash by running in the opposite direction from politics as fast as he could (though, with the inclusion of Mayor Wilson Fisk, he’s likely not going completely apolitical in this series). Either of those reasons is understandable, but it doesn’t translate to a very good premiere issue for a relaunch.
The art throughout the issue, both on the main story by Ryan Ottley and on the backup story by Humberto Ramos, is solid if not spectacular, with Ramos in particular getting a chance for some truly creepy visuals in the Mysterio-centric backup story. Still, it overall didn’t do much to elevate the weak work from Spencer. I really wanted to be excited about this series, and maybe the writing will improve past this first issue, but for now, I’ll be SKIPping this one and sticking with Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man as my Spider-title of choice.
Final Verdict: Joe says SKIP, AJ and Alexander say BUY!
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Illustrated by Juann Cabal
Colored by Nolan Woodard
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: Joe, X-23 is another title in the unfortunate position of reverting back a legacy character in Marvel’s publishing history. I hope you like me at least attempted to walk into this debut with an open mind! What did you think of Laura’s return to the identity of X-23?
Joe Grunenwald: I may have had an easier time keeping an open mind than you did, Alex, as I’ve only previously read a handful of comics that Laura’s been in, so 90% of my knowledge of the character is ‘clone of Wolverine.’ With more or less a blank slate going in, I found this first issue to be really entertaining. I enjoyed the relationship between Laura and Gabby, as well as catching up with some other characters I haven’t seen in a while. What did you think?
Jones: This entry actually surprised me and got my attention. I loved almost every second of it. Writer Mariko Tamaki has been coming into her own at the Big Two publishers, but this is the first time I was able to read something from her at Marvel and feel like she is achieving her full potential as a writer. The art was wonderful as well from Juann Cabal. I loved how Tamaki was building upon some of the strange X-Men elements and upon writer Tom Taylor and artist David Lopez’s acclaimed run!
Grunenwald: I’ve liked everything I’ve read by Mariko Tamaki and it feels like she’s a good fit for this title. She’s done great character work in books like Skim and This One Summer, so putting the focus on the relationship between Laura and Gabby is a no-brainer. I’m also kind of a sucker for sibling stories, so those two hooked me there. And I couldn’t agree more on Juann Cabal’s art. His art feels like a fusion of Frank Quitely and John Cassaday and I really like it.
The Quitely connection likely comes to mind as a result of the Stepford Cuckoos appearing in this issue. I may be more familiar with them than I am with X-23, having read Grant Morrison and Quitely’s New X-Men run way back when. I’m definitely interested in what Tamaki is doing with them.
Jones: A fusion between Frank Quietly and John Cassaday? that’s some pretty intense praise but I also loved what I saw here. I don’t want to unveil the full supporting cast within the issue as I’m hoping readers will get the opportunity to happen upon the plot as I did. I hope Tamaki continues down this path, as there is lots of rich, interesting material to pull from.
One problem I might have with the narrative here is that the clear goal for the title is not well-established. The supporting cast seems to be headed towards a conflict and there is a subplot opened up with Laura as well. We get teases towards a greater conflict, but nothing entirely concrete here.
Grunenwald: I see what you’re saying, and there definitely is a fair amount of teasing things in this issue. It sounds like Laura has established a clear mission for herself, and it’s a compelling one in my opinion, but aside from the opening action sequence, we don’t get a chance to see her really working on said mission. I was enjoying the character interaction so much that I wasn’t bothered by it, though.
Jones: I think the issue itself has an odd structure and a really wild personality. The moments between Gabby and Laura really subvert the standard idea of a superhero comic. Later on in the issue, there is even a slight horror vibe and a noir detective angle. Reading the list of plot points would make you think the comic is choppy, but it flowed together fairly organically. Do you have any final thoughts on the issue, Joe? Did the idea of X-23 leaving the Wolverine moniker to change your perception of the issue in any way? Are you going to continue reading X-23 independently from the column?
Grunenwald: I don’t know the story reasons for why Laura ditched the Wolverine identity, so if they played a role in this first issue at all did I didn’t even notice. This is the freshest Fresh Start I’ve read yet, and I definitely plan to add X-23 to my pull list. The writing is solid, the art is great – I love finding new artists to follow – and the storytelling, in general, is very high-quality. As if there’s any question, this book is a BUY for me.
Jones: This is without a doubt one of the strongest debuts I have seen from Marvel following ‘A Fresh Start.’ BUY!
Final Verdict: Joe and Alexander say BUY!
Next week we assess the end of Infinity Countdown and weigh in on Life of Captain Marvel!