It’s a brand new day for Spider-Man. Another. And it begins with a dream. Peter and Mary Jane atop a high spire in New York City.
A rude awakening is provided by his and Robbie Robertson’s new roommate, Fred Myers, playing video games insanely loudly at 5am. Myers, like Peter, does some of his best work in uniform.
As it turns out, it’s not such a bad thing that new Daily Bugle science editor Peter’s up early, as he has a press briefing to cover at his alma mater, Empire State University. He doesn’t realise he’s going to be making the news.
Dr Octopus completed Peter’s graduate thesis when he took over his body for a time – not something Peter can explain without revealing his other identity. And so Peter’s life begins to unravel…
As with Superman, so with Spider-Man. A new number one to mark the coming of a new creative team. And I like this story, for the most part. It’s called Back to Basics and writer Nick Spencer delivers, veering 180 degrees from the super-successful Peter Parker precious writer Dan Slott had fun with. And it’s not all bad news for Peter, though I won’t spoil a really nice bit of business.
The voices Spencer gives Peter and his supporting cast feel authentic, with Joe Robertson and Aunt May especially on form. He’s obviously got a longterm plan and I may well stick around for the ride. One thing I’m not keen on is Peter as narrator, especially an omniscient one – unless he’s suddenly developed Spider-Hearing, he shouldn’t know what the Kingpin’s latest plan is. And if we’re informed as to why all the Big Apple’s superheroes suddenly can’t stand Peter, it’s something I missed.
But overall, I liked Spencer’s script a lot. Penciller Ryan Otley does a nice job too, his layouts are open and clean and easy to follow; his Spider-Man looks terrific, though his Peter is a little too Archie house style. The credits to this story come at the end, and I was assuming Otley was pencilling only and relying on the colourist to provide depth and texture, but it turns out there is an inker, Cliff Rathburn. Rathburn looks to be using a delicately respectful style, and I’d be fascinated to see how the book looked if he brought more of himself to the table. One thing Otley might watch is his occasional use of deadline-aiding silhouetted figures, because that’s when proportions get wonky and it’s like we’re reading the Amazing Slender-Man.
Colourist Laura Martin’s work is really rather nice, and her night tones are outstanding. Joe Caramanga’s letters are pretty fine, too.
There’s a second strip featuring the surprise villain of the first story, and here, too, there’s a surprise villain. And it really is a surprise because I have no idea who he, she or it is…. was there meant to be a logo on the splash where he jumps into the light? Or do Spencer and editor Nick Lowe assume everyone has been reading the last ten years worth of comics, and expect us to recognise them? Introduce your characters, guys! It’s pretty basic
This strip was my least favourite part of the issue; it’s a focus on a villain I like, but I’d rather be reading about Spider-Man and his amazing friends. I suspect former Superior Foes of Spider-Man writer Spencer likes his rogues just a little too much: that’s the only explanation for Boomerang being Peter’s new roomie, ‘cos Peter’s rationale is just ridiculous. The pencils on the short are provided by Humberto Ramos, whom I liked on Impulse at DC but whose Spider-Man work I’ve never enjoyed. A lot of it is the heads – they either look like they’re drawn on dinner plates, or they belong to peanut people.
Inker Victor Olazaba and colourist Edgar Delgado complete the art team, and their work, too, is decent.
Otley and Martin’s cover is a mash-up of three elements – Spidey and Mysterio; a bunch of other baddies; and the supporting cast. It’s a right guddle, frankly, with the three planes of interest clashing rather than complementing. The regular folk look especially wonky, totally off in relation to one another. Terrific Rhino, mind.
This is a comic that is, basically, too long. All it needed was the main strip, which acts as a nice introduction to Peter’s world while setting up new plotlines that have real potential. They continue in two weeks, as this book is fortnightly, and as I said, I may well stick around, but if every issue leaves me with big questions, it’s Marvel Unlimited time until the next Amazing Spider-Man #1.