By: Dan Slott (writer), Humberto Ramos (pencils), Victor Olazaba (inks), Edgar Delgado (colors), Chris Eliopoulos (letters), Ellie Pyle (assistant editor) & Stephen Wacker (editor)

The Story: Alpha is a little out of control

A few things (with minor SPOILERS): 1). Clones…. – There are people who like the whole Clone Saga thing and if you’re one of them…..this will be right up your alley.  The rest of us will just try to enjoy the other parts of the story.  The problem with clones is that they always seem to delve into the nature vs. nurture debate in a really blunt way.  We get it: Peter has great powers, but he also had wonderful people who nurtured him and made him a responsible superhero.  We’ve seen these stories before where folks with powers are raised poorly and we’ve seen the stories where Peter, in spite of his powers, is struggling to live up to the legacy of his role models.  When I see stories like this rechurning, it makes me think that I’m outside of Marvel’s targeted market and I should just go read stuff from Vertigo, Image, etc.

2). Enjoy how Slott is reusing bit characters. – One clever thing about Slott’s run is his reuse of supporting and minor characters.  Max Modell is a pretty cool guy now.  Ditto for a few of the other scientists at Horizon and Modell’s attorney.  Slott’s even reusing the paparazzi.  The effect is to make Spidey’s world feel a lot smaller, cozier and sometimes claustrophobic than we’d see with many superheros.  This is all entirely appropriate given that this is the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man and not the Fantastic Four.  Slott gets it.

3). Who decides? – Another heavy-handed plot looms at the end of the issue as Peter begins preparations to strip Alpha of his powers.  This plot works when it’s Alan Moore doing “Who watches the Watchmen?” or in countless other comics where it is going on under the surface, but it falls on its face when you have MJ vocally questioning Peter and Peter defiantly saying he has the right to make such decisions.  This is the way ethical debates happen in freshman philosophy at really bad liberal arts colleges.  These aren’t inherently bad themes, but they work better when  they have more subtlety.

4). Good art, again. – In an issue that didn’t have a lot going for it, we at least get the Ramos/Olazaba/Delgado art team.  They’re really something to watch and every panel is just a wonder to look at.  I was digging through some old comics over the past week and it’s amazing how much better Ramos has gotten over the last 3-4 years given that he isn’t a new artists who is figuring things out.  Just goes to show that artists who are committed can continue to evolve and get better throughout their careers.  Again, what sets Ramos apart is his ability to draw crazy action and to make a room full of people standing around bubble with possibilities.

Conclusion: Ugh…not the best.  Surely there is a point to this story beyond introducing a loathsome new character and having a bunch of morality plays for the slower readers?  Thank goodness for Ramos and company on art….

Grade: C+

– Dean Stell