By: Dan Slott (Writer), Humberto Ramos (Penciller), Victor Olazaba (Inker), Edgar Delgado (Color Artist) and Chris Eliopoulos (Letterer); Other stories by Dan Slott & Christos Gage, Javier Rodriquez, Alvaro Lopez, Guiseppe Camuncoli, John Dell & Cam Smith, Antonio Fabela, Joe Caramagna, Chris Eliopoulos, Jim Charalampidis, Peter David, Will Sliney, Chris Yost, David Baldeon, Jordi Tarragona, Rachelle Rosenberg, Ramón Pérez, and Ian Herring

There are two forces at play in this issue: Is it “All-New”, or is it “Back to Basics” for our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man?

On the “All-New” side of the debate, we remember that the main character has largely been absent from “his” own series, and now Peter Parker/Spider-Man returned for a new series and suddenly found himself in a strange “new” status quo. He is CEO of Parker Industries, has a doctorate, and has a soon-to-be fiancee. On the other hand, Spider-Man must also contend with “classic” situations that have become cornerstones to any Spidey story, such as the infamous “Parker luck,” one-note animal villains, and those pesky “I must but I must not” dilemmas.

Thankfully, these are not mutually exclusive extremes, and the two years-worth of stories set up by Otto Octavius/Superior Spider-Man have allowed Peter Parker to seamlessly slip into all-new situations with his classic voice, characteristics, and plot tropes.

Some situations do work better than others, admittedly. Some heroes, represented by Spider-Woman, echo the citizens of New York who basically say “Well, I guess ‘our’ Spider-Man is back now” a little bit too cavalierly. And the framing sequence with Spidey’s battle against The Menagerie is more jarring, disruptive, than it should be, perhaps because it’s so, well, incidental. There’s no singular moment in an of itself that stands out, but rather you have to take everything as a whole. Indeed, on the face of it, the issue is essentially a checklist of various supporting cast members and subplots sandwiched by the framing sequence.

That’s not a bad thing, however, as it allows for some ground rules and entry points that you should find in any #1 issue, and since, taken as a whole, we are anticipating some very interesting thematic conflict in the future. Truly classic “Spider-Man Stories” have themes of youth and making-your-way-in-the-world, but now, Peter Parker has suddenly been thrust into a very “adult” world, one where he has already accomplished several making-your-way milestones. So this thematic conflict really is Back-to-Basics, in a way, and with a kind of narrative momentum that will likely have to bring Peter down before he is brought up. Good thing these are exactly the kind of stories that make reading Spider-Man so roller-coasterly enjoyable.

All of the above describes the 20 pages of main story presented by Slott and Ramos. The remainder of the oversized issue contains smaller chapters by various writers/artists. The first two are, in fact, subplots to the main story, and are quite explicitly set-ups for the next two issues. These quick, 5-page interludes could have easily been placed into the main narrative if it weren’t for the need to use multiple artists with different styles to Ramos. Both of them even share the same resolution– villains who blame Spider-Man for their current lot in life and vow revenge. Of the two Rodriquez and Lopez’ Electro story is more effective, although his art style seems at odds with the seriousness of Slott/Gage’s script. The Black Cat’s story is fine, but here Slott/Gage play around a bit with the plot’s timeline, and Camuncoli’s pencils have chosen some awkward panels that confuses some things and misfires on some dramatic opportunities.

The last story serves the same subplot-y purpose as these, but in fact you may not notice this, as you only learn that once you get to the “to be continued in…” blurb on the last panel. You would think instead that it’s a re-telling of Spider-Man’s origin, through the eyes of yet-another-we’ve-never-seen-before who happened to be there along the way. In fact, I was a bit put off by the first page, which did not ease me into the story it wanted to tell and then took a more leisurely 8 pages to tell it. There were some fun nods (if not more-than-direct “homage”) to Ditko’s layouts in Amazing Fantasy #15 which were nice, and the art was expressive and effective. But for the last words of the story to be “this’s gonna be great” it’s not very convincing.

In between we get two stories feature Spider-Man 2099 and Peter Parker’s search for Kaine/Scarlet Spider. Both of the stories are more exposition-dumps rather than character pieces, like above, and they are also quite explicitly set-ups as well, but this time for other comicbook series. For both these reasons, these stories fall a bit flat and don’t really feel like they add anything of value to this already-burgeoning comic.

Finally, let me mention the most fun of all the supplements, a 3-page spidey-pedia comic titled “How My Stuff Works,” with some fun Eliopoulos art. These remind me of things I would find in a Marvel annual from time to time, or in comicbook related material that I would devour as a kid.

The Bottom Line:
As a new series, there is a sense of a fresh start and some genuine humor here, despite the high stakes and serious implications carrying over from the previous series. With so much needing to be carried over, however, some plot points may feel rushed or underdeveloped, which is further weakened by having other plot points shifted to supplemental chapters and a variety of artists. These are understandable choices, of course, and in terms of voice and characterization, the comic is as strong as ever. The momentum seems poised to never be slacking for this series.

The Grade: B+

By Danny Wall

Other Tidbits: 
— Ramos is always good about having some diversity among his crowd scenes, although aside from one token grandma (the dialogue needed it) you’d think that New York City is populated by college students.

— So of COURSE Eilopoulos has the Hulk get all the good lines in the chapter he draws.