By: Dan Slott (Writer), Ramón Pérez (Artist), Ian Herring (Color Artist), Chris Eliopoulos with Joe Caramagna (Letterer)

The Story:
Spider-Man tries to make ends meet, while the Clash (not the band) meets his beginning.

The Review:
So, really, this comic should have been titled/numbered Amazing Fantasy #15.1, since it takes place right after Peter Parker/Spider-Man’s origin story. Spider-Man still has a talent agent and is working various gigs; Peter still has problems at school and with a social life.

What’s often interesting about the Peter/Spidey dynamic is that Peter usually shows only one side of himself in either identity. We’ve come to expect the more reserved Peter versus the “friendly neighborhood” jokester in a mask, but here it’s a reserved Peter and a bitter, more self-absorbed Spider-Man. Why, it’s as if he’s still learning his whole power/responsibility thing, while also still forming his “self.” This makes for an interesting story and a decidedly moody tone, but at the same time it basically just means that, for “now,” Spider-Man is kind of a jerk.

His supporting cast have also been reduced to their basic types. His manager is a archetypical sleezy get-whatever-you-can agent, Flash is a bully, and Aunt May is often sad but matronly dispenses wisdom without even knowing it. Quentin Beck (later, Mysterio) is set up here, too, as a disgruntled special effects artist. Kind of obvious, isn’t it? Especially if we anticipate him becoming one of Spidey’s first foes in this comic. (Although, if that doesn’t happen and he’s just a cameo, that would be awesome as it plays off our expectation.)

In fact, J. Jonah Jameson emerges as the one supporting cast member that really shines. His moment is only for a couple of pages, as we see him begin his anti-Spider-Man crusade, but here Jameson is presented as a genuinely concerned conservative-minded advocate. Yes, he’s still producing inflammatory tirades but it’s almost logical and not exactly unfair at this point.

This effect comes from paralleling Jameson’s writing with the emergence of the new character: Clayton Cole/Clash. Set up during this issue to be a foil for Spider-Man’s character, Clash is the ultimate fanboy, taken to obsessive extremes. It’s clear that the cliffhanger here lies in our familiarity with such stories– Clash will rise in the same way (and most likely alongside) Spider-Man, but will fall spectacularly (pardon the pun) as he’s “being drawn into his web,” as Jameson warns.

It’s at this point why you realize you have no real feelings for Clayton/Clash. He’s just a plot device that’s been set up to parallel the character whose story we actually care about, and he’s likely to meet a bad end, so we’re just waiting for that moment and how it can affect the character we want to see succeed. In that light, the story arc degenerates fairly quickly from a character piece into a plot that’s too by-the-book. It’s possible there are twists about to come, but let’s face it. Clash’s costume even resembles a giant bullseye target.

As mildly disappointed as I was with the story, I am quite impressed with the art. Ramón Pérez’s style is both modern and iconic at the same time. His characters are designed in such a way to be reminiscent of Ditko’s originals, and his layouts and choice of camera angles remind me of Buscema. Purely classic presentation yet it does not feel dated at all. The colors are equally impressive, with Herring providing a simple palette that helps guide the reader through the story.

I suppose that true Spider-fans will really enjoy this book as an earnest attempt to recreate that moment of time between Amazing Fantasy and Amazing Spider-Man. In that moment, there certainly are obvious empty gaps in Peter’s development (to be fair this was also explored in the 90s with The Untold Tales of Spider-Man), which makes Peter both familiar and unfamiliar. However, the timing of this series seems weird. Why not put this on the schedule during the “Spider-Octopus” years, so fans of Peter could read genuine Spider-Peter stories at the same time? This feels unnecessarily redundant as a concept, but, once collected in a trade paperback, perhaps necessary as a product to market to younger readers.

I feel a bit misdirected by the numbering and timing of this comicbook. I had thought it was going to be a one-shot springing out of last month’s Amazing Spider-Man #1. I will likely not purchase the next issue as it’s not a series I want to continue picking up.

The Bottom Line:
Recommend this title to young readers or people new to Spider-Man’s story. For other fans, they will find a story with by-the-book plotting and the “development” of a Peter that by necessity starts him in a regressed state before he can progress. Clash as a new character feels more like a product of the by-the-book plotting rather than a genuine person worthy of our empathy. All readers may want to buy the book by feature of the art, however, as it’s wonderfully crafted.

The Grade: C

-Danny Wall

Other Bits of Tid:
— If the other “client” of Mr. Schiffman ends up bringing a Ventriloquist-type character into the Marvel universe, that would be all kinds of awesome.
— Not exactly apropos of the comic, but– The Clash’s final album was released nearly 30 years ago in 1985. They were often promoted as “the only band that matters,” and produced hits like “London Calling” and “Rock the Casbah.”