Remember how Secret Wars: Warzones were a line of titles that featured settings of re-imagined “Elseworlds?” How familiar characters were put into situations that were just left of their center status quo? Yeah, this new iteration of Spider-Man feels kinda of like that. His setting is re-imagined for a global scale, and his status is far from the quo we’re used to.
One of my litmus tests for any comicbook or comicky movie “about X” is to ask two simple questions. First, is it a good story, and next, is a good “X” story? Thus: Is Amazing Spider-Man #1 a good story, but next, is it a good “Spider-Man” story?
For the first question, it’s a fairly well-served story to introduce us to this new world. It’s global (a shout out to Shanghai, my current world city of residence!) and it’s big business (with board meetings and jet-setting) and it’s got some tension between personalities, humor and fight scenes, and even an ominous “it ain’t over” ending splash page. So, yeah, it ticks all the boxes. Pretty straightforward as far as basic structure goes.
So it falls heavier on the second question. But what makes a good “Spider-Man story” in the first place? Tone? Here’s action and some crazy acrobatic fight scenes, complete with quips. Character? It’s the same try-hard, stalwart Peter Parker who sacrifices comfort for the good of others (at least to a point— as I gesture to the private corporate jet.) There’s even some touches of that Parker Luck so that he can’t ever have a “clean” victory, or even a piece of wedding cake. There’s not that much that’s missing.
Except for… well, a certain something something. It’s a bit hard to explain, but the 2002 movie captured it wonderfully. It’s that moment when Peter Parker is trying to catch a New York city bus as it speeds away from him. The captial-C City is just a big, overwhelming place, especially for a young man trying to keep up with it. There should be a sense that Peter Parker, for all the power in his Spidey alter-ego, is essentially always a victim of the flow of life around him. If you want to take him out of New York and scale up to a global corporation, that’s fine, but for all the innovation of Parker Industries, it cannot be presented as at the top of the game. Spider-Man and his company still needs to be the young, caring upstart, threatened to be subsumed by the unfeeling and maybe even random world around it. Kind of like the HBO series Silicon Valley. This is a critical piece that I don’t see, at least not yet, and I hope it will become more pronounced as the series continues. Let’s at least have the first issue be bright and hopeful, right?
My favorite part to this new status quo are the sheer number of little touches that add up to big fun. The Zodiac looks re-interpreted, too, with some significant touches. Mockingbird’s been added, and the Prowler appears on track to be a regular supporting character. Both have been favorite not-quite-A-listers from the beginning, and I’m excited to see how they contribute. London and Shanghai are similarly by favorite world cities, so that’s a bonus, too. (Although I’m disappointed that Shanghai’s iconic skyline can’t be cameoed, like London’s is.) These are all great little surprises to delight the reader and keep us guessing.
The art continues with series’ regular Giuseppe Camuncoli/Cam Smith, so as always, there’s some clear layouts and nice staging here, although sometimes there’s a bit of stiffness and sameness to characters’ expressions and poses. Marte Garcia’s colors are often a bit drab in the backgrounds, including some desaturated cityscapes and a weirdly neutral but also blue and pink sunset scene. This makes the glows a bit too bright to distract from the clarity of some layouts (like the car chase) and the color combos awkward. Why does Spider-Man’s red and blue costume glow green?
The remainder of this giant-sized issue are essentially teasers for the upcoming family of titles. There’s not enough room here to detail every one of them, but none of them really grab me. I have no interest in a brooding, anti-Spider-Man in Spider-Man 2099, nor in Silk continuing to be a part of the Marvel Universe, nor in the oh-so-crazy hijinks of a pregnant Spider-Woman. I always liked the premise of jumping into alternate realities, but after both Spider-Verse and Secret Wars, I’m going to give Web Warriors a pass. All that’s left is a new villain in Regent, who is gathering some villains for some subplot, leading into next issue.
It certainly feels like an issue #1, with both the good and bad that comes with that. It means there’s a lot of world-building that has to be set up, and it borders on feeling like it’s all a Spider-Man “Elseworlds” with such a jump into a deeply different status quo. Even so, you can’t help but feel the energy and enthusiasm for it all, and the variety of characters and locations are delightfully surprising. I’m certainly on board to see where this is going, as it’s all very logically extending from the Spider-Man that’s been built over the last five years.