Amazing Spider-Man 651
Peter Campbell — 19-Jan-11
It must be a good 20 years since I last read a Spider-Man comic. So what has happened in the intervening years? It turns out Spider-Man has turned into Batman, more or less.
The parallels are plentiful, and obvious:
- The costumes he wears are more and more gadget reliant (in this particular issue he wears one that resembles a reject from the Tron sequel).
- He has a will-they won’t-they romantic relationship with The Black Cat who straddles the divide between super baddy and super heroine. She’s a jewel thief too. I mean, come on, can’t you just rename her Catwoman and finish with the pretence?
- Peter Parker now has a successful career and has access to a “super secure vault” in which all his weaponry is kept. Holy Batcave, Batman!
- He battles an insanely irrational foe who is deeply unattractive and giggles a great deal.
All you need now is a somewhat suspect relationship with a younger sidekick and a darkly brooding personality, and the transformation will be complete.
This strikes me as being somewhat self-defeating. The whole key to the comic’s success was the contrast between the powerful, resourceful alter ego of Spider-Man and the nerdy, unsuccessful Peter Parker. It’s what made the character identifiable to successive generations, the fantasy that you may be ordinary, and beset by personal problems, but that you too could be Spider-Man, if only you could get hold of one of those elusive radioactive spiders.
Or then again, maybe I’m just a reactionary old fart.
Anyway, how’s the comic? It’s ok. The writing’s by far the weakest element. There’s a perfunctory plot where Spider-Man and Black Cat have broken into the Kingpin’s headquarters to steal back some sort of valuable metal that in turn was stolen from Peter Parker’s workplace. A full scale battle follows between them, the Hobgoblin and the Kingpin’s minions, and it all ends much as you’d expect it to, in narrowly grasped escape, and destruction. The dialogue ranges from the pedestrian to the downright clunky: unless something like “All these responsibilities but with them comes everything I ever wanted. And power. So much power! HA HA HA!” is trying to be deliberately cheesy. Away from the action, there’s an interesting development as we learn that Peter Parker is a) solvent and b) has bought an apartment. Credit here to Dan Slott for attempting something different, but I’ve mentioned my reservations about moving in that particular direction already.
The art, by Humberto Ramos, serves as a welcome distraction. Apparently strongly influenced by someone whose work I’m unfamiliar with, Carlos Meglia, it looks like a strange mixture of wide-eyed manga, Kevin O Neill and Bill Sienkiewicz. It’s very striking, especially when seen in the context of such a mainstream superhero comic. He draws a magnificent Kingpin, for example, who is all threateningly angular bulk. It’s an approach that’s less successful in the more detailed action scenes which tend to be overcluttered. There’s a scene where Spider-Man is in a collapsing building, for example, and it’s difficult to tell sometimes where the figures end and the detritus begins. If he stripped some of the elements of his art back, he’d be a very good artist indeed. As it is, it’s unusual, and sometimes ambitious, but doesn’t entirely cohere.
I’d be interested to see more of Humberto Ramo’s work, particularly if it were in a different context, perhaps one that employs the underlying satirical edge that his art currently hints at. Otherwise there’s nothing here that would tempt me to read subsequent issues. I’ll check back in another 20 years time to see how things are progressing, maybe.