By Zack Quaintance — Amazing Spider-Man #11 marks the return of this series’ primary art team (or at least the one that gets top billing): penciler Ryan Ottley, inker Cliff Rathburn, and colorist Laura Martin. As such, it’s a bit of a shift. Nothing is lost in transition, but it does require a few moments of quick re-orienting at its start. Perhaps more consequentially, Amazing Spider-Man #11 is also a slight emotional reset for this ongoing story, which makes sense given that it’s a new story arc (although, arcs have so far been a little amorphous in this young run).
As I wrote in my review of Amazing Spider-Man #10, that issue featured a satisfying emotional crescendo for a team-up between Spider-Man and Black Cat, who have romantic history together but have both very much moved on. It used the concept of mine erasure (a very comics-y concept) to get at universal truths about respecting the emotional impact one’s behavior has on an ex, even if nobody’s carrying a burning torch. It was well-done and went straight for the heart strings with its ending. This issue doesn’t involve Black Cat, which is expected because of how the last one wrapped so nicely, but it also doesn’t involve Mary-Jane Watson either. It doesn’t involve Peter’s love life at all. Thus the shift.
In Amazing Spider-Man #11 we get a Christmas story starring members of Peter’s supporting cast not seen since the first arc with Ottley/Rathburn/Martin, almost as if Spencer had his collaborators pick teams from among the massive Spidey friends and family bunch (there are plenty to go around). What we get here is a story that involves the folks Peter knows from the Daily Bugle, mainly J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson, both of whom are used well as polemics for philosophies within the modern media industry, plus also for laughs.
Jameson (who scores laughs in almost every panel he’s in) is a cartoon representation of the media at its worst (as he has been for years), wildly oscillating between impassioned stances against/for whatever passes in front of his face. He’s hungry for credit and quick to get egotistical by insinuating his name alone causes seismic shakes in organizational profitability. Robertson, meanwhile, is a thoughtful journalist who Jameson’s behavior has forced into an impossible situation. He can’t pander in the slightest or he’ll be lumped in with Jameson’s ilk, yet a certain segment of his audience is prone to/expectant of blatant pandering. It’s pretty smart media commentary wrapped in an entertaining blanket of Spencer-penned curmudgeonly one-liners. I’m a reporter by trade, and I found it alternately cathartic and funny.
So yes, I liked this individual issue quite a bit. There’s also the question of where does this little story fit into the larger tapestry of what Spencer et. al are trying to do here? It definitely advances Spencer’s commitment to touching more corners of Spider-Man’s deep mythos than have been used in the recent past, incorporating rarely-seen villains like Arcade and the old-timey Enforcers. In an age where the go-to superhero foe has become other superheroes, this book is a well-done refutation to the standard, and I for one am loving it. Spencer is also adept at handling the double-shipping schedule, layering plot developments in a way that blurs the arcs into one long ongoing story. If he can keep it up, a year or two from now we might be talking about this era of Amazing Spider-Man as something truly special.
Overall: Heavy on media commentary, old supporting cast members, and solid laughs, Amazing Spider-Man #11 shifts the tone from recent issues and continues to seed plot points for the team to develop moving forward. Despite the always-tricky double-shipping schedule, this comic is rock solid. 8.5/10
Amazing Spider-Man #11
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.