By Zack Quaintance — Taking a beloved superhero back to basics in 2018 seems to mean a new creative team uses a whiteboard to free associate essential qualities that make a character compelling. They undo some of the last team’s work, while keeping other pieces that fit their vision. They then write and draw the hell out of their first issue, inspiring us fans to rush off and Tweet: THIS is the Spider-man I’ve been missing!
It’s not a bad thing, far from it. It certainly works here, as writer Nick Spencer and artist Ryan Ottley take over Amazing Spider-Man, marking the book’s first new creators in a decade. So, what do I think Spencer and Ottley put on their white board? WARNING, here come SPOILERS…I’d it included voice, humor, bad Parker luck, with great power comes great responsibility, and...wait for it…Peter’s relationship with Mary Jane.
Now, I could spend this entire review discussing how Spencer expertly capture’s Peter’s interiority, how his writing made me laugh aloud, or how he nails Spideys relationship with other heroes—well-meaning but overly chatty and insecure. I could also easily heap 500 words of praise on Ottley’s artwork, which is that good. There’s a two-page spread in particular that made me realize what fans stand to gain by having Ottley on a flagship title.
This is all, however, overshadowed by Spencer’s clear intent to undo One More Day. For those who somehow missed it, in the 2007 story One More Day, Peter trades his marriage with Mary Jane to the demon Mephisto, who revives his Aunt May, effectively making Spider-Man single again. I personally disliked this decision, and I wasn’t alone.
But Spencer bookends this issue with scenes that seem to promise Peter and Mary Jane are getting back together. I try not to be overly prescriptive about comic book writing (much respect for vision and craft), but if I may let down my analytical guise: Holy hell this is everything I’ve wanted for a decade ahhhhhhhhh!
Ahem, now where was I?
Oh right: this issue left me feeling really good about Amazing Spider-Man’s future, both in terms of Spencer capturing what makes Spider-Man special and spinning (heh) interesting plots. Spencer’s take on Spider-Man’s villains is also unsurprisingly great, and not just because he makes them so relatable (Venture Bros.-esque, as he did in Superior Foes of Spider-Man).
In this debut, Spencer includes a ton of Spidey’s excellent rogues, using at least five villains plus a sixth who is discussed but not seen. Spencer, however, isn’t out to re-invent dynamics as Dan Slott seemed to be in his run. Spencer instead appears determined to let shared history between characters influence new battles in ways that feel fresh, which as we’ve seen elsewhere in superhero comics recently (DC Rebirth), is a great way to tell compelling stories about aging properties.
Overall: It sounds cliche, but Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley really do take Spider-Man back to basics in the best possible way. The Ottley artwork is phenomenal, and the plot and characterization feel both fitting and natural. If this debut is a mission statement for what the new team is planning, I am firmly on board. 9.5/10