By Zack Quaintance — It is perhaps telling of exactly how old I am that to me Chris Bachalo is an artist that reminds me of how comics used to be, which is a phrase I think everyone uses to describe the time they first got into the hobbie. Simply put, Bachalo was huge when I was a new reader, helping to launch Generation X (the start of which was still a few years before my time), before moving over to help with some of the main X-titles, maybe even drawing Uncanny for a while as Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely did their thing on New X-Men.
Anyway, this is all a means to say that Bachalo is an absolutely perfect fit for a fill-in artist on Nick Spencer’s Amazing Spider-Man run, which is playing out holistically as a series as another example of how comics used to be, at least back in my day. This entire issue—from the art to the narrative construction to the use it makes of continuity—really feels like just a bit of a throwback to a different time, as has this run overall. The clearest example of this is that these Amazing Spider-Man comics are pretty clearly not written for trade compilations, not even a little bit.
You can really see it in this issue, which is 14 issues and six months into the run...and just now playing out pretty minor narrative threads that were dropped loosely into the background of Amazing Spider-Man #1, specifically thinking here of Peter’s offer from Conners. Now, not to sound like that old guy, but this is something that was once commonplace, back when stories weren’t conceived in six-issue bursts that should leave it all on the page lest the market dictate a sudden ending.
And the Connors thing isn’t the only bit in this issue drawn from #1. The conflict with Taskmaster and Black Ant was also seeded way back, possibly in the same scene with The Lizard (though I’d have to go back and verify to be certain). This is all well and good, and I like it because it scratches my long-form narrative itch as a reader. I think it’s an especially good thing for a book like Amazing Spider-Man, that publishes every other week. There really isn’t a need to so clearly define story arcs when the next chapter is generally 13 days away when you finish any given issue. The book should flow from plot to plot, carrying with it remnants as it moves into new territory. That’s certainly what Spencer and his artistic collaborators, whether it’s back in the day Chris Bachalo or regular series linework provider Ryan Ottley.
In terms of an individual read, this is a dense one, with multiple narrators, long conversations, and some pretty strong ideas jockeying for position, be it Aunt May’s disgust at her deceased husband’s sleazy accountant, or The Lizard’s son heartbreakingly wanting to just be a regular kid. There are so many emotional beats in this issue that it fades into a cacophony of feelings at times, making it hard for any one to move to the forefront and land with major resonance.
For me as a reader, that’s a great problem to have, especially for a comic I’m paying $8 a month to keep up with.
Overall: A dense issue of Amazing Spider-Man, packed with bits of continuity, big feelings, and payoffs to plot threads that have been dangling since the first issue. This series continues to have a narrative construction that calls back to times when stories weren’t written for trade, and it’s refreshing. 8.4/10
Amazing Spider-Man #14
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Chris Bachalo
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.