“Amazing Spider-Man” is in a bit of a weird place right now. The Nick Spencer run ended as a colossal train wreck, then “Spider-Man Beyond” was better than it had any right to be. And then Zeb Wells, coming off of a hot book “Hellions,” does a back to basics thing. It’s okay. But this issue doesn’t have anything to do with any of that, because this issue has a guest creative team. That could be a fun change of pace! But “Amazing Spider-Man” #20 winds up feeling more like a wrong turn than a detour.
Written by Joe Kelly
Illustrated by Terry Dodson
Inked by Rachel Dodson
Colored by Terry Dodson
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramanga
Someone tries to kill Spidey and Black Cat. You thought this would be easy for Peter? Nope! The special two-parter from superstar guests Joe Kelly and Terry Dodson concludes here!
It’s not like Joe Kelly is the new kid on the block. He’s left his mark on comics. He’s even left his mark on “Spider-Man!” But he is probably best remembered as the guy who first wrote Deadpool’s fourth-wall breaking awareness. This issue definitely leans into that rapid-fire banter part of his career, which is a natural fit for Spidey.
On art we have the Dodsons! Excellent! Terry Dodson is doing pencils and colors and his wife Rachel Dodson is doing inks. They are a veteran art team, which credits in mainstream superhero books and indie comics alike. I have not been a fan of John Romita Jr.’s art in this “Spider-Man” run, so this switch over to the Dodsons is a huge level up. They bring a realness to their art that anchors the characters in a tangible world. At least, that’s what their art is like most of the time.
I think the big misfire happened in the communication between script and art. A guest creative team sure seems like there was behind the scenes delays, so it’s possible that Kelly was writing his script before he even knew for sure which artist he was going to be working with. This issue doesn’t play to the Dodsons strengths at all.
We being with in media res with Spider-Man, White Rabbit, and Black Cat escaping a villain team called the Silicon Six, picking up from where last issue (by the same guest team) left off. The ensuing fight and chase unfolds on an excruciatingly slow fourteen pages, leaving the rest of the issue spent on face-to-face dialogue scenes. The chase, the fight, and the dialogue all happens in a formless snowy void. It looks a bit like a forest in the mountains. But it doesn’t look like the Catskills or the dangerous Canadian wilderness or anything else real. I’m not even sure what Spidey is web-slinging off of.
Though the figure work is still top notch, there is nothing happening in this issue that gives the Dodsons room to be creative at all. White Rabbit doesn’t do anything delightfully psychotic. The bad guy team is so broadly characterized, I struggled to tell them apart. And the back and forth banter, which is usually Joe Kelly’s strength, falls flat. It lacks his typical sparkle.
That’s all what makes this issue so fascinating. A guest team has the opportunity to focus on the supporting cast, or tell a story between the scenes. A good enough guest team can alter the course of a series. The best version of this issue would have given us more reason to care about White Rabbit, who is a comedy character I have a soft spot for but who even I, her biggest fan, admits isn’t the deepest character. But here she is just mean and blonde. I guess there was also a world where the Silicon Six became breakout villains and went on the menace Spider-Man in the Spider-Verse movies or whatever.
Instead we have a diversion. It’s not an incompetent comic. Spider-Man may not have anywhere interesting to swing through, but by Odin, he looks great swinging. And the back and forth patter isn’t crackling with comedic energy, but reading it is not an unpleasant way to spend time. The biggest criticism against “Amazing Spider-Man” #20 is that it is journeyman work from a creative team who are all capable of doing fantastic work. Filling in is a tough gig.
Final Verdict: 6.0 – A side quest that doesn’t feel all that urgent, or connected to the main plot.