It always made sense that Nick Spencer would take on Spider-Man. After all, the most celebrated superhero comic of his career was about five B-list to Z-list Spidey villains living out their loser lives. Spencer’s first arc ‘Back to Basics’ showed a lot of promise but inexplicably focused on Peter Parker dealing with a not-clone. This new arc ‘A Trivial Pursuit’ immediately puts the focus on the Wall-Crawler’s weird and wonderful villains. The result is an excellent issue of “Spider-Man.”
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
Inked by Victor Olazaba
Colored by Edgar Delgado
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramanga
Wondering when Boomerang’s status as Spider-Man’s roommate would blow up? Yeah, it’s this issue. Uh-oh.
Despite being billed as ‘Back to Basics,’ almost everything about Spencer’s first arc was sort of complicated. Besides the cloning story (which again, wasn’t really a clone story), it leaned heavily into plot points from “Superior Spider-Man” and that time Mysterio made a deal with demons to return to life. It also set up some genuinely cool plots that hung around in the background. Taskmaster and Black Ant seem to have some sort of villainous partnership, which continues to simmer. But most intriguingly of all, Peter is now roommates with one of his villains- the star of “Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” Boomerang.
It is in this story that Spencer’s sensibilities prove why he is such a good fit for Spidey. Mixing a villainous plot in with his personal life is classic Spider-Man conflict, and satirizing mundane modernity was the highlight of “Ant-Man.” Using Boomerang as a proxy for every bad roommate ever is endlessly amusing.
In this issue, one thing leads to another and Boomer brings Peter to the supervillain hangout spot the Bar With No Name for trivia night. The theme is Spider-Man. Pete has to go undercover as a brand new villain (“The Liar”) to collect intel on the plans of his rogues, all while acting as a ringer for villainous trivia night. Do you see how great that setup is?
It’s as much fun in execution as you would hope. “Spider-Man” mainstay artist Humberto Ramos draws the issue, and his excitement at getting to draw crowd scenes of weird villains is infectious. Ramos and Spencer also manage to find great uses for some truly deep cuts. Who is hosting trivia night at the villain bar? Why it’s none other than The Answer with the help of The Living Brain. Plus any crowd scene that includes White Rabbit, Killer Shrike, and the Spot is delightful in my book.
Ramos isn’t the only artist lending his talents to this issue. A lovely 3-page sequence reunites Spencer with Steve Lieber and Rachelle Rosenberg for a poker night featuring all five of the Superior Foes of Spider-Man. The sequence is one of a handful of mini-episodes alongside a continuation of Taskmaster and Black Ant’s schemes, and a conflict between Mayor Kingpin and Boomerang.
Using the points of view of a few different characters feels great in a “Spider-Man” story. Not only does Spidey have a huge ensemble to draw from, but the series has always worked best when there are a lot of irons in the fire. “Spider-Man” runs tend to be long, and the more foreshadowing and plot juggling that happens, the more it feels like its own vibrant corner of the Marvel universe. It also helps to challenge Peter Parker. In this issue he’s reconnecting with MJ, dealing with roommate drama, and dealing with supervillain drama (which happens to be the same drama). Sooner or later he’s going to have to confront the Superior Foes, the Kingpin, and Taskmaster. And that doesn’t get into the demonic stuff happening at the edges of his life, a problem with his academic credentials, and the ever-looming threats of his greatest foes (like Doc Ock, who is still out there).Continued below
That overwhelming approach makes this a zippy issue, but by connecting it to the ongoing series, the team avoids the compression problems that challenge so many superhero writers. The story is self-contained- it’s villain trivia night- and it is ongoing. I have no qualms recommending this to a new reader, and I would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who would be excited to see the Shocker.
Claiming that he was ever taking Spider-Man back to basics was a fool’s errand. Spencer’s “Spider-Man” isn’t simple. It revels in the complexities that make “Spider-Man” stories so much fun. He calls on some of his favorite characters, and through a confident command of voice, “Amazing Spider-Man” #6 is a rip-roaring good time, full of deep cuts and dire stakes.
Final Verdict: 8.6 – Embrace the madness. Spider-Man and his superior foes try to have a fun night out and the result are spectacular.