It’s the 50th anniversary of Marvel’s greatest hero, and just on the heels of the well-liked new movie hit theaters. You can bet writer Dan Slott, artist Humberto Ramos, and guests Dean Haspiel, Joshua Hale Fialkov, and Nino Plati felt no pressure when putting this issue together… right?
Written by Dan Slott, Dean Haspiel, and Joshua Hale Fialkov
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos, Dean Haspiel, and Nino Plati
– Join us for a once in a lifetime event: the one, true 50th Anniversary Issue of the Amazing Spider-Man.
– A special over-sized issue harkening back to the legend the legend that started it all! Get ready for an all-new tale about a different kind of power and responsibility…
– Plus original stories by Dean Haspiel, Joshua Hale Fialkov & Nuno Plati!
Dan Slott’s solo reign as the “Amazing Spider-Man” writer began very strongly with ‘Big Time,’ and continued strong until shortly after ‘Spider-Island,’ until we reached the massive disappointments that were ‘Ends of the Earth’ and ‘No Turning Back.’ Throughout all this, though, there was one thing that no one could dispute: Dan Slott loves Spider-Man, and shows how much he cares for the character in every issue he writes — even the weaker ones. Even though this issue still may not live up to the lofty standards set by issues such as #655, you can still see Slott’s fondness for everything about the franchise in the very roots of his story. On the surface level, Andy Maguire’s superhero origin might not seem particularly clever; after all, it’s only Peter’s origin with some variables switched around. However, Slott tells the story in a way that harkens back to the original “Amazing Fantasy” #15 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, third person narrative captions and all. For someone who is as large a Spidey fanboy as Slott, this is surely no coincidence, and proves that Slott understands one of the most important facets of storytelling: it isn’t what happens, but how it happens, that is important.
That all being said, it is still important to note that this still is not Slott’s best. It’s a fun enough story, but as of yet none of the characters have any depth. Andy himself is just some cardboard cutout of a kid, and while Slott can show us how disinterested his parents are in him until he gains his powers as often as he wants, it is not going to mean anything until we see them through Andy’s eyes. Kids are perhaps the most difficult characters to write, as we full-grown adults are far enough removed that we cannot exactly harness their voices, but we are close enough to that inner child to recognize when others are speaking as one falsely. Unfortunately, Andy just does not seem real. Peter has the same problem; while this issue in particular is obviously meant to be more Andy’s story than Spider-Man’s, Pete just doesn’t seem “all there.” The self-reprimanding dig at showing off for the “Flash Thompsons” is a very nice touch, but the rest just doesn’t seem at all like Peter. On the one hand, besides a bit of initial concern when the accident happens, Pete is far more worried about his job than — Spoilers — the fact that he has irreversably changed this kid’s life, and the little naggling doubt that he has toward the end is that the problem is with Andy, not with himself. Sure, it’s done convincingly, and fits into the whole inversion that Slott is working with, but it just does not sound like our normal self-deprecating Peter. Also, for a matter of internal continuity within Slott’s own run, it seems odd that Pete has repeatedly reprimanded Uatu for trying to play but feels nearly no concern for Andy’s safety. Say he’s “an Alpha-level threat” all you want, that isn’t what someone like Peter would see: no matter his power, to everyone but the most studious scientest (I’m looking at you, Reed), Andy is still “just a kid.”
To speak personally for a moment, artist Humberto Ramos is one who I have had to begrudgingy come to admire. Whether his style just fits better in a Spider-Man comic than it did in, say, “New X-Men,” or whether he has just really stepped up as an artist, there is something about his art that just works in “Amazing Spider-Man.” Gripe about his personal style all you want — I know I don’t care for it — but you certainly cannot say that his figures and sequences are not alive to the point where they are practically bursting at the seams with action and expression, and all without sacrificing clear, easy to read storytelling. Not only that, but Ramos is the ideal pick for ‘Alpha’ over fellow house artists for one major reason: Ramos depicts children and teenagers as children and teenagers, rather as the differently sized adults that some artists draw them as or the mis-shapen horrors that many other artists draw them as. At this point, Ramos has refined his art to the point that the only really negative thing that can be said about him is “He’s just not for me,” and you know what? He’s just not for me, but I cannot in good conscience fault him for that in an objective review. Ramos has everything anyone would want from a comics artist, including a distinct style; just because one might not care for that style doesn’t affect his other excellent qualities.
As an anniversary issue tends to, this issue has a couple of backups. Dean Haspiel’s story is both written and illustrated quite well, and in it, Haspiel pulls an incredibly clever bait-and-switch. In a world that relies extensively on “shock endings” that are anything but, Haspiel actually does the unthinkable and takes his readers by surprise. And, of course, his storytelling is as amazing as always, but what’s new there? Joshua Hale Fialkov and Nino Plati’s short yarn is not bad, but even when size is not considered, it just screams “back up” — so long as you have it, you might as well read it, but it is certain to be something that will be forgotten in a few weeks, if not sooner. Of course, the story itself — Peter trying to get across town for an engagement he is running late for — is one that you would only see in a back-up story, but Fialkov and Plati seem content with letting it stay in that realm of “Eh, who cares?” rather than shattering their readers’ expectations.
“Amazing Spider-Man” #692 is far from a bad comic, but when a comic is $5.99, it needs to do at least one of two things: a) it needs to be really damn good, or it needs to offer massive amounts of content. This issue does not really do either. Slott’s tale is fun and interesting, but far from the high standards he has set for himself, and while Haspiel’s story is pretty damn great, it isn’t enough to balance out the “Well, it’s pretty good, I guess” reads that are Slott and Fialkov’s tales. If you’re a big Spidey fan, this 50th anniversary issue is probably just what you’re looking for, especially if you have been enjoying Slott’s run so far. If you have been reading for a while, though, and were disappointed with the recent Lizard-centric arc, this is not going to sway you back to the fold. And if you have not been reading superhero comics in general and were interested in this anniversary issue solely because of the film The Amazing Spider-Man, you should just look somewhere else.
On the plus side, though, those Marcos Martin variants are f***ing fantastic. Everyone else might as well stop trying.
Final Verdict: 6.0 – Good, but not great.