*NOTE: This review concerns the main story and not the two back up stories*
“ALPHA part one: Point of Origin”
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
Inked by Victor Olazaba
Colored by Edgar Delgado
Lettered by VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
THE PLOT: Midtown High student Andy Maguire is the story’s main protagonist. Described as a slacker teenager with no real aspirations or influence, we follow Andy to a school field trip to Horizon Labs where Peter Parker is demonstrating his new scientific find which he dubs “Parker Particles”. Due to Tiberius Stone shutting off the safety settings, an energy surge shoots through Andy’s body, endowing him with super powers. After being given a clean bill of health by various Marvel characters, Andy is made a Horizon Labs mascot as well as under Peter Parker’s care. Peter makes him a costume and, as Spider-Man, takes him under his tutelage and teaches him to use his powers responsibly.
LONG STORY SHORT: When Spider-Man forbids Alpha to join him with the Fantastic Four to battle Giganto, he saves the day but gets noticed by the very much alive Jackal.
MY THOUGHTS: As said on the Spider-Man Crawlspace Podcast, I had a certain amount of excitement for this story. Sure, once I read the preview my anticipation dulled, but for the most part the idea of Spider-Man having a sidekick was very appealing to me. Sidekicks have great story potential, which if maximized can lead to wonderful characters. Case in point, for as much public scrutiny as Robin gets as a concept in the public eye, the different stories told with Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Steph Brown and Damien Wayne have given way to a large number of Batman fans who’re in it more for the ensemble cast of characters and how they relate to one another than just Batman and how his allies and rogues relate to him. The same proved true with Roy Harper, Wally West, and even Bucky considering his relationship with the Avengers and Black Widow.
Not only that, but the idea of Peter Parker taking a young super hero under his wing really is a good one in my opinion. I’m not so distracted by the false notions of Spidey being all about youth to cry foul at the idea on face value, because the thought of Peter Parker suddenly bringing up, worrying and mentoring an up-an-coming Marvel Super Hero is awesome to me. I think a lot of fans had reservations because the title would have to distract from Peter’s exploits and split the focus between him and his partner, in this case Andy. That’s a legitimate concern but it’s one where I think the pros outweigh the cons. So with all that being said, I had a basic level of interest going into this issue…
…which was unfortunate, because this sucked.
Clearly, this was meant to be more of a giant slobber-fest to Spidey’s 50th anniversary rather than a chance to tell a new story with Peter Parker as a character, as this was possibly the laziest thing I’ve ever seen Dan Slott turn in. All throughout the issue, there are things which force the plot along that make little-to-no sense and take me out of the story repeatedly. It’s not Slott’s worst, but it’s close. Not only was the story potential nowhere near close to have being met, but the storytelling in itself reads like a comic strip rather than a comic book. Scenes move by with such breakneck speed that you almost get the sense that this was an editorially mandated story and that Dan Slott was trying to get through it as fast as possible. Because of that, this reads more like Detective Comics #38, I.E. a story from the early 40s, rather than a modern day comic in 2012.
The biggest detriment from the pacing is that because of the quickness of the writing, we’re never given a chance or even a reason to care about Andrew Maguire. He’s a slacker teenager, and that’s pretty much it. Unlike Peter, he has nothing to offer and no one seems to like him, including his own parents (which Slott tries to paint as neglectfully abusive despite the fact that Andrew doesn’t seem to be interested in their affection either. So the family’s at an emotional impasse). I said in my Amazing Spider-Man movie review that Peter was always more misunderstood rather than an out-and-out nerd or loser, and that was the aspect to his character that the current regime doesn’t understand. It’s regardless however in that Peter was at least shown to be popular with the teaching staff and his family. Andrew is literally a waste of space in his own story, and you find yourself waiting for Peter/Spidey to show up.
He’s also every bit a tool as the internet responses to his fame paint him out to be. He’s jealous of the new kid at school because said kid is attractive towards the ladies. He doesn’t put forth any effort to get his parents to sign his permission slip to Horizon Labs, so he fakes his dad’s signature when he could have least looked his father in the eye and asked. He doesn’t seem to be interested in anything besides his schoolboy crush, and even then he doesn’t have the guts to ask her out. Peter in AF#15 at least asked Sally Avril out on a date. This kid can’t even do that.
These are all flaws with Andrew’s character that occur before he gains his super powers. I’m not putting any blame on his character afterward, because that’s when the similarities to Peter are intended to emerge. The fact of the matter is, in AF#15 we were given reasons to like or at least feel sympathetic towards Peter before he got his powers and became selfish. We’re not given that luxury with Andrew, and because of that, he’s unlikable. I understand that real teenagers aren’t always the best hearts in the world, and Andy’s meant to represent today’s misunderstood youth. At the same time, he’s not given one positive quality besides crushing on a girl, if that’s even a positive quality. Were he to have been given one single solitary attribute which at least reflected the heart of a hero, then I would roll with all of the negative shines to his character. Alas, I can’t do that and will not cut this guy any slack.
Maguire’s the main source of pain from this story, but the writing comes close. As said, this is one of the most rapidly paced issues Slott’s done in a long time, which makes it one of his weakest. Going through the issue, almost nothing makes sense from any of the characters.
-How could Horizon Labs be cleared for hosting a presentation to school children after the Morbius/Lizard debacle?
-How did Stone not get immediately slapped across the head for turning off the safety settings during Peter’s presentation? He does it in full view of Max Modell, and it’s treated almost like an accident.
-For that point, why wasn’t the accident investigated? All it would take would be a quick view at the security cameras.
-When did Peter have time to create “a hyper-kinetic force of energy tied into the forces of universal expansion itself”? True there’s been an undetermined time-skip after the last story, but for something so revolutionary to the world’s energy source, doesn’t Slott think we would like to see Peter discover this?
-How did Andy know how to use his powers immediately after gaining them? I suppose it could’ve been an instinctual reflex like Peter did when he dodged the car in AF#15, but Maguire says “I got it!” when the debris fell as though he’s already figured it out.
-Why isn’t Andy in quarantine? Even if he is technically healthy, Peter has discovered a new type of universal energy. No one knows how his affliction will affect other people around him. What’s Andrew doing in the meeting with the lawyers?!
And here’s a big one.
Why is Reed Richards putting Andy on Peter as his responsibility? There’s no given reason for this. Just because it was at Peter’s presentation doesn’t mean make Alpha Peter’s property. Peter even asks why not stick Andy in the Avengers Academy, and Reed answers “You’re right, but no.” and Peter just goes along with it. This is also ludicrous because Peter has to be told to keep watch on Andy, as opposed to offering to do so himself or feeling any responsibility towards Andy’s well being. Reed Richards tells Peter to take on a sidekick for no reason and runs away before more questions arise.
-What kind of stupid idea is it for Horizon Labs to monkey Andy into a manufactured mascot for their products? It was a freak accident, in a long list of freak accident. Wouldn’t Jonah be all over them for this? Even if they did bribe Andy’s parents, Modell and Reed’s reasons are beyond idiotic. It’s obviously meant to evoke Peter getting into show business, references don’t work when the purposes behind them are nonsensical.
Now this issue did have some bright spots. I generally enjoyed it once Spider-Man took Alpha under his wing, and thought that for the most part Peter was written okay. I got a laugh out of Spidey tussling Alpha’s hair and calling him a super powered zit machine. Nevertheless, the plot was so slapped together that the third act couldn’t save it. I’m also starting a formal protest against Dan Slott shoehorning in guilt trips for Peter to whine about in every issue. It wasn’t as bad as I thought at first, but when Reed chastised him for telling Andy what a powerhouse he was, Spidey’s response of “In every possible way I’ve created a monster.” was groan inducing. Not only was it unnecessary, but we don’t feel that either Reed or Spider-Man really care all that much.
The art by Ramos was surprisingly lacking. The colors by Edgar Delgado were solid, but the pencils felt very rushed. Some of the figures were hard to make out, and the faces didn’t look like Ramos’ usual quality. Mary Jane in one panel looked particularly rough.
In every sense of the way, this failed to be a sufficient send up of Amazing Fantasy #15 and a dedication to Spidey’s long history. It fell on its face to get anyone behind the character of Andy Maguire, and it promised the next several issue to be facepalm worthy groan fests, resulting from contrived conveniences for the plot. The best part about this was the main cover and the variants. The Ramos cover with several classic Spidey poses acted out by different costumes of Spidey was an awesome idea and looks great as an image. Marcos Martin’s five covers excel in their minimalist simplicity. Too bad you can’t judge a book by its half a dozen covers.