The Amazing Spider-Man #692 50th Anniversary Special Review

 Peter Parker’s fiftieth year commences with the introduction of a young teenager whose situation after gaining super powers resembles Peter’s own origin. Hold onto your hat and make way for Alpha!

*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.

2/5 webs

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(38) Comments

  1. Jason H.

    No, there is no other band as terrible as Insane Clown Posse. Although Nickelback comes close.

  2. Eddie

    Sorry guys. Ha! I'll remember and keep that straight. :) Well, Donovan - great work on the review. K-Box - great work on the comments. Seriously, well written and thought out.

  3. K-Box in the Box

    I do appreciate the compliments, though. And yes, I was particularly proud of the Nickelback comparison, if only because it was the meanest one I could think of.

  4. K-Box in the Box

    "I am assuming that K-Box in the Box is Donovan." Heh. No, Donovan is much more rational and less histrionic. In that regard, I am to Donovan as Biden is to Obama. ;)

  5. Eddie

    I am assuming that K-Box in the Box is Donovan. Great review. Excellent points. Great defense of your points (especially #6 & #24). Great comments too, though. CrawlSpace readers are a bright lot. I also did not like this issue and yes, $5.99!?!?! Offensive. At this point, Alpha seems so unredeemable and overly powerful that he should become a villain. Even then, a cheap, one and done villain. If this blows up into something with the Fan. Four, Avengers, etc. trying to take him down, it will be as much of a waste of time as Ends of the Earth. This was a real let down from the Lizard story, which was at least somewhat interesting. This all reminds of the Sentry thing that was done back in the Civil War/Seige days. He was pretty much an older version of the same thing. Money line: "He’s the NICKELBACK of superheroes." That, my friend, borders on genius.

  6. comicfan

    That all sounds like the character Kickass, Slott just ripped off another guys work and dropped it into spiderman. yea things might change the characters in tweaks here and there, but really its just following another writers template. not thought in the concept at all.

  7. K-Box in the Box

    And no, I'm not saying that characters have to be paragons of virtue either, because I loved Joe Kelly's Deadpool and Garth Ennis' run on John Constantine, but those were characters who were still EXCEPTIONAL. Even if they were BASTARDS, even THAT still made them more remarkable than Lazy Entitled Ignorant Suburban Kid, because they had SKILLS and INTERESTING WORLDVIEWS. By contrast, Alpha is so BLAND that he's actually OFFENSIVE precisely BECAUSE of how bland he is. He's the NICKELBACK of superheroes.

  8. K-Box in the Box

    "Does the creation of this character rise to the level of a MORAL wrong?" Not sure I'd go that far, but I'm sick and tired of all entertainment media (and not just superhero comics) expecting that we'll be interested in the adventures of a straight white guy with no redeeming virtues precisely BECAUSE he has no redeeming virtues, because that somehow makes him more "relatable." As it stands, it's why I hate Scott Pilgrim, because Bryan O'Malley made the unforgivably wrong decision to make Scott the protagonist of the series, when Scott was a horrible human being who also didn't deserve a story told about him.

  9. K-Box in the Box

    I love this line from the CBR review: "Slott writes Maguire as a painfully believable modern teenager." Anyone who believes this has an unfairly low opinion of modern teenagers. Then again, it sounds exactly like what out-of-touch middle-aged folks have been saying about teenagers for years — i.e. that they're aimless, privileged wastes of space (what is what Alpha is) — and it's been every bit as wrong every time it was said about every previous generation of adolescents. Indeed, the more I think about this, the more it comes across as Slott showing his own age by writing what he imagines "the kids today" to be like, and displaying his own generational chauvinism in the process.

  10. comicfan

    isn't he exactly like Kickass from Millar's books? like nearly a carbon copy. no motivation, no emotions, no purpose other than existing. Dan Slott just ripped off Millars book. and we weren't supposed to like Kickass either!

  11. K-Box in the Box

    "See I kind of thought that was all intentional and why the point was made that he’s no Peter Parker….the interest here is supposed to be how Peter/Spider-man (it is his book after all) handles being a mentor to this type of character, not in the character himself." Any character who sucks up that much space on the page MUST still necessarily be an interesting character in his own right. That is non-negotiable, and failing to meet that standard is objectively bad writing. Doctor Who is about the Doctor, but it's still unpardonably bad if the companion fails to be an interesting person in their own right. If the lesson here is that Alpha doesn't have what it takes to be Peter Parker, we've seen that story done to death in Spider-Man comics, from Venom all the way up through the Molten Man knock-off that JMS created and Slott turning Phil into the new Hobgoblin. If this is instead meant to be a story in which an upper-middle-class straight white boy with all the societal advantages in the world is handed powers that he doesn't deserve and then eventually becomes worthy of them, then once again, there's a name for that story, and it's called EVERY SINGLE STORY THAT'S TRIED TO BE STAR WARS SINCE THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY, a list which includes both the Star TREK reboot (which turns James T. Kirk into a more Alpha Male Luke Skywalker) and Battleship (the second film this year to bank on the nonexistent charisma of Taylor Kitsch). Slott was WRONG to want to tell a story about this type of character, because again, even if he's simply being presented in contrast to Peter Parker, yet another character like Andy Maguire SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED TO EXIST.

  12. cubman987

    @17 "We’re at least supposed to find him interesting, though. And he’s not. Because on a fundamental level, Alpha is precisely the type of character who doesn’t deserve to have any stories told about him" See I kind of thought that was all intentional and why the point was made that he's no Peter Parker....the interest here is supposed to be how Peter/Spider-man (it is his book after all) handles being a mentor to this type of character, not in the character himself. I dunno, maybe I'm wrong but I thought the story was okay even, though I have little to no interest in Alpha, because I'm interested to see how Spidey handles all of this.

  13. stillanerd

    @#17 K-Box in the Box: Exactly. It clear that Andy Maguire is supposed to be reflective of Peter Parker when he first got his powers, but the reason why we liked Peter in spite of the fact that he became a cocky, showboating fool prior to his Uncle's death is because he had goals beyond just wanting to hook up with a girl in his class. He worked and studied hard, applied himself to be something better, genuinely cared about others, especially his Aunt and Uncle, and tried to be a nice guy in spite of the fact that his peers constantly mocked and ridiculed him. Andy, on the other hand, doesn't care much about anything prior to getting his powers, doesn't really apply himself, and whose motto is essentially "whatever." And why would we even want to read or care about someone like that?

  14. Mike 13

    I haven't read the book yet, so I'll wait before I pass judgement... @11... most 90's Spidey sucked donkey balls... but I understand that era are most readers' faithful fun Spidey childhood reading time...

  15. K-Box in the Box

    "I really don’t think we are supposed to like Andy at this point…." We're at least supposed to find him interesting, though. And he's not. Because on a fundamental level, Alpha is precisely the type of character who doesn't deserve to have any stories told about him. He's passive, unmotivated, self-involved to the point that other people barely even exist to him, and petulant about life not cutting him any breaks in spite of having every default societal advantage possible. If you're an upper-middle-class straight white boy whose parents are both alive and your biggest problems are that you don't care about anything and you're frustrated because getting any of the things that you want would require you to expend some actual effort, and you just get HANDED magical Mary Sue powers without putting in any effort to earn them, then there are already far too many characters just like you in fiction, and quite frankly, you don't deserve to EXIST.

  16. Enigma_2099

    "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?" No, because it wasn't John Jameson, that's why. @#11 yes... yes they were.

  17. Spec Spider Fan is terrible for Peter to have a wife and or child, as it "ages" him and makes him less accessible to the new breed/10 and up demographic that Marvel seeks.... but it is okay for him to babysit a snot nosed slacker punk....maybe Andy can teach Peter to rap while he plays his electric the Maxxxxx....oh wait, that's from the Simpsons and was meant as a parody of effing with a good thing......meh, won't be buying this, will wait until 700 and see what "Kraken" they release then, presently enjoying reading older trades and 90s Spidey, better story telling and less headache inducing.

  18. Extreme Spider

    It's like we were separated at birth. IMO Reed was kinda like a douche in this story. And the fact that he didn't bother to tell Peter he discover "Parker Particles" until after the whole debacle is a "Dick Move" If he would have told Peter about this we could've avoided all this crap.

  19. Kyren

    I didn't like Reed Richard's role in this story at all. He was condescending, and belittled peter in a story that peter was meant to be a mentor. I really didnt expect to see peter being treated like a child in a story where he should be taking on a great new responsibility and showing how much he's grown over the years

  20. stillanerd

    Yeah, if Dan Slott and Marvel are serious about keeping this arrogant, snot-nosed little twerp around for the foreseeable future, there is NO WAY they are going to have him remain THIS powerful after this story is over. Heck, the fact that Alpha is such an arrogant, snot-nosed little twerp by design in order to set up the inevitable moment where he gets his comeuppance and learns humility and truly understands Peter's "great power comes great responsibility" pep talk, not to mention reeking of generic blandness, I'm beginning to wonder if this character is even going last past this one story.

  21. Regless

    @4 It would. But it's easy to save things you like. If Andy saved the guy who had previously picked on him that would've had more impact. As for Stone not getting caught. I can actually handle that. He designed the Horizon security systems so it makes sense that he'd know the ins and outs. Max Modell didn't see him and if his previous shenanigans are any indication Horizon refuses to set up a decent security camera grid. I mean, he even raided Mr. Modell's office and B-lined for the kingpin and no one found out. New kid is a complete tool though. I think the entire point is to set him up for future villainy rather than a real sidekick. Let's face it, he's too overpowered. And he's kinda of a douche. Spidey's fights are going to get a lot easier if this kid hangs around long. I do still take it as a silver lining that this kid is most likely not going to replace Peter. I'm really glad at all the damage Slot managed to retcon, and there was a lot. But I respectfully hope he's nearing his end on the spider man comics. He really seems to have trouble creating engaging stories and following through on them.

  22. K-Box in the Box

    "Wouldn’t the fact that he pushed the girl he was crushing on away from the blast that ultimately hit him count as a heroic act?" Slott actually kind of sabotaged himself on that one by going out of his way to establish her as literally the only other person that he cared about. It makes me think that, if the blast was headed toward Generic Jock Guy, and he'd been just as close, then Poochie wouldn't have done anything. Part of being a hero means being willing to risk your life for someone even if you don't want to get into their pants.

  23. Jared

    "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." Wouldn't the fact that he pushed the girl he was crushing on away from the blast that ultimately hit him count as a heroic act?

  24. EddieD

    The only good thing about this issue was Marcos Martin's beautiful variant covers. They were stunning!

  25. Brian Bradley

    Your bullet list of questions were the same things going through my head as I was reading it.... and I agree that the pacing was really rapid as well... don't care for the character, or this story so far.

  26. Y: The Last Nerd

    The biggest negative for me was the price: $5.99 for just 27 pages of story. If it was $4.99, I could've lived with it, but $5.99 was a massive rip off, IMO. Definitely wait for the trade on this one, folks.

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