The Amazing Spider-Man #692: Alphia Part 1 — Point of Origin
Words by Dan Slott
Pencils by Humberto Ramos
Inks by Victor Olazaba
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Letters by Chris Eliopulos
I don’t feel like trying to be subtle with this one. ASM 692 is a dull, predictable super hero comic that was a chore for me to get through. It reads like somebody’s bad fanfiction, and it tends to draw all of Slott’s biggest writing weaknesses together and flaunt them obnoxiously.
As soon as it was over, I found myself silently asking, “Why did somebody make this comic? Who wanted this story? Was anything actually said at all?” I still have no answers.
The line I’m quoting is from an asinine narrator who holds the reader’s hand through the first couple pages. The next line is “Because this is an all-new tale for the telling.” But that’s nonsense, because this story is as stale as they come. Alpha is a completely bland character who was artificially pulled out of nowhere as a story vehicle.
For example, in order to get to the action as quickly as possible, Slott resorts to having the narrator summarize “things you should know about Andy.” We’re introduced to the character, but we don’t actually get to meet him. We are instructed to dislike his parents, because we are told point-blank that they are negligent and self-absorbed. We don’t get to see them in action and learn that for ourselves so that we can form our own opinions. It’s perhaps the least subtle bit of storytelling we’ve seen since the days when every supporting character in the book was a mouthpiece to tell readers how to feel about Carlie.
Slott even seems to want his narrator to make sure we don’t think Andy might actually have a personality for us to get introduced to. Andy is “No Peter Parker” because he is “not a nerd. Jock. Band geek. Poser. Stoner. Or much of anything, good or bad. He’s just… there.”
There have been plenty of times when I’ve offered a meta interpretation of Slott’s writing as essentially acknowledging its own shallowness as a sort of excuse for itself, but this is by far the most egregious example I can remember. How a writer could introduce a character this boring, and then blatantly point out in his own narration that that’s the case, and not feel the need to change his storytelling approach is beyond my comprehension.
The name “Alpha” comes from Mr. Fantastic’s dialogue as he gravely explains that Andy is bullshit: “In the way that whenever the Hulk, Sentry or the Phoenix attacks… we call it omega-level threat… Andy Maguire is the first alpha-level threat. It’s only a matter of time.” This is apparently because his “power is tied to the very universe itself. It will continue to grow, without limit.” It’s here that the story truly starts to flounder, and where it becomes like bad fanfiction. It’s like when you’re playing a game as kids, and someone new enters the game, and makes out like his guy is infinitely more powerful than everybody else’s and can’t die.
Naturally, Fantastic and the other super scientists want to keep knowledge of Andy’s powers away from him until he can be groomed into a definite good guy. Because they are all very smart, they decide that he is Peter’s sole responsibility, even though he is apparently, theoretically, The Most Dangerous Thing Ever. And because Slott is obsessed with making Peter do stupid things so that he can feel guilty, he reveals to Andy that he is theoretically The Most Dangerous Thing Ever, which leads in the most predictable way imaginable to him deciding to flaunt his power recklessly without heed to Spider-Man’s instructions. “I’ve created a monster,” Peter laments. But he’s wrong. Alpha doesn’t have enough personality to be a monster. All of his actions feel like they’re happening on rails.
Who decided that Spider-Man needed to be this? Everything about it feels like Cartoon Network, pseudo-anime, “hilariously wacky” Saturday morning junk. All of the characters are represented in the most shallow way possible: Alpha is the impetuous teen, his parents are Bad People, Spidey is a good-hearted buffoon, and I’m about fed up. Fifty years ago, Spider-Man comics were undeniably corny and campy. They were written with a narrator and meant to appeal to kids. But they were also meaningful, with deliberate pacing and insightful character development. Plots unfolded gradually and engagingly, and over time readers came to know and love the characters.
This vision of Spider-Man is one of constant action, one-dimensional plots and characters, goofy gags, outrageous dialogue and exaggerated visuals. It’s time for the end of an era.
Pros: Very few. There are some semi-amusing lines, like Ben Grimm’s annoyance at Alpha stealing his line and Spidey’s training rules for Alpha.
Cons: Rushed storytelling. Shallow characters from nowhere, who we have no reason to care about. Stupid, fanfiction-level annoying teenage overpowered god-character for no reason. Spider-Man is back to behaving like a well-intentioned moron.