In this issue Alpha’s family gets kidnapped, along with the teen hero himself. Spidey goes to save him, but can he contend with the return of an old foe? Annoyingly he does, but find out how by reading this review!
“ALPHA part 2: That Something Special”
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
Inked by Victor Olazaba
Colored by Edgar Delgado
Lettered by VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
THE PLOT: Peter, concerned with how Alpha’s new found zest for self-absorbed life reminds him of him at a young age, yearns to take better care of his partner. Meanwhile, the Jackal kidnaps Andy, along with his parents, his agent and the cheerleader he was cheating on his crush with.
LONG STORY SHORT: Jackal plans to clone Alpha and take over the world. Alpha, in desperation, eventually overpowers the clones and frees his family along with Spider-Man. He then decides to go solo and build an even bigger career for himself without help from his parents or Spider-Man.
MY THOUGHTS: I don’t know what Dan Slott is thinking anymore with this story. I thought I had it pegged as if not a chance to tell a tale about Spidey and his new sidekick, then an Amazing Fantasy #15 fan-fic. This issue is…I don’t even know what.
This story is terrible. When it’s not beating us over our heads about how everything since the crucifixion is Spider-Man’s fault, it’s hitting us in the face with how utterly detestable Alpha is as a character. I don’t care that he’s a teenager, at some point young people do have morals. The act of saving Chrissy whats-her-face in the last issue seems to be out of character for who’s presented here, as everything he does is motivated by greed and self-interest. That’s not in itself a bad thing but it’s inundated by this need to have Spider-Man constantly be told that this is his baby he needs to take responsibility for. If that’s the case, then the end of the issue should have had Peter seriously lecture Andy about his attitude. Andy could still mouth off and fly away like a twerp, but at least honest effort would have been put forth to legitimize the story’s theme of Spider-Man responsibility.
Instead what we have is a very jumbled mess of an issue that illustrates Dan Slott’s lack of ability in how to tell a very simple story. Spider-Man should either A) mentor the boy, B) recognize how much of a threat he is and take him down as fast as possible or C) tell Reed or Tony Stark about him and engage in help to settle the kid. This complacent mewing around, beating himself up and not doing anything about Alpha until it’s too late and the plot starts to move forward is really insulting. On top of which, Slott cannot let go of his fascination with making Peter the butt of ridiculous circumstances. It wasn’t his fault Alpha gained super powers any more than it was the scientists at the radioactivity demonstration’s fault that he was bitten by a radioactive spider. It wasn’t his fault that Alpha got kidnapped because Alpha should be powerful enough to take care of himself, plus the Jackal’s supposed to be dead…again. I will admit that he should have remembered that Andy has a free identity, but Useless Character From Brand New Day is wrong in saying his kidnapping was all Spider-Man’s doing. Who was it that painted up Alpha as an international mascot? Horizon Labs. Who allowed for this to happen? Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, The Beast and Hank Pym. Who pawned the kid off to Spider-Man and then absolved himself of all responsibility? Reed Richards; and he does it again in this issue. You’d think that if an “Alpha-level threat” is so dangerous and unpredictable, and if Spider-Man truly screwed up by letting him be aware of that, then Reed would take the boy from Peter and observe him himself. This is madness. Why in the world is Richards continuously shoving Alpha into Peter’s face? All it does is force Peter to imagine up a new reason to feel guilty and visit Mary Jane to whine about it.
Speaking of MJ, I might be the only one in this camp but I have grown tired of her cliche pep-talks to Peter. It’s a trope of Slott’s run in order to try and justify her being in the book and not moving on in her life if she and Peter can’t be married. The way it’s presented however has become too redundant of a common scene to carry any weight. She’s written well enough, that much is true, but sooner or later she has to do more than be Peter’s cheerleader. It’s making her into all that she can be within this status quo, and that’s really bad for a character this multidimensional and developed.
It’s a serious shame that this is coming off of Slott’s surprisingly decent Lizard story, because this is the worst arc he’s done since the Betty Brant issue. Every single scene either feels forced or lacks tension and logic.
1) Why do the media and other people instantly think that Spider-Man is Alpha’s sidekick? Have they said that when he’s been seen working with Daredevil, or the Human Torch, or Cloak and Dagger, or Iron Man, or Captain America? Spider-Man is older, more experienced, and this is established during Alpha’s very first night of crime fighting. Slott wanted to go for a joke but A) it wasn’t funny and B) there’s no requisite logic that would make it funny. It’s just dumb.
2) What exactly are those web-clone monsters that Jackal has created? How can they shoot webbing from their uvulas? It’s never explained.
3) If paparazzi are made aware of Alpha’s kidnapping, let alone the police, wouldn’t the Avengers or the Fantastic Four be on the search since they know what a threat the kid is? This whole “It’s all on you Spider-Man” concept holds no water at each and every turn.
4) Jay Jameson says he hopes to “talk some sense” into Jonah about closing down Horizon Labs, when in fact Jameson has every right in the world to close it down by this point. On that point, what are he and Aunt May even doing there?
5) Do I even have to say how much the Jackal’s plot doesn’t make sense?
That’s also a sign of the utter dearth of thought in this story. The Jackal’s plans are getting more and more nonsensical, to the point where “He’s crazy!” isn’t a justifiable reason for them to be so bad anymore. At a certain point, like the one reached in this issue, it becomes bad storytelling and lazy writing.
6) A scientists of Miles Warren’s caliber wouldn’t just assume something would work without testing Alpha’s blood efficiently enough.
7) How can he clone somebody in less than an hour? Please don’t yell out “SCIENCE!”…
Again, the end of the issue where Alpha decides to try and be even more famous should have been the point where Spidey knock him out, puts him in a cube and lectures him until the kid sees straight. I suppose Alpha would be too powerful for that to work, but the resulting scenes are just comedy beats which underline how despicable he is as a character. He saves his parents and his chick-of-the-week just so he can keep his powers. He’s not a good person, point taken. This still shouldn’t be on Peter’s shoulders in the end. He didn’t choose this to happen any more than Reed Richards did.
(Oh, and the ASM#1 reference was a nice effort, but too late in the story for me to appreciate.)
I didn’t like the art in this issue either, and that’s not easy for me to say. I like Ramos at the best of times, but his characters were wildly inconsistent. There were too many scenes of people being “serious” where they had the dullest expressions on their faces, coupled with the weirdest looking mouths I’ve ever seen in a comic. Even the obvious swipe of Andrew Garfield posing as a maskless Spider-Man to illustrate Alpha on the cover of Star magazine included this weird overbite which took me out of the story. When that wasn’t going on, the body language was very over-the-top in some scenes, like when Chrissy runs out crying after she sees Andy with the cheerleader, or said cheerleader looking like a cartoon caricature behind Alpha blasting at the Spiderzons.
I really did not like this issue. It went from bad to worse, and for this to be the big 50th anniversary story arc almost makes me mad. I cannot believe this was the best effort put forth, and I want to feel bad saying that, but no. This book can and has to be better, for the sake of itself. As of now, this title is a joke.