Peter wins the battle against Alpha that he never has by finding an unexplained solution in the wreckage of an alien invasion that comes out of nowhere after saving his aunt from a crashing airplane she had no reason to be on.
The Amazing Spider-Man #694
Words by Dan Slott
Pencils by Humberto Ramos
Inks by Victor Olazaba
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Letters by Chris Eliopoulos
Alpha out. Sayonara.
I’ve accused Slott on numerous occasions of making his stories up as he’s writing them, but this latest issue has all but proven it to me. It may seem like nitpicking, but I think that what I’m about to point out is a symptom of what the larger problem is with stories like Alpha.
In ASM #693, May and Jay decide that they’re going to head back to Boston early so that Peter can focus on cleaning up the mess he made with Alpha. May says, “You’ve been so busy, Peter. We thought we’d get out of the way, take an earlier flight back to Boston.”
Yet in this issue, when Peter discovers that the planes Alpha’s recklessness is knocking out of the sky conveniently include the one they’re on, he does so by recognizing “Jay’s private jet!” So they decided to “take an earlier flight” back on their own plane? Jay is even seen flying it himself. To quote Tony Stark’s film counterpart, “Doesn’t it sort of defeat the purpose of having your own plane if the plane leaves without you?”
Obviously this little flub is not why the issue is bad. But it does point to the real reason. These are not carefully planned out stories. They’re disorganized, aimless and inconsistent; they’re what happens when a writer likes an idea but doesn’t actually have a story to tell around it or a character to fit it.
There is no battle of the half century. The cover of 694 boldly proclaims, “The Amazing Spider-Man vs. Alpha!” Yet the story is The Amazing Spider-Man vs. a Small Jetliner.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Prior to the showdown with the out-of-control aerial transport, we’re reminded yet again that Alpha is annoying and it’s All Peter’s Fault, as our hero slaves away in his Horizon laboratory, trying to figure out how he can remove Alpha’s powers without killing the kid. I was going to criticize this scene for the fact that Reed Richards and Tony Stark aren’t helping, but then I realized that if Peter had bothered to try contacting them, Madame Web would have appeared and told him that he couldn’t, and I was actually pretty thankful to be spared that scene.
So here’s how we get to the fateful airplane showdown. At exactly the right time, Peter decides to abandon his work and go to see May and Jay off. On the way there, he happens to cross paths with the Avengers flying through the air, who just at that minute are about to face off against TERMINUS! and his alien army. These guys are naturally hell-bent on conquering the earth, as aliens are wont to do.
The end result of all this is that Alpha is finally given his chance to overdo it and seal his own fate. Captain America demands that Peter call him in — even though his powers are still not fully understood, he’s not at all trained, and he’s a child — and his overzealous use of his powers results in the shut-down of “every commercial aircraft in a ten-mile radius.”
So it is that Spidey hurls towards Jay’s private jet, and in a sequence that takes up a whole third of the issue, manages to eventually land it safely by bracing himself against a broken wheel. This is without a doubt the best part of the issue, since it’s just Spidey being Spidey. It’s just another day for him, saving people he loves from impending doom. That’s fine, and there’s even a touch I liked where Jonah thanks him in a rare moment of sincerity — nothing that hasn’t been done before, and wildly inconsistent with the lunatic that Jonah has been for the past few months, but it was done well enough.
But by the time this was over, I was wondering what happened to the issue. Where was Spider-Man vs. Alpha? Where was the solution to the Alpha problem? With precious few pages remaining, I turned, and there it was:
It was a space thingamajig.
Well, it’s a lance, one that TERMINUS! apparently used to deflect Alpha’s energy. Because of this, Peter is certain, beyond any doubt, that he can use it to come up with a means of removing Alpha’s powers. It’s all astoundingly fortunate.
Alpha’s story ends exactly as it began: suddenly, and out of nowhere. Over a whopping two pages, Spidey tricks him into entering the depowering machine and sucking out most of his energy — though it’s made clear that a little bit of it remains, and “maybe we’ll try this again someday.” It definitely reads like Slott was running out of space, so he decided to hurry it up.
As the story draws to a close, twin messages of hope and doom are conveyed. May, having injured her leg in the plane incident, is set to return to New York, so we know she’s going to be weighing the next few issues down. But there’s light ahead, too: the Hobgoblin, the one true Hobgoblin, is on his way back, and if the past is any indication, the quality of Slott’s stories tends to alternate like there’s a pendulum at work.
Whatever happens, it’s gotta be better than Alpha.
Pros: The return of Roderick Kingsley is impending, and the plane crash sequence was some decent, though certainly not special Spidey reading.
Cons: The whole issue is a mess of events with no setup connected loosely by happenstance, the cover advertises a showdown between Spidey and Alpha that doesn’t exist, the ending is incredibly rushed because the plane crash took a third of the issue and in the end there’s still no reason given why we ever had to suffer through Alpha in the first place. This has almost certainly been the worst arc of Slott’s run.