“Alpha Part Three: Final Grade”
Written by Dan Slott
Illustrated by Humberto Ramos
Inked by Victor Olazaba
Colored by Edgar Delgado
Lettered by VC’s Chris Eliopoulos
THE PLOT: Alpha’s irresponsibility in a battle with Terminus damages the private jet Aunt May and Jameson Sr. are on. Spider-Man eventually saves them.
LONG STORY SHORT: Peter comes up with some deus ex science to take away much of Alpha’s power, so that he’s officially benched from the super hero celebrity life, and from comics forever.
MY THOUGHTS: This whole story was a waste of time.
What was this all really about? Was this a commentary on teenage heroes? Was it a commentary on teenagers in modern society in general? Was this a story about Spider-Man’s reaction to having a sidekick to be responsible for? Or most probably, was this a belabored and unwanted “Great Power Great Responsibility” morality tale? I’m asking so I can come at this from every possible angle in order to review it properly. As it so happens, none of those options do this story any good because in the end it failed on each account.
This issue can be summed up in three sentences. Alpha screws up. Peter saves Aunt May and Jay. Alpha’s essentially fired from the hero life. There are very few moments of characterization save from Aunt May trying to call Peter when the plane is falling. The supporting cast are mostly there to bounce off of Spider-Man like wooden walls holding up the script. Worst of all, Alpha remains the same from the moment he got his powers to the moment he loses them and essentially back at square one as though nothing had happened. When you have a character become so powerful he’s mentioned in the same breath as the Phoenix, then later exposit that in time people will forget about you, it tells the reading audience that they’ve basically wasted their time. These last three issues could have never happened and nothing would have been lost from it.
What makes this whole bungling of story potential really shameful is the fact that Alpha from his first appearance til now was never a character; he was a plot device. He had two speeds, lazy and obnoxious. People can compare him to Jason Todd and Damien Wayne in the arrogant sidekicks department, but those characters had both personality and motivations. Alpha just existed to give Spider-Man and headache and awkwardly interact with characters of the Marvel Universe. If he were actually a character with effort put into him by Slott, he would argue with Spider-Man after he loses his powers at the end. We’re told that Spidey’s been training Andy. We never see it besides the initial issue, but we’re told that Peter’s “Been training him” in this issue. If Alpha was such the loose canon that we’re told he is, there’s nothing stopping Spider-Man from trying at each moment to sit him down and hammer in his head the responsibilities of being a hero. If he’s unable to do that, Reed Richards should have been notified. I’ve mentioned this in every part of the Alpha story because it’s a contrivance so ludicrous that the story as a whole never fully assembles from the get go. Why is Spider-Man, a mid-tier in power if we’re being honest, given the job to watch over one of the strongest people on the planet? It makes no sense.
Again, Andy could still be the most obnoxious, irritating, infuriating character to read in a comic ever and it would be fine if we were given enough reason to be interested in him. In this issue, he appears in six out of the twenty-four pages of this book. That’s a quarter of an issue he takes up, despite what the cover would have you believe. He’s a plot device, pure and simple. It’s pathetic. If you were a teenager and you were given the power and achieved enough global notoriety to secure all the fame and fortune and sex that you could ever want, then some guy in a bug costume snatches it away, wouldn’t you at least have a screaming match with him? That’s what I would expect, but Slott writes Andy as such a cypher that he’s almost invisible.
I can’t get across enough how badly this story was handled. We spend the majority of the issue watching Spider-Man save Aunt May from a plane crash. Those scenes weren’t too badly written, but that’s not what the cover wants you to expect happen. Where do the creative team get off having an homage to the famous Superman/Spider-Man crossover with Alpha as a stand in if he appears in 1/4th of the comic where he loses his powers? It’s so completely asinine I can barely believe Slott was taking this job at all seriously. It’s like he spends time thinking up plots found on Tv Tropes.com, and transcribes them accordingly just to get through the month. What happened to the Slott of the Lizard 4-parter that preceded this story? As a matter of fact, I can’t think of any Dan Slott Spider-Man script that was as comatose in creativity as this was. I hated the Betty Brant issue, but at least that had some effort clearly put into the story in terms of pushing the characters along. It was misguided, but it had effort.
As for the art, I think I’m growing tired of Humberto Ramos by this point. I still think he’s a good artist, but the bi-weekly schedule of ASM seems to be throwing him off of his game. I haven’t been feeling his models for over a month now, and characters end up looking too cartoonish or just not rendered very well.
This story could have gone in so many ways. It could have truly explored Peter’s perception of himself as a crime fighter by taking on a young partner. It could have impacted New York’s view of the Marvel Universe by having an openly identifiable teenager work with Spider-Man. It could have told stories crossed over in Avenging Spider-Man. It could have impacted the Avengers and the F4. It could have impacted Spider-Man’s villians who didn’t want to rule to world with clones of teenage boys. It could have shown Mary Jane’s perspective at seeing Peter work and mentor someone younger than him. It could have gone down so many roads to engaging and interesting stories.
In the end, what the readers are left with is essentially “Teenagers are self-centered.”