So another year is about to end, and thus we have an All-New Marvel NOW! Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 for the All-New Marvel NOW! Amazing Spider-Man relaunch. And interestingly enough, it has no connection whatsoever to do with the multi-part, multi-wide, multi-platform event known as “Spider-Verse.” Which, depending on your perspective, might be a much-needed breather. Or not.
“I Can’t Help Myself”
WRITER: Sean Ryan
ARTIST: Brandon Peterson
COLOR ARTIST: Antonio Fabela
“The A-May-Zing Spider-Aunt”
ART & STORY: Cale Atkinson
“The Quiet Room”
WRITER: Jai Nitz
ARTIST: Ron Salas
COLOR ARTIST: Rico Renzi
LETTERER: Travis Lanham
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Ellie Pyle
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY #1: As Peter leaves Parker Industries for the day, Sajani Jaffrey calls after him, asking if Peter read their latest project proposal. Peter promises Sajani he’ll do so when he gets home, but as he walks down the street, he sees several police cars speeding by. Peter changes into Spider-Man and follows them, only to find they’re responding to a car accident in which no one is seriously injured. However, Spidey finds a cellphone at the scene, only no one knows who it belongs to. Determined to return to phone to its rightful owner, Spidey tries accessing the phone, only to find it’s locked. As he swings off thinking Iron Man might help, the phone rings. Spidey answers, but before he can find out if the person calling is the phone’s owner, his spider-sense goes off followed by an explosion caused by a gang of arsonists. After saving the cellphone from being damaged, Spidey finds Hawkeye fighting the arsonists, and together they take them down. Hawkeye invites Spidey for pizza, and the wall-crawler asks Hawkeye for help finding the phone’s owner. Seeing that the wallpaper picture shows a couple, and using some deductive reasoning, Hawkeye determines the phone belongs to a pair of German tourists, and that Spidey should check out the usual tourists hot-spots to see if the couple is there. Hawkeye also asks why Spidey is trying so hard to give the couple their phone back, to which Spidey merely responds with “’Cause I have to.”
Unfortunately, everywhere Spidey goes, there’s no sign of the couple. Discouraged, Spidey takes a break at Times Square when he’s approached by a family who mistake him for a costumed street performer, and ask if they can take his picture with their kids. Spidey plays along until the cellphone rings again. This time, Spidey is able to learn that the caller does indeed own the cellphone, but that he and his wife are at the airport ready to take the next flight. Spidey tells them to wait outside and that he’ll bring the phone to them as quick as he can. However, he’s interrupted by a diamond heist by The Menagerie (White Rabbit, The Hippo, Panda Mania, and Skein/Gypsy Moth). Not wanting to waste any time, Spidey quickly beats and webs up the super-villains. He manages to get to the airport just in time and gives the phone back to the couple, who, although grateful for getting their phone back, wonder why a superhero like Spidey did what he did. The next day at Parker Industries, Peter tells Sajani he forgot the read the report, claiming that he lost his cellphone. Sajani tells Peter that, since the meeting on the project is in one hour, he can still skim through the report before then. As she leaves, an exhausted and frustrated Peter sees another squad of police cars speed by his office window and smiles.
STORY #2: Here we have a series of silent panels featuring the misadventures of Aunt May. These include:
- Aunt May screaming loud enough to trigger Spidey’s spider-sense, and as he goes to see what’s wrong, Aunt May bundles him up in a thick parka, stocking hat, and scarf.
- Aunt May being threatened by the Green Goblin, Kraven the Hunter, and Mysterio. However, Aunt May gives them a batch of freshly baked cookies, which the villains happily eat. This distracts them long enough for Aunt May to pull out a frying pan and knock them all out before Spidey arrives.
- Aunt May finds Peter’s Spider-Man costume under his bed and, much to Peter’s horror, she resews it into a tablecloth and curtains.
- Aunt May sees Spidey and the Rhino fighting while grocery shopping and calls both Animal and Pest Control.
Spidey is fighting Doc Ock, the Lizard, Venom, and the Vulture, when Aunt May yells that its time to stop. Then, much to Spidey’s annoyance, Aunt May and villains sit on the couch to do some knitting.
STORY #3: Dr. Bong has gathered a group of villains at the Beyond Corporation (from the series, Nextwave), specifically the corporation’s “Anechoic Chamber,” the most quiet room in the world. Dr. Bong’s plan is to enter the Chamber and, using his “Cosmic Bong,” gain access to the Multiverse and become a god. The villains he’s recruited for this task consist of Angar the Screamer, Shrunken Bones, Gorilla-Man, Ruby Thursday, and Chondu the Mystic. As Dr. Bong, with the help of Chondu, carries out his plan, the other villains wonder if the world would really be better off with a godlike Dr. Bong since he’s clearly nuts. Ruby Thursday, however, figures that as long a Spider-Man is still cracking jokes, the world will be fine. As if on cue, an alarm goes off and the villains see that Spidey has arrived. However, to their surprise and increasing dread, Spidey doesn’t speak or make any wisecracks. Spidey quickly takes them down, then faces Dr. Bong. After the bell-headed villain makes a villainous monologue, Spidey, still silent, knocks him out with one punch. Spidey hands the villains over to S.H.I.E.L.D. and it’s revealed the reason Spidey didn’t talk is because he’s come down with laryngitis.
THOUGHTS: Comic book annuals have always, both historically and collectively, been a mixed-bag. Sometimes, they have stories which are both entertaining and essential reading, such as formation of the Sinister Six (the original Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1) or the wedding of Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21). Other annuals contain stories that are just flat-out awful, such as Spidey’s team-up with Annex (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #27) and the origin of Jackpot (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #35). And then, there are annuals such as this one which are a collection of non-essential but somewhat amusing stories which one can read just to pass the time.
Take for instance the main story of the annual, writer Sean Ryan and artist Brandon Peterson’s “I Can’t Help Myself.” On the surface, the plot can be summed up as “Spidey tries to return a lost cellphone,” and, in characteristic hard-luck fashion, it’s not as easy a task as it might seem. However, throughout this simple story, a nagging question persists, one which even various characters in the story even ask—just why is Spidey going so far out of his way to give someone back their cellphone as if it were a matter of life and death? While Spidey does give the standard, if not cliched answer “Because it’s the right thing to do,” and while we also do not doubt his sincerity, we, like Hawkeye in the story, can’t help but think there’s far more to it than Spidey playing the role of Good Samaritan. It’s after the last page where Ryan suggests the real, subconscious reason behind Spidey’s excessive altruism lies in a rather provocative idea: that Peter Parker, the man whose mantra is “with great power comes responsibility,” is using “Spider-Man” as an excuse to avoid the responsibilities of daily living, in particular the responsibilities of running his own company.
Remember, Parker Industries was founded and created by Doctor Octopus when he took over Peter’s body during Superior Spider-Man, and that Peter “inherited” Otto’s company after Peter got his body back. It’s also been hinted enough times in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man that Peter hasn’t the first clue in how to run a business, so it makes sense he’d avoid having to deal with doing so as much as possible, whether it be having Anna Maria Marconi cover for him, or getting wind of a possible crime or emergency in progress so he can don the webs and swing off to save the day. It’s also another angle on the concept that Spider-Man is “the hero who could be you.” After all, how many of us, as we toil away in our nine-to-five jobs, tell ourselves that we’d rather be camping, reading a good book, catching up on our favorite television series, playing video games, watching a movie, surfing, going out with friends for drinks—anything but work? For Peter it’s “I much rather be fighting crime, saving lives, or finding whoever this phone belongs to than read a proposal on making energy-efficient batteries, much less be a CEO.” This subtext helps to elevate what would otherwise be a lighthearted but unassuming story into something just a little above average when it comes to examining Spidey’s character based on his current status quo.
Peterson’s art, with the aid from Antonio Fabela’s colors, is also decent, at least for most of the story. The scene where Spidey teams-up with Hawkeye to fight the arsonists, encompassed by the predominance of red, orange, and yellow of the flames, offered some great visuals, and Peterson also draws a very good Spidey in costume, and I was quite impressed with the little details he did such as the way he made the fabric of Spidey’s mask stretch and wrinkle during movement, whether be from facial muscles or lifting his mask to eat and let the hearing-impaired Hawkeye read his lips. But there were some noticeable creative missteps. There were too many sections where it appeared the figures had been cut and pasted on pre-rendered, rotoscoped background stills and photos, such as the scene in Times Square where Spidey, as he sits, isn’t even casting a shadow. Furthermore, the first and last pages of the story look as though it had been drawn by a different artist, as Peter Parker’s facial expression look rather distorted and freakish.
Speaking of art styles, fans of animation may recognize the name Cale Atkinson, the author of the second story “The A-May-Zing Spider-Aunt,” as he’s done some shorts for Disney such as “’Lil Red” (2012), and he done his own superhero parody strip called “Batman and Bear-Robin.” In fact all the panels in this two-page story looked as though they could have been a storyboard of a “lost episode” of Bad Days, as it was reminiscent in the style and tone of those cartoons. It might be mere fluff, but the humor is never mean-spirited. Besides, how can you not look at the last panel with the Lizard’s one-sleeved sweater, Doc Ock making multiple quilts which together spell “I heart May” and a seemingly innocent and drooling Venom knitting “Die Spider” and think it’s not adorable?
As for Jai Nitz, Ron Salas and Rico Renzi’s “The Quiet Room,” well it’s just plain silly. Then again, it was bound to be when the main antagonist is Howard the Duck’s arch-nemesis, Doctor Bong, teaming-up with the best of Marvel’s D-list. Not to mention the story is all built upon the gag that Spider-Man, the hero known for making jokes at his enemies expense, has lost his voice, which has the effect of making the bad guys more afraid of him. One aspect of the story I did think was neat was when someone was hit, either by Spidey or by a stray blast, the panels were done up in onomatopoeia, which in turn put emphasis on the plot point that, because they’re in “the world’s quietest room,” sounds would become amplified. Visual tricks and over-the-top monologues from Dr. Bong aside, it’s a story that’s otherwise okay but forgettable.
So do I recommend you go out and buy this issue? Not really, and not because it’s terrible; rather it depends upon what mood you’re in. Maybe if you want a Spider-Man comic which isn’t a tie-in to “Spider-Verse,” although granted you can also buy Spider-Man And The X-Men #1 for that same reason. Or maybe you can check out the issue if you have some time to waste and are looking for a series of simple, quick Spider-Man stories to read and not feel as though you have to remember them later. After all, sometimes we need to be reminded now and again that comics don’t always have to be so serious all the time.
- “I’m not really used to swinging and talking on [cellphones] at the same time.” Well Spidey, given how you are capable of using your wall-crawling powers on every part of your body and not just your hands and feet, there is way for you to talk hands free. Just press the side of the phone to your face and it should stick with ease. Either that or invest in a Bluetooth to put your ear and hide under your mask, which, correct me if I’m wrong, is something you already do?
- So if you, like Spidey, are wondering when Hawkeye lost his hearing, well…since this is comics, it’s a bit complicated. See way back in Hawkeye #4 Vol. 1, Clint Barton, during his battle with Crossfire, suffered permanent hearing damage from a hyper-sonic arrow exploding near his head, and for years, he wore a hearing aid given to him by his then wife, Mockingbird. Then along came Onslaught, and, courtesy of Franklin Richards, Hawkeye, along with the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Scarlet Witch and half of the Hulk, were placed inside a pocket universe as part of Marvel’s Heroes Reborn imprints, and one he came back to the 616 Mainstream Marvel Universe, Hawkeye’s hearing was restored. However, during Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, Clint lost his hearing again when he fought Kazimierz Kazimierczak, aka Clown, after villain jammed the points of Hawkeye’s own arrows into his ears. It was also revealed in Hawkeye (2012) #19 that Clint always had partial deafness ever since he was a kid due to being a victim of child abuse, and much of that issue dealt with Clint having to overcome his past and not let his handicap hold him back. It’s well worth the read.
- Walloping Web-Slingers! The 616 Marvel Universe has street performers in Times Square who dress up as superheroes, too?! You regular readers of the Crawlspace News and listeners of the Podcast know just how crazy things have gotten with New York’s costumed panhandlers who dress as Spidey and other superheroes, so I can only imagine the sheer levels of insanity going on with the costumed panhandlers in the comics. No wonder Spidey has such a lousy reputation if he keeps getting mistaken for those guys all the time.
- I guess the White Rabbit is a believer in the adage “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again,” because she and her Menagerie apparently rob the very same diamond district they tried to rob in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #1. Either that, or the White Rabbit really fits the saying credited to Albert Einstein that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Not to mention the penal system in Marvel’s New York really is porous if, after a few weeks Marvel time, the Menagerie are already out of jail after being getting caught. At least this time we didn’t get more images of a naked Spidey wearing a web-diaper.