What’s this? A Spider-Man comic with only one Spider-Man? Impossible! Either that or everything is back to normal for our favorite wall-crawler. But you know what they say about being careful what you wish for…
“The Graveyard Shift, Part One: The Late, Late Mr. Parker”
“Repossession, Part One: Stolen Memories”
WRITERS: Dan Slott & Christos Gage
PENCILER: Humberto Ramos
INKER: Victor Olazaba
COLORS: Edgar Delgado
LETTERER: Chris Eliopoulos
COVER ARTISTS: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY 1: Spidey, still feeling weak from Morlun having drained part of his life energy in “Spider-Verse,” is fighting with The Iguana at the Central Park Zoo when he gets a phone call from Aunt May. May, who still thinks Peter and Anna Maria are a couple, invites them both for dinner as she hasn’t heard from him “in days.” Jay Jameson, however, reminds his wife that Peter can’t be distracted as he’s supposed to be making a proposal to the Department of Corrections for Parker Industries to build their new super-villain prison. Just then, Peter gets another phone call, this time from Anna Maria Marconi and Sajani Jaffrey, who are both upset over how he’s hasn’t shown up at the meeting yet. Sajani is particularly angry as she reminds Peter she’s never supported his idea for a super-villain prison, and she doesn’t want “to pitch a project [she] doesn’t believe in.” Peter is about to apologize, but instead tells Sajani he’s sick of having to defend his super-villain prison idea to her, reminding her about what happened during “Goblin Nation” and Electro, and that it’s better for all if super-villains aren’t just captured, but reformed and “cured” of their powers. Sajani tells Peter to give his speech to someone who matters, especially since Alchemax is also pitching their own super-villain prison project. Realizing Alchemax would just perpetuate the cycle of super-villains constantly breaking out of prison, Spidey tells Sajani he’ll be right over, and—due to being berated by her—is able to overcome his “energy slump” and beat The Iguania.
Meanwhile, Alchemax CEO, Liz Allen, is pitching her company’s idea for the super-villain prison, citing that her stepbrother and Alchemax’s head of security, Mark Raxton, the former Molten Man, is living proof of how super-villans can be reformed and cured. Also, Liz tells them that Alchemax’s super-villain prison project leader will be Tiberius Stone. After their pitch, they pass by Anna Maria and Sajani, and tell them that Parker Industries is in over their heads, and note how their CEO is absent. However, Peter manages to show up just in time, and Liz (helping him to straighten his tie) says how this is just like high school with him always being late, as well. Peter reminds her he still managed to be valedictorian for their graduating class, and as he, Anna Maria, and Sajani head off for their meeting, Liz expresses to Stone and Mark how Peter “always had a way of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat,” and wishes “there was some way to throw a monkey wrench into his plans.”
Later that evening, Stone and Mark arrive at Black Cat’s Slide-Away Casino. There, they both hire The Ghost to make sure that Peter and Parker Industries are “out of business…permanently”
STORY 2: The Black Cat is having the Ringer be beat-up by Killer Shrike and Melter as he’s failed to give her his share of the cut from his thefts. Ringer defends himself by saying he was caught by Silk, that he had to pay the Spot to bust him out, and pay the Tinkerer to give him some new gear. He also says how he’s heard the Black Cat has become more heartless ever since becoming a crime boss, and that this isn’t like her. Black Cat hesitates, just long enough for the Ringer to break free and hit her with one of his discs. Felicia, however, takes him out, then tells her underlings to go out and make triple the cut…after they beat up Ringer some more.
Surprised that the Ringer was able to do what he did in spite of her bad luck powers, Black Cat realizes that the more ruthless she becomes, the better luck she has. She reminds herself how she lost everything she’s worked so hard to build for herself, and vows to steal back her own life. We then see that an unnamed blond woman who used to attend Felicia’s parties and was turned off by her attitude, is at the Pinkerton Auction House (the same auction both Aunt May and Jay Jameson attended in the first story when they called Peter) and has been buying Felicia’s confiscated belongings for herself.
THOUGHTS: So after several excruciating months of our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man venturing through time, space, and alternate realities (in other words being everywhere but his own neighborhood) fighting alongside his various clones, doppelgängers and extra-dimensional counterparts against steampunk vampire clones, Dan Slott finally brings our hero, and the series, back down to Earth were it belongs. Thus, The Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #16 reads, for what seems like the first time in ages, like an actual Spider-Man comic, even if the first story consists primarily of Spidey taking on the phone while fighting a C-list knockoff of The Lizard. But when it comes to actual characters, once again Slott makes them be driven by the plot instead of the other way around, in particular when it comes to their respective motives and what they want.
In Peter’s case, Slott and co-writer Christos Gage’s attempt to build upon the events of “Spider-Verse” for his development, that his leadership experience during that story have instilled in him a new sense of confidence and fortitude when it comes to managing Parker Industries, and in not taking guff from his vice-president, Sajani Jaffrey. Granted, as I’ve mentioned before, there was little to no sign of Peter behaving like a leader during “Spider-Verse” and, as I pointed out in my review of the last issue, his belief that he can now be an effective CEO of Parker Industries rings hollow because of this and what appears to be upcoming on the horizon over the coming months. Not to mention that, even though he tells himself how much he’s been neglecting his personal life, the comic still gives the impression Peter is still putting his priorities of being Spider-Man over that of his own company until Sajani tells him about Alchemax’s competing contract bid. Nevertheless, it’s refreshing to see Peter, for once, be a passionate defender of something he sincerely believes in, even though his rousing speech about showing understanding and compassion towars super-villains is ironically being delivered while he’s in the midst of beating up one of those super-villains.
What’s far more sketchy is Slott and Gage’s handling of various supporting characters, particularly the women in Peter’s sphere of influence. Take for instance Sajani Jaffrey. In earlier issues, she opposed Peter’s super-villain prison project because she believed in wouldn’t be a profitable business venture when compared to Otto Octavious’ nano-machines, going as far as to secretly help the Black Cat in sabotaging the Electro containment device in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #6. However, because Alchemax also has plans to build their own super-villain prison (as established in Spider-Man 2099 #5), Sajani’s argument that such as project would be a “bad business model” has been reduced to utter nonsense. Thus, because the story requires Peter and Sajani to be in conflict over the project, Slott changes Sajani’s objection over the prison to being rooted in political and philosophical differences, claiming the project is “bleeding heart” liberal nonsense. Not only is this shift in reasoning for her opposition to Peter’s project ridiculous, it makes Sajani even less sympathetic than before.
Speaking of Alchemax, Slott and Gage’s depiction of Liz Allan is also rather dubious in light of her saying within earshot of Tiberius Stone and Mark Raxton, “I wish there was some way to throw a monkey wrench into [Peter’s] plans.” This could be taken as a passing, innocent remark on her part; however, given how Slott has depicted her, especially in light of “Goblin Nation,” it also reads as though she’s giving subtle orders to Stone and her stepbrother to do exactly what they set out to do towards the end of this first story: hire someone to attack Parker Industries and thus prevent them from getting the super-villain prison contract so that Alchemax will acquire it instead. Along with her earlier comment of Peter always “snatching victory from the jaws of defeat,” and it seems Slott has essentially turned Peter’s former classmate and long-time friend who had a serious crush on him into yet another evil and corrupt businessperson willing to do whatever nefarious means necessary for to make more money. To fair, she’s probably underestimating how far someone like Tiberius Stone and Mark would be willing to go, especially since her fixing Peter’s tie for him does show she still has a soft spot for Peter. Even so, it’s such a drastic change from her demeanor compared to the past that, once again, it feels as though she’s only behaving this way due to the demands of the plot. Not to mention it also undercuts Slott’s own work in his rehabilitating the Molten Man as seen in “Mind on Fire” (Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #581 to #582).
But when it comes to character assassination, the Black Cat has them all beat by a country mile. I believe there’s been little to no disagreement that Felicia Hardy’s heel-turn into becoming a crime boss has been regarded as one of the worst developments to come out of The Amazing Spider-Man relaunch, even from Slott’s most ardent defenders outside of Marvel. And it’s quite clear that Slott, Nick Lowe, and the Spider-Group at Marvel are aware of just how unpopular the Black Cat becoming a villain has been among the fans. Hence why Slott and Gage devote a six-page back-up story to explain yet again to justify Felicia’s actions, with the added detail that he bad luck powers become stronger the less compassionate and merciful she becomes. But by piling on more reasons for why Felicia is so determined to restore her reputation among the criminal underworld and her more violent actions, it only serves to muddle her characterization without addressing the real problem: that her entire arc is built on a false premise. I admit I’m not an expect when it comes to the Black Cat, but based on other comics I’ve read featuring her, not once has she ever been shown to give a damn about her street cred, much less cared about what other people thought of her. The only things which mattered to her was the thrill of a big heist, living up to her dad’s legacy as a thief, and seducing Spider-Man into going to bed with her. This whole notion that Felicia was this high-society woman who “lost everything” when Otto Octavious, as Spider-Man, outed her as the Black Cat is utter nonsense—especially since the Black Cat’s identity was already public knowledge, that’s she’s had more history being a superhero, and Slott’s own stories have her wanting Spidey to put in a good word for her to the Avengers and fighting with Misty Knight’s Heroes For Hire. For Slott and Gage to devote this much of an issue, with two more parts to come, is a sign that Black Cat becoming a crime boss isn’t working, that Slott knows it isn’t working, but is determined to make it work because he’s come too far with this particular subplot to admit it’s a mistake.
Both stories also see the return of Humberto Ramos on art, and I have to say that, after many issues with Oliver Copiel and/or Guiseppe Camuncoli, it’s a rather jarring transition. Ramos’ work has always been hit or miss, especially when in comes to his sense of proportion and depiction of anatomy. There are moments, for instance, where The Iguana looks appropriately menacing during his fight with Spidey, yet Spidey himself is put into rather awkward looking body poses where his limbs vary in size from panel-to-panel; one panel in particular where he kicks The Iguana appears as if his arms are longer than his legs. And when it comes to Anna Maria, Ramos’s depiction of her height is woefully inconsistent; sometimes her head comes up to Sajani’s waist, while other times she’s up to or even past her shoulder. And how exactly can Felicia even walk when her bladed “tail” belt hangs loosely around her thighs instead of her waist? Exaggeration in comics is one thing, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of practicality and consistency.
All of this prevents Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #16 from being a great issue, but compared to the mess “Spider-Verse” became, it’s better than the series has been of late. Thus far, it reads as the first act for an otherwise average Spider-Man story being written to kill time between “Spider-Verse” and whatever details the “Renew Your Vows” for Secret Wars involves. Based on what solicits for upcoming issues suggest, I suspect Slott will use this story to wrap-up Peter’s tenure as CEO of Parker Industries one way or another, whether it be Ghost destroying his company headquarters, the shareholders voting Peter out as Chief Executive, Alchemax requisitioning the company for themselves, the bank where Otto got the business loan calling up Peter to question him why his signature on the application doesn’t match from the one on record, or something else different entirely, and thus claim this story had far more important ramifications for Spider-Man than we realized. Until that happens, though, this issue gets a modest….
- Notice anything wrong about the main cover for this issue? Neither the Living Brain nor Clayton Cole appear in this issue. Furthermore, there is not a single scene in the comic which takes place at Parker Industries. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Marvel’s official write-up for this issue–”Someone (or something) has invaded Parker Industries and is targeting its staff!”–is also completely wrong since, as those who read the synopsis above, nothing of the sort even happens in this issue. So I guess the cover and write-up should have been for Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #17 instead?
- So how long has Peter been back since the events of “Spider-Verse” if he’s still feeling the effects of what Morlun did to him? And he never contacted any one, including his Aunt May, the moment he got back after being “gone for days?” But then, based on the conversations he has with Aunt May and Anna Maria over the phone, he’s apparently been back long enough to make dinner plans and arrange to give a business pitch to the Department of Corrections, which means he’d have to have gotten in touch with his friends and family after he got back, right? Or did he make these arrangements before “Spider-Verse” happened?
- Speaking of Aunt May, does anyone else find it funny that, considering how she’s been berating Peter’s absence, we the readers haven’t seen her since the first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man relaunch? I mean, welcome back Aunt May, but still, we’re talking fifteen issues and almost a year in which a major supporting character has gone from the comics!
- “Stop talking on your phone, human! I have a legitimate grievance about the plight of reptiles!” And your case would be helped a great deal, Mr. Iguana, sir, if you were actually voicing a “legitimate grievance.” True, Spidey talking on the phone is rude as you said earlier, but only at the cost of delivering a villainous monologue, which you weren’t even making during this entire fight. Then again, since you are a Lizard knockoff and have a reptilian brain, perhaps I’ll forgive your claims that Spidey isn’t listening to you even though you’re not actually trying to make a speech.
- “Cutting-edge technology cured [Mark] and continues to monitor his condition, ensuring he’ll never again be a threat to society.” Don’t forget to credit your ex-husband and the father of your child, Harry Osborn, for curing your stepbrother of being the Molten Man there, Liz! Because it certainly wasn’t any experimental program your company came up with while he was spending time in the slammer as you seem to suggest.
- So of all the companies the New York City Department of Corrections is considering to build the new super-villain prison, there’s not a single proposal from Stark Enterprises, especially since they have experience in this sort of thing? And Roxxon is an oil and energy company, so what did they propose? Have all the super-villains drill for natural gas as part of a work force labor program?
- So Peter was valedictorian of Midtown High? Gee, I sure don’t remember him giving an inspiring speech to his fellow graduates in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. #28. I do remember the guest-speaker was J. Jonah Jameson which Peter was too busy ogling Liz to pay attention, however.
- Okay, I can understand how Speed Demon is hitting the tables at Black Cat’s underground casino, but what’s Shocker doing there? After all, he’s the head of Maggia crime family, so I would think he would no longer bother hanging out with other B and C listers anymore. And he doesn’t have the head of Silvermane with him? I suppose old Silvio Manfredi is at home finally having his long awaited Lasagna night.
- So Felicia’s “cat eyes” on her new Black Cat costume are even larger and cover her shoulders. If this was intended to keep folks like myself from constantly staring at her chest, it didn’t work!