As it just so happens, The Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #16 wasn’t the only issue of Amazing Spider-Man to come out this week. There was also this extra-sized Amazing Spider-Man Special that, if you believe the hype, will not only “tie disparate elements of the Marvel U a lot closer together,” it will be the beginning of “one of the coolest epic action adventures of the year!” But what you’re probably wondering if this comic is just as good (or rather bad as the case may be) as that other issue of Amazing Spider-Man? Or is it actually (gasp!) better?
“Inhuman Error: Part 1”
WRITER: Jeff Loveness
ART: Luca Pizzari
COLOR ARTIST: Nolan Woodard
LETTERING: VC’s Joe Sabino
COVER ARTIST: Jamal Campbell
ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Devin Lewis
EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY: Peter is in a coffee shop trying to work up the nerve to talk to a pretty girl, but his hesitation and self-doubt result in her leaving before he even has a chance to say hello. After purchasing his breakfast burrito, he changes into Spider-Man and swings off to a vacant rooftop to eat, when his spider-sense alerts him to a floating island, out of which swoop down an army of humanoid bird-monsters. Forced to delay his breakfast, Spidey battles against the bird-monsters, and while he holds own well at first, eventually the sheer numbers start to overwhelm him. It’s then that the Inhumans Medusa and Gorgon arrive to come to Spidey’s aid. It turns out that the bird-monsters are not there to attack New York but to attack New Attilan, but the Inhumans have no idea why they’re doing so. Needing allies to defend their home, Medusa and Gorgon have been looking for the Avengers or the Fantastic Four for help, but unfortunately, the Avengers and the Fantastic Four are elsewhere. Thus, having no other option, Medusa asks Spidey for her help, and the wall-crawler agrees, in part because he’s infatuated with Medusa.
At New Attilan, the Inhumans (in particular the cast of Nuhumans from the Inhuman comic series, Naja, Iso, Inferno and Flint) are doing their best to hold off the bird-monsters, just as Trition, and later Spidey, Medusa, and Gorgon arrive. Medusa realizes the bird-monsters are being used to distract them from their real target—the floating island, and as Lockjaw is with Kamala Khan in New Jersey (as seen in the pages of Ms. Marvel), she suggests they use Eldrac, the living gateway who teleports people based on where they need to be. Thus, Eldrac sends Spidey and the Inhumans to the bird-monsters fortress where they come face-to-face with…the original Red Raven. Medusa asks why the Red Raven leading an unprevoked New Attilan, and Raven is stunned that Medusa has forgotten what she did to him, saying innocent lives were lost, specifically someone named Vera, and now the Inhumans must pay the consequences. Gorgon and Triton attempt to attack Red Raven, but he encases them, Medusa, Spidey and the Nuhumans in force field bubbles. Then, opening up the floor, he sends Spidey and the Nuhumans falling to the earth below, vowing that since Medusa took Vera from him, he will now take those she holds dear in revenge.
THOUGHTS: I’m sure I’m not the only comic book reader who gets a little apprehensive when it comes to one-shots, mini-series, or “specials.” They’re more often than not hit-or-miss, which means one becomes a bit more cautious in investing their time and money into something that could very well amount to nothing but a waste of time and money, even if it does happen to feature Spider-Man. And in the case of Amazing Spider-Man Special #1, even before you start reading, you know full well that the main purpose for this comic is to use Spider-Man to promote other titles; in particular its yet another blatant attempt by Marvel to promote and build-up the Inhumans as a viable franchise to rival the X-Men (going even so far as to make them all but mutants in name only) since Fox Studios owns the film rights. So for all those reasons, I had more than a bit of healthy skepticism going into what could have easily been a 30 page plus advertisement.
And yet, to my pleasant surprise, not only was this actually a very good Marvel Team-Up type story, it also was a very fun Spider-Man story. In fact, I would argue that this is one of the best takes on Spidey I’ve read in years.
Jeff Loveness, by his own admission, attempts for a more old-school depiction of our favorite web-slinger, one in which the causal comic book reader would be the most familiar with: Peter Parker is presented as shy and awkward when it comes to his personal life, who cuts-loose and taps into his inner snarky wise-ass once he dons the costume. Or, to paraphrase what Brad Douglas has said about his ideal Spider-Man film on the podcast, Peter is Tobey Maguire out of costume who becomes Andrew Garfield when he suits up. It also helps that Loveness, due to his tenure on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, is an experienced comedy writer, making Spidey’s quips and non-stop banter vary in range, from being self-deprecating one minute to making sly and subtle in-jokes the next—all which appropriately gets on everyone nerves. For instance, in one of the comics funniest scenes, when Spidey is introduced to the Nuhumans from Inhuman, he starts to comment on their choice of codenames, saying they are either too vague, too on the nose, or not “X-Menny” enough. Then he proceeds to tell them how to survive as superheroes, which includes not “body-napped” by a Skrull, never working with Moon Knight, and never date Daredevil or Cyclops.
I’m sure some will take issue with how Peter behaves a bit too immature for his supposed age in this story, but while Loveness has Peter behaving young (which has been the editorial prerequisite since “Brand New Day”) he doesn’t have him come across as the stereotypical “manchild” other writers have subjected him all too often. Others might take umbrage with how, as Peter Parker in the opening scene, he can’t muster up the nerve to ask someone out on a date given Peter’s dating history, especially when he fantasizes the woman’s responses. Yet Loveness uses that very same dating history as means to make a wicked commentary on the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” position Peter finds himself in when it comes to relationships, while also being true to who Peter is as a person. In short, it’s meta-commentary that not only works, but also taps into Spidey as an “everyman” that’s also flat-out funny besides.
Another standout scene is how Loveness shows Spidey dealing with his fellow New Yorkers and his reputation as a hard luck superhero. People refuse to panic from the Bird-People invasion since stuff like this “happens every week” in the Marvel Universe, and instead pull out their cellphone cameras to get a picture of Spidey in action. Another person also manages to creep Spidey out because he wants to get a “selfie” with him, and one little girl keeps mistaking Spidey for her idol, Blade. Yes, it’s silly nonsense, but the dialogue is so well-written that I could believe this would indeed be the reaction of people used to superheroes. It’s proof that a skilled writer can take even the most ludicrous of concepts and make them feel plausible and real, which is what Loveness does. Based on what Loveness does with Spidey in this comic, especially in the first opening pages, I wouldn’t mind if he somehow was able to take over from Dan Slott as the full-time scribe for Amazing Spider-Man.
Still, not everything about Loveness’ script is pitch perfect, especially after the Inhumans make their appearance. Prior to their arrival, and despite some pointed jabs Spidey makes which place the story within the current status quo of the Marvel Universe, one could have read this as one of those quintessential, timeless but modern Spider-Man tales which, not unlike Mark Waid’s “Unscheduled Stop,” (Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 #578 to #579) is all but unbound by the constraints of continuity and could take place within any period of Spidey’s fifty-plus published history. Except Loveness has Spidey behave as though he’s meeting the Inhumans for the very first time, including not remembering who Medusa is, even though, as she herself points out, they fought each other while she was inverted during the Inhuman #10 AXIS tie-in. In fact, Spidey has had several run-ins with the Inhumans over the years, specifically with Medusa way back in Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 # 62, and he’s met the royal court, including Medusa’s husband, Black Bolt, in Marvel Team-Up #11. And on this later point, is Spidey so smitten with Medusa (due, in part, because she’s a redhead like Mary Jane) that he’s forgotten that she’s married? Does he even know she’s married? If not, then this is all-too obvious set-up for a typical “Parker Luck” gag in which he meets “the most beautiful woman in the world,” thinks he has a chance with her, only to find out she has a husband who can shatter bones with a mere whisper.
This inconsistency between Spider-Man and the Inhumans is further baffling since Loveness chooses to have villain of his story be an obscure antihero from the Golden Age of Marvel back when the company was still known as Timely Comics. It shows that, at the very least, Loveness is well-versed in Marvel history, and his choice as the Red Raven is an apt one, given how later writers would retcon it so that the one time ally of the Sub-Mariner had close ties with the Inhumans. So my assumption is that’s Spidey figurative amnesia when it comes to the Inhumans is not due to Loveness lack of Marvel lore, but more further underscoring Spidey as a surrogate for an audience who are not familiar with the Inhumans to the point this is their first introduction to them. Thus Spidey doesn’t know them that well, because the reader doesn’t know them that well.
The comic is also an opportunity for Marvel to show off what they consider to be up-and-coming artists, in this case Luca Pizzari. In my research on him, it appears that apart from some Midtown Comics covers, this is apparently Pizzari’s very first gig with Marvel Comics. Except you wouldn’t think so given the quality of his illustrations because they’re fantastic. Like Humberto Ramos, Pizzari’s style is kinetic, fluid and hyper-exaggerated; but unlike Ramos, his figures have a proper sense of consistency, proportion and scale, and she’s able to draw the most intricate of details without being messy or over-complicated. He especially does some of the wildest things I’ve ever seen an artist ever do with Medusa’s hair, and not just how it coils and weaves in serpentine fashion around her body. We see scenes here where Medusa uses it as a gigantic lash to take out enemies, causing city buses to overturn, and then later see her use it to lift herself over and navigate across debris. Along with Nolan Woodard’s colors, Pizzari’s work looks bright, vibrant and full of energy—well suited for a fun, entertaining story such as this one and for a comic such as Spider-Man in general. Marvel is clearly putting Pizzari on the fast-track, and it’s well-deserved.
“Inhuman Error” is supposed to continue over the next two months with Inhuman Special #1 and All-New Captain America Special #1, each one penciled by a different artist, so who knows how well Loveness story will turn out. However, I’d say on the basis of part-one, he’s off to a great start. If you’re curious and know full-well what the purpose of this comic is—that it’s primarily a gateway comic intended to promote other lesser known super heroes to the causal reader—and if you can ignore the more glaring questions when it comes to Spidey’s own continuity, you might end up having a joyful reading experience just as much as I did.
- You know, Pete, your chances for getting a date with that coffee shop girl would’ve gone up considerably if you hadn’t been talking to yourself out loud while trying to decide to approach her, thus making everyone waiting with you in line with you believe you were a total weirdo. Perhaps she actually was interested—she was twirling her hair around her finger, after all—but perhaps the real reason she left is because she also heard you say out loud “just walk up to her and say hello” and, along with your hovering, probably creeped her out. Then again, she was also wearing a pair of glasses like Debra Whitman and Carlie Cooper, and you’re track record with women who wear “smarty glasses” hasn’t exactly lead to any stellar romances, so maybe you dodged a bullet with this one.
- So Marvel’s version of Starbucks has grande-sized breakfast burritos? Wait a minute…you mean to tell me the actual Starbucks also sells breakfast burritos, only they’re called “Feta and Spinach Breakfast Wraps?” Why am I the last person to know about this? ‘Cause darn it! I’ve now got a craving for Starbucks’ overpriced gourmet burritos with their overpriced coffee. Especially since it seems the “Barstucks” vendor didn’t properly wrap Peter’s burrito, and the combination of fast-web slinging and Spidey strength is making all that yummy goodness fall on the street.
- And thus we learn in this comic that Spidey knows the lyrics to Odyssey’s “Native New Yorker.” I guess his years spent with Mary Jane really have made Peter into a closet 70’s Disco fan, seeing how he was also partial to Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting.”
- “How come [the Avengers] never take me on the big, cosmic time-breaking stuff? I want to break time!” No, Spidey! We just got through with all sorts of “big, cosmic time-breaking stuff” with the overlong slog that was “Spider-Verse.” Not to mention what happened the last time you broke time thanks to Mephisto. Trust me, the Avengers are doing you and us a favor, so stay far, far away from the “big, cosmic time-breaking stuff” from now on. Oh, that’s right, you can’t because Secret Wars is coming up…darn it!
- Okay, I realize Peter is only having a fantasy sequence when he thinks he should help Aunt May with laundry, but he does realize she no longer resides at their family home in Forest Hills since she married J. Jonah Jameson’s dad, right? At least, I think that’s what the picket fence behind them appears to suggest. Or is there trouble in paradise between Jay and May that we don’t know about yet?
- So unless Spidey was just making a wisecrack about the lease on his apartment being due, he’s having money problems again? Except isn’t he the CEO of Parker Industries and thus have all kinds of money in the bank and…oh, hold on! I think we may have been inadvertently spoiled about the outcome of the latest story happening in Amazing Spider-Man now. Not that it was much of a surprise to begin with.
- “Not sure what [Naja] means, but sounds cool.” Well, Spidey, and for those just as confused, a naja can refer to a genus of snakes more commonly known as cobras, or a variety of aquatic plants. Course that would only confuse Spidey more since the character of Naja doesn’t look anything like a snake or a plant. Though she does seem to have a reptilian looking tail to go with her wings and feathers so…an Archaeopteryx?
- “Dude, we don’t even know you? Who are you?!” Well, Spidey, Medusa did call him “Raven,” so that’s probably a clue right there. Although to be fair, not a lot people remember who the Red Raven is. Even I had to look him up on Wikipedia to figure out who he was. And wow, has he certainly let himself go.