So last issue, Spidey teamed-up with Daredevil against the Circus of Crime. This time around, he’s face-to-face with the Ghost!
Oops…that was the wrong Amazing Spider-Man #16. Spidey already faced the Ghost in that issue. No, wait a minute! He’s up against the Ghost this one, right? Crap, this is embarrassing. Um…April Fools?!
“The Graveyard Shift, Part Two: Trust Issues”
“Repossession, Part Two: No Take Backsies”
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: Peter and Anna Maria are having dinner at Aunt May and Jay Jameson’s apartment, when Aunt May asks Peter that, since he and Anna Maria are living together, when they’re going to get married. Peter tries to think of an explanation without revealing how Doc Ock took over his body, but Anna Maria comes right out and says she and Peter had an amicable break-up, and that she’s only staying with Peter because working at Parker Industries hasn’t given her enough time to find a new place—basically telling Aunt May truth but omitting everything about Spider-Man and Doc Ock. And much to Peter’s surprise, it works! After dinner, Anna Maria also comes up with ways Peter can take her back to Parker Industries as Spider-Man without blowing his secret identity, adding that no one really believed Peter’s press conference that he was “no longer Spider-Man’s tech supplier” anyway.
Back at Parker Industries, Sajani Jaffrey is still railing against Peter’s super-villain prison concept, while Clayton Cole (the former bad guy, Clash, from “Learning to Crawl”), defends it. Peter and Anna Maria arrive and the entire Parker Industries staff proceeds to do a trial run of their super-villain containment system. Unbeknownst to them, however, the Ghost has broken into the facility and, after killing a security guard, hacks into the building mainframe and uses the super-villain security measures to attack the Parker Industries staff while also putting the building into lock-down. Peter, with the help of Anna Maria, the Living Brain, and the secret use of his spider-powers, is able to get his staff to safety, leading them to his secret door he uses when he needs to be Spider-Man. Sajani, however, has secretly slipped away from the rest of the group and manages to find Ghost. She then proceeds to make him a deal—spare everyone’s life and leave the other projects alone and she’ll tell him the fastest way to destroy Peter’s super-villain prison. Ghost compliments Sajani on her being a smart and ruthless negotiator, but tells her he doesn’t sabotage corporations for the money but because he hates them. So just as Spidey is about to come to the rescue, Ghost uses his phasing powers to stab Sajani in the chest.
STORY #2: Regina Venderkamp, the blond woman who was buying Felicia Hardy’s property at the auction last issue, is showing off the Renoir she bought and donated to a museum when the lights go out. When they come back on, the painting is gone and the words “Mine” are scratched on the wall in its place. Regina returns to her penthouse vowing revenge only to find the Black Cat has also stolen back everything Regina bought at the auction. Regina and her security team run upstairs and find Black Cat waiting for them. Using her luck powers, Black Cat takes out the guards and, with her poison-tipped dart claws, tranquilizes Regina. When Regina comes too, she’s tied-up at Black Cat’s casino in her storage room. Black Cat overlooks all of her possessions and notes there’s just one item missing. We then go to the apartment of Aunt May and Jay Jameson and see that they bought from the auction an abstract sculpture for the mantel. Yet as the couple relaxes on the sofa to watch a movie, Black Cat is outside their window, ready to break-in.
THOUGHTS: One of the aspects which has set Spider-Man apart from other superheroes is that he has one of the most in-depth and diverse supporting cast of characters in comics, many of whom whose lives seem to have just as much importance as Peter Parker himself. The women in Peter’s life both in and out of costume are especially significant, and just as he did in the last issue, Dan Slott has them be the driving force in the overall narrative. Yet just as it also was the case in the last issue, your mileage may vary when it comes to the way Slott depicts those female characters.
Take for example Anna Maria Marconi as Slott continues to show why she’s been one of the better additions to the supporting cast during his tenure. While she does play a similar role as Mary Jane Watson and (as Slott tried to do with) Carlie Cooper of being Peter’s confidant, there are notable differences when it comes to Anna Maria. First, because she was created to be Doctor Octopus’ love interest in Superior Spider-Man, Anna Maria has no romantic interest in him whatsoever; this allows for a more unique and refreshing angle in that Peter is friends and colleagues with a woman who knows his secret identity yet technically never had or sought a relationship with him. Second, Anna Maria’s method for protecting Peter’s secret identity by being upfront and honest about everything else is shown to be an effective tactic in creating “plausible deniability.” The result is not only giving Slott a running gag, but also the means to highlight Anna Maria’s intellect and ability to think fast under pressure. The only downside is it also makes Peter, at least at the beginning of the comic, come across like a bumbling fool as he tries to over-think his way into an excuse, and makes you wonder why, after all his years of being Spider-Man, he never once thought to try Anna Maria’s methods. Finally, in spite of Anna Maria’s belief that “it’s better to be transparent,” she herself is keeping secret her work on Doc Ock’s nano-tech project from Peter. Thus, instead of Peter potentially endangering and ruining friendships and relationships because of his double life, events are in motion for Anna Maria potentially ruining her friendship with Peter because she doesn’t trust him enough as he does with her. If one could award an MVP to fictional characters, it would go to Anna Maria Marconi without question.
The same however cannot be said about Slott’s other new female supporting character, Sajani Jaffrey. It’s obvious Slott wanted another foil for Peter in the mold of J. Jonah Jameson or Flash Thompson, but at least Jonah and Flash have some redeeming even admirable qualities. Sajani has none. Once again, her reasons for opposing Peter’s super-villain prison changes on a whim (this time it’s because if a villain breaks out, it makes the company “a joke”) and the result is making her come across as though she’s just looking for any excuse to badmouth Peter for no other reason than the sake of the plot and set up her eventual comeuppance–especially once Clayton Cole points out he used to be one of the “lunatic psychopaths” who Peter was willing give a second chance. Also, just like she did with the Black Cat back in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #6, she tries to strike a deal with the Ghost in helping to destroy Peter’s super-villain project under the belief it will save Parker Industries from financial ruin. With the Ghost turning down her offer and about to kill her, it’s now clear Slott has prepared Sajani all along to be undone by her own self-importance and prejudice. Yet because Slott made her so unsympathetic, the cliffhanger for the first story fails because you don’t care at all whether she lives or dies. Even what Slott does attempt to inject her with some redeemable qualities, it’s little too late. After all, was she asking Ghost to spare the lives of the other employees out of concern for their safety, or since she also wanted the projects to be spared along with them, she was more concerned about the loss of the company and her future in it?
And then there’s the continuing disintegration of the Black Cat. This time her back-up story isn’t as egregious as it was in the last issue or in her past appearances over the course of the relaunch since Slott has Felicia do what she does best: stealing valuables with style and kicking ass. Only the idea of her stealing back the very stuff she had stolen over years of being a thief makes her out to be petty because, once again, her entire motive in wanting to rebuild her life after SpOck “ruined” it wasn’t believable to begin with. Also, whatever time Slott has devoted to this Regina Vendercamp via flashbacks showing how she was jealous over Felicia comes off as a complete waste since the Black Cat takes her down with ease. Moreover, given how the cliffhanger to this Black Cat’s story has her about to break-into the home of Aunt May and Jay Jameson, it appears Slott is setting the stage for some potential tragedy involving someone Peter cares about that he’ll believe he could’ve prevented. Why else have Spidey allow for Felicia to get away way back in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #3 and #6? Why else have Aunt May and Jay buy that ugly silver centerpiece that used to belong to the Black Cat? And why else would Slott keep reiterating how Felicia’s bad luck powers become stronger the more ruthless she becomes?
I admit I’m not very good when it comes to predicting the outcome of stories, but my gut is telling me that Black Cat robbing Aunt May and Jay could result in Jay being critically wounded due to Black Cat’s bad luck powers, thus making her feel guilty because Jay will remind her of her dad, Walter Hardy, and also make Peter guilty because he let his feelings for her get in the way of stopping a criminal. This could also be the thing which helps to further precipitate the inevitable collapse of Parker Industries since Jay is one the top shareholders in the company. It would also be the last bridge connecting both stories, with the twist being that rather the Ghost and Alchemax being what brings down Parker Industries, it’s the Black Cat and her need to “steal back her life” which indirectly causes this. Though with Secret Wars on the horizon and Amazing Spider-Man to take a hiatus due to the upcomingAmazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows, the question is whether Slott will even head in this direction or, if he does, even follow it up.
As for the other villain in this issue, while the Ghost is an proper choice given his stance against corporations and, due to Humberto Ramos art, makes for a creepy visual, he felt rather pedestrian as a threat. Maybe because of him being an Iron Man he makes for a better antagonist for someone like Tony Stark than he does Peter Parker. It’s one more reason Peter being the CEO of his own company feels out-of-place and, if the solicits and covers are to be believed, why Slott and Marvel appear to be getting rid of Parker Industries.
Speaking of Ramos, my qualms about his overall style remain unchained. This time around, with the Ghost’s hijacking Peter’s own security measures for his super-villain prison against him, the story allows him to use his strengths, which is depicting action on the panel. However, due to Edgar Delgado choice of color for the “hard light smart walls,” many of the panels are portrayed in very bright but harsh oranges and reds, giving the impression that the lab was on fire and difficult to distinguish between them and any explosions on panel. What’s more, Ramos continues to display some rather baffling choices when it comes to depicting a sense of proportion as once again characters, especially Anna Maria, seem to change size and shape in each scene. There’s only so much enlarged grimaces, expanding foreheads and noses, and shriveled and spindly legs one can endure, and at this point, saying Ramos’ art distracts and takes one out of the story would feel redundant as it is self-evident.
Once again, this is a comic that’s “okay, but not great,” which also feels as though it’s killing time in-between events even though it’s intended to advance the current status quo in important ways. It’s also at a huge disadvantage in light of Secret Wars since whatever developments do result from this story we have no reassurance how many of them will stick or even be addressed in the future. Whatever happens in the next and presumably last issue of The Amazing Spider-Man when Renew Your Vows temporarily takes it’s place, it won’t result in dangling plot threads left in limbo.
- “You landed a good one, Jay.” And thus Peter in a single phrase proves he has zero taste when it comes to art or sculpture just like his step-uncle. Because it certainly doesn’t look all that attractive a centerpiece. Maybe it’s supposed to be symbolic because it looks like it has a cat-head with very large “ears,” but that could be because it used to belong to Felicia. Either that or someone is bound to get stabbed with it.
- Oh, I see what you did there, Slott and Ramos. You’ve got Spidey swinging with Anna Maria in front of a billboard with Mary Jane, and there’s a “no left turn sign” that appears to be pointing right at her under a traffic light post that appears to be in the shape of a cross? As if to say her and Peter being married is off limits, even though we’re going to have an upcoming story showing them as a married couple? How clever! Still, there’s also that other street sign with the arrow pointing directly at her and you can just make out the word “only” so maybe we’re getting some mixed messages here?
- Also, since when did MJ return to being a model? Doesn’t she have her own bar and nightclub to run?
- “Super villains break out. That’s what they do!” It’s funny how Sajani’s statement can be both correct and yet ridiculous at the same time, isn’t it? Because while, as readers, we see the correctional facilities in the Marvel Universe as a joke because the super villains do constantly break-out of them, did any of the people in the Marvel Universe actually regard those facilities as a joke like Sajani thinks will happen to Parker Industries. I don’t think anyone was laughing at Tony Stark’s Negative Zone prison during Civil War, for example.
- Oh, hello anonymous, generic security guard who we’ve just now been introduced to only to get killed off one page later. Did Sajani call you Clayton by mistake? Or was Sajani supposed to be talking with the real Clayton and apologizing for the interruption. Because the way Sajani says “Yes! Sorry, Clayton. Pressing security issue here…again…” it could have meant either one.
- Hey, Anna Maria. I know you’re a smart gal, but there’s this cutting-edge technology that’s been out on the market for a several years called a “usb drive.” Some of them are capable of storing up to hundreds of gigabytes worth of data at a time. Best of all, they’re small enough to fit inside a pocket, making them easier to hide and thus far more convenient and practical for storing whatever information you want to keep safe and out of Peter’s prying eyes than say…I don’t know…A bulky green robot!
- So if the Living Brain can bust down walls by analyzing their weak points, then doesn’t that also mean the Parker Industries staff don’t actually need to use doors, much less secret ones that are “not linked to the main system” to escape? Or better yet, why not just use his strength to pry open the doors? And what kind of supposed high-tech facility doesn’t have a manual override on their exits? Way to meet those fire and safety codes on your building there, Pete?
- “It’s the Black Cat all over again.” Yeah, and whose fault was it that the Black Cat was able to sabotage Peter’s last project ( in that instance the Electro cage), used against Parker Industries employees and endangered their lives, Sajani? Here’s a hint: look in a mirror.
- “That was the scream of someone staring death right in the face!” You mean, the scream of someone being killed, Pete? Looks like you’re having a dash of purple in your narrative prose.
- And as though we need more irony about Peter and MJ’s retconned marital status, we’ve got Aunt May’s comment about how she’s “about to give up on ever seeing [Peter] married before [she dies].” Because you know, Peter used to be married and is about to be married yet again, get it? Get it?!