So the 616 and Ultimate universes are destroyed in Secret Wars—but not before Peter’s company gets destroyed as seen on the cover of this issue. And I must say, I can’t think of a more apt metaphor for this issue of The Amazing Spider-Man than showing complete and utter wreckage on the front cover.
“The Graveyard Shift, Part Three: Trade Secrets”
“Repossession, Part Three: Nothing Left to Lose”
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: Beginning where the previous issue ended, The Ghost has phased his hand through Sajani Jaffrey’s chest, but she’s still alive, yet barely conscious. Spidey leaps at Ghost and passes through him, then uses his webbing to snag Sajani and pull her through the Ghost and to safety. Spidey also notices the security guard who Ghost ambushed is also still alive. Ghost then tosses several mini-grenades and Spidey shoves Sajani out-of-the-way just as the grenades explode. Over in Peter’s private lab where he keep all his Spidey tech, Anna Maria Marconi tells the Parker Industries staff to call for help once they get outside. The Living Brain also begins to repair itself using Doc Ock’s nanites Anna Maria stored in its body. The Living Brain also detects there are people still trapped above, so Anna Maria, along with Clayton Cole, decide to use Peter’s Spidey tech to go back inside and help, with Clayton wearing the “Big Time” Spidey suit and Anna Maria using one of SpOck’s web-shooters.
Spidey and Ghost continue to fight, with Spidey trying to get answers about who hired Ghost but to no avail. Ghost reveals, however, that he made preparations several hours before he chose to show himself and set off more bombs, causing the roof to collapse and pin Spidey under a reinforced steel beam. Ghost is about to remove Spidey’s mask, but only to be stopped by Anna Maria, Clayton, and the Living Brain. Spidey frees himself and goes off to rescue Sajani and the guard, put not before Anna Maria tosses him his backpack with a change of clothes. Outside, the Ghost is handed over to the authorities, and Peter brings Sajani and the guard to the paramedics. Sajani, however, is furious with Peter for endangering their lives and lying about still making tech for Spider-Man. Anna Maria also reveals to Peter about how she and Sajani were working on the nanotech research without his permission, and when Peter gets angry over this, Anna Maria points out how, since he himself was keeping secrets about being Spider-Man’s tech supplier that not trusting someone “cuts both ways.” Peter apologizes and promises there will be “no more secrets,” but Sajani isn’t convinced, and points out Parker Industries is still in ruins. Peter states it’s just a building and that the insurance will cover it, but the staff points out that since they’ve lost all their equipment as well, they’re back to square one.
STORY #2: Peter goes to Aunt May and Jay Jameson’s place to give them the bad news, when he sees the apartment has been ransacked and both Aunt May and Jay are gone. He also sees the sculpture they bought at the auction is also missing and remembers that it used to belong to the Black Cat. Black Cat, meanwhile, has Aunt May, Jay, and Regina Venderkamp at her penthouse with all of her valuables. Then she pours gasoline all over the floor and sets it on fire. Spidey arrives and tries to reason with Black Cat into freeing her hostages, believing that if she’s trying to reclaim her old life then maybe she’ll listen to him since he used to be a part of it. He even tells her that what she’s doing isn’t like her at all, suggesting that perhaps her luck powers is what’s making her do this. However, Black Cat tells Spidey that Spidey doesn’t know her at all, that he should rescue the hostages himself as she’s made her point—that the old Black Cat is gone, that the new Black Cat lives on her own terms, and she’ll stop anyone who gets in her way—then vanishes. Spidey gets Aunt May, Jay, and Venderkamp to safety. Spidey also tries to explain to Aunt May about Doc Ock taking over his body, but Aunt May forgives him and has no problem with Parker Industries associating themselves with him. Then the comic ends with Black Cat back at the Slide Away, telling her group of super-villains to follow her or else, and that from now on, nothing is holding her back.
THOUGHTS: There are two reoccurring themes in Spider-Man stories, the first being the familiar mantra of “with great power must also come great responsibility.” The second is guilt. Those with even a passing familiarity with Spider-Man know Peter has a tendency to blame himself when something goes wrong. Sometimes, Peter blaming himself is justified, as it reminds us readers that Peter is an imperfect, and thus very human, superhero capable of making mistakes, who takes responsibility for them and tries to make amends. Other stories supporting characters such as Aunt May, Mary Jane, and others remind Peter he really didn’t do anything wrong, and no one could have foreseen what happened. Then there are comics such as this one where everyone blames Peter for everything that’s happened—even for things which are not entirely his fault—and yet the story would have you believe that everyone blaming Peter over whatever bad things have happened are 100 percent in the right.
Such is what were to believe when it comes to the collapse of Parker Industries, or least their corporate headquarters. It was always a given that Peter, as a consequence of Otto Octavious’ actions from Superior Spider-Man, being saddled with his own company was going to result in more problems for Peter than it was worth. Time and again, it’s been suggested in previous issues Peter isn’t CEO material, and that the time he’s been spending as Spider-Man has got in the way of his managing his company and taking care of his employees. Only it’s not Peter being Spider-Man which causes the destruction of the Parker Industries building; instead, what Dan Slott and co-writer Christos Gage would have us believe is that the fault lies with Peter’s decision for his company to develop a super-villain prison, even though earlier issues have suggested this was the right thing for Peter to do.
For example, in the very first scene in which Spidey, as he’s about to rescue Sajani from the Ghost, how Sajani was right about how the super-villain prison was a bad idea because it “made Parker Industries a target for lunatics.” This is even reiterated by Sajani twice within this issue, saying how she told Peter “something like this would happen” and that “he refused to listen to her.” Except Sajani has never said anything of kind until now. Yes, she said developing a super-villain prison was a bad ideas because they were a waste of the company’s time and resources, that it was a “bad business model,” that it was “bleeding heart nonsense,” and that it pointless since super-villains always brake out of prison anyway. But not once has she ever said developing a super-villain prison was a bad idea because it made Parker Industries a target for super-villains. How can Peter blame himself for refusing to listen to Sajani’s “repeated warnings” when she never gave him such repeated warnings?
Even if we’re to accept the premise that developing a super-villain prison is a bad idea because it puts everyone at Parker Industries in danger, wouldn’t this same logic also apply to Alchemax since they, too, are also in the super-villain prison building business? They are Peter’s competition, after all. Also, one would think a company who create high-tech capture and containment devices for the apprehension and rehabilitation of super-villains being targeted by those very super-villains would actually stress the necessity for such a project. It’s even acknowledged by Anna Maria that Alchemax has something to gain by hiring the Ghost to attack Parker Industries and thus stop them from creating their own super-villain prison, so the need to develop one first should be of greater importance than ever before.
Peter also gets blamed for lying about how he no longer creates weapons and gadgets for “Spider-Man,” even though Anna Maria told him last issue how “no one bought that…not even for a minute,” even going as far as to use this as means to protect Peter’s secret identity. And are Anna Maria and Sajani at fault for not telling Peter about how they were working on Doctor Octopus’ nanotech project in secret and against his direct orders? Of course not! Their lies are depicted as being entirely justified instead of blatant hypocrisy because Peter lied to them and “endangered their lives,” so therefore two wrongs do make a right. What’s more, it’s not Sajani making this argument but Anna Maria, the one who is supposedly on Peter’s side.
As a matter of fact, it’s Anna Maria, not Peter, who we’re meant to see as the hero of this issue. Not only is she depicted by Slott and Gage as always being in the right when it comes to Peter keeping secrets, she’s the one who comes to his rescue and stops the bad guy (with the aid of yet another one of Slott’s own creations, no less). She’s the one, not Peter, who figures out the Ghost was hired by Alchemax to destroy Parker Industries. She’s the one who is behaves calm and level-headed in a crisis, and who is perfectly capable of taking charge of the situation. She’s the one who is clever enough to make believable excuses and lies for Peter even though reprimands him for his dishonesty. Some have accused Slott that, just like he did with Carlie Cooper, was running the risk of turning Anna Maria into another “creator’s pet,” a charge I didn’t take too seriously because, compared to Carlie, Anna Maria wasn’t so typecast and was also extremely likable. But with Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #18, those criticisms are now completely justified, and Slott and Gage have accomplished the unthinkable—turning one of the best new female supporting characters to come along in years into a sanctimonious “voice-of-reason” without any noticeable personality flaws who we’re always supposed to side with by default. No wonder Carlie was written out of the series at the end of Superior Spider-Man, because Anna Maria fulfills the same role, has the exact same temperament, and everything she says and does is always, always “right.”
Speaking of redundancy, we also have Felicia Hardy’s continuing spiral into melodramatic, mustache-twirling (or is it whisker-twirling) villainy as she once again places innocent people into mortal peril via an inferno like she did in Amazing Spider-Man (2014) #3, the difference being she’s the one who started it and did so deliberately. I have said this subplot of the Black Cat becoming evil was far and away the worst narrative direction Slott has taken since the relaunch. After all her ranting and raving about how Spidey “ruined her life” and how she “lost everything she had” and that she was “going to take back was rightfully hers,” what does she end up doing? She essentially says “screw it,” and literally burns up everything she ever had (and nearly kills Aunt May and Jay in the process) as a means of taking back control of her “fate,” right down the cliched “you don’t know me” speech. Thus her whole motive for becoming an evil crime boss has become void, yet Slott and Gage have her continue down the path of becoming an evil crime boss anyways, as the reader is supposed to conclude that an evil Black Cat is a liberated Black Cat. Only this isn’t an act of empowerment—it’s just flat-out stupid. Even if Spidey is correct that the reason Felicia is acting so out of character because of her bad luck powers, the Black Cat has become all but irredeemable at this point.
The only worthwhile scene out of the entire comic is when Aunt May apologizes to Spidey for having lost faith in him because of SpOck’s actions. Still, even though her about-face is justified with Spidey having just saved herself and her husband, it’s a development which still feels far too sudden. It also raises the question about why Peter doesn’t let Aunt May in on the secret again. After all, her having once known her nephew was really Spider-Man is still canon, and therefore Peter knows full well she has no problem with it and won’t die of a heart attack if she does know. With all this issue’s talk about how Peter needs to be more trusting and honest with those he cares about, the one person who he should be honest with and had no reason to lie to is his surrogate mom.
As for the art? Well, what can I say, it’s Humberto Ramos. Yes, his art style allows for more energized and kinetic panels even while his figures are inconsistent and chaotic when it comes to proportion and basic anatomy. However, in the case of this issue, Ramos visuals appear to significantly imporve as you continue through the narrative. Perhaps this is due to both Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado’s solid inking and vibrant colors respectively, particularly during the scenes at Felicia’s burning penthouse. Or it could be that one just becomes accustomed to Ramos as one reads along and you don’t notice his quirks until after one goes back and pays closer attention to his work. Whatever the reason may be, I’m not nearly as annoyed by the comic artistically as I am with the comic’s overall plot.
One other aspect about this comic which saps my overall enjoyment of it is that this is the last regular issue of The Amazing Spider-Man as we head into Secret Wars as it’s replaced by Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows for, at least, the next four months. Since we have no idea what changes will be brought about to the Marvel Universe or to Spider-Man, we also have no idea how much, if any, of what happens in this story will even be followed up upon. If this is how the current volume of The Amazing Spider-Man finishes, and if this is also the last incarnation of the 616 Spider-Man, then did this ever, to paraphrase T.S. Eliot, end with a whimper instead of a bang.
- Okay you comic book science majors, answer me this? We see the Ghost has phased his hand through an almost unconscious Sajani and appears to be holding her up in the air. Yet one panel, later he tells Spidey he’s “not touching her.” Except he wasn’t touching her, then shouldn’t Sajani already be slumped to the ground instead of appearing to be held to the point where her toes barely touch the floor?
- Also, if Ghost phasing through someone causes them to become catatonic because his energy field also “affects a heart’s electrical impulses,” then how is it that Spidey doesn’t lose consciousness when he leaps through him? Also, wouldn’t be even worse for Spidey to pull Sajani through Ghost since it was him phasing his arm through her which nearly killed her in the first place?
- Why do I get the feeling Anna Maria offhandendly giving the Living Brain’s permission to “initiate” the “upgrade potential” it found in the files on the nanites may wind up becoming a big mistake later on? Also, did anyone else notice Anna Maria’s face in one of SpOck’s wrist gauntlets and it was not a reflection? Looks like the Anna Maria AI is still in sleep mode, folks.
- So Spidey is almost knocked out by and is unable to free himself a steel beam…until the plot requires him to suddenly be conscious and free himself from a steel beam. So why do Anna Maria, Clayton, and the Living Brain need to come to his rescue again?
- “[Alchemax is] too smart to leave a trail back to them.” How so, Anna Maria? Thanks to you, the police now have Ghost in their custody, which means he can name the people who hired him. Even Spidey suggested the cops could cut a deal with Ghost for doing just that. All they have to do is show Ghost a bunch of photos of Alchemax employees, tell him “We’ll reduce your sentence if you point to hired you, and besides you get to punish another big bad company,” and bingo! He identifies Tiberius Stone and Mark Raxton. There’s your trail to Alchemax right there.
- “That’s just a building. It’s not Parker Industries is a company, an idea. It’s us.” So I guess Peter is saying corporations are people, then? And here I thought when the Ghost said it, he was mocking some laughable slogan made by pro-big business, pro-one percent, anti-government regulation politicians. I guess this also must mean Peter Parker voted for Mitt Romney in the last Presidential election.
- So Peter recognized the statue Aunt May and Jay bought because he’s seen it during all those time he and Felicia made out at her penthouse. Except they never did make out at her penthouse. They kept breaking into hotel rooms during their whole “masks on friends with benefits” phase, remember? And speaking of which…
- Felicia, your “collection” which you spent “a lifetime acquiring” and then decided to burn up doesn’t belong to you either. It’s all stolen property. Or bought and paid with money you stole. And since Aunt May, Jay, and the Venderkamp woman legally bought and paid for “your things,” they have more of claim to it that you. I guess we can also add “destruction of property” along with theft, kidnapping, arson, and attempted murder among your list of crimes, then.
- Aunt May warns Spidey, “Be careful! That woman’s still in here somewhere.” One panel later, Spidey looks at and directly addresses Black Cat who is standing amid the flames across the room. Which I guess means the smoke from the fire isn’t nearly as thick if Spidey is able to find Black Cat by sight, and Aunt May needs some serious glasses.
- “Boys, in the brief time you followed me, you’ve seen the results.” And what results were those exactly? You taking over a casino from a D-list villain? The blowing up of Parker Industries Electro trap, which not only cured Electro but lead to his capture? You stealing back all your stuff and destroying it along with your penthouse? Oh yeah, I can totally see why a bunch of small-time super-villains can easily get behind you.