Alford Notes: Amazing Spider-Man #1.3


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Amazing Grace Part Three: Dangers, Toils, and Snares

O.K., maybe in my first review for this arc I was a bit…harsh.  I’m prepared to believe that each issue stands on its own, just like one bad hole of golf doesn’t determine the whole game.  So I’m writing this blurb the night before the comic comes out.  Is my faith well placed?  Is my heart just hardened by cynicism?  Let’s find out!

The blurb for this issue provide by our merry friends at Marvel is:

The plot thickens as Spidey’s investigation into a newly resurrected Harlem man takes him into terrifying territory! The Santerians are Spider-Man’s guides and the journey will take them far from Harlem before the mystery is solved!

Let’s see:

  1. thicker plot
  2. terrifying territory (alliteration!)
  3. more Santerians
  4. not one, but two exclamation points!

Alright!  I’m psyched!  Let’s do this thing!

 

 

The Devil in the Details

Writer: Jose Molina
Artist: Simone Bianchi
Colorist: Israel Silva and Java Tartaglia
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover Artist: Simone Bianchi
Editor: Nick Lowe
Published: Feb. 24, 2016

 

The Story – Pay Attention, This Will Be on the Test

asm1-3 unclebenQuick recap – Julio Rodriguez was killed, buried , and rose again.  Spider-Man wants to know why, runs into some not really voodoo group named the Santerians who reveal that the answer lies with a witch doctor in Cuba, Spider-Man makes his way there and is attacked by crabs and sees Uncle Ben.

“Everything you have been taught is wrong.”  This is the lead off statement to get us ready for what is to come.  Spider-Man does not believe it is really Uncle Ben, even after Ben calls him “Peter” and says, “I forgive you Peter.”

Switch back to Harlem where the Santerians set fire to Rodriguez’s apartment and whisk him away so that they can do a Q-tip swab of his mouth.   We see that Julio knows the Santerians, is concerned how much they know about his miraculous resurrection, and we learn that he knows more than he is letting on. Turns out the fire was magical and didn’t actually damage anything (except a lamp).  

Back to Cuba – Uncle Ben keeps trying to engage in a theological discussion with Peter who keeps being snotty to him.  Uncle Ben, in order to prove that he will always look after Peter, sews up a rip on the arm of Peter’s costume and disappears.  Spider-Man finds himself outside and realizes that it’s all been in his head.  Luckily he doesn’t say anything revealing and we can assume that nobody else heard Uncle Ben’s remarks.  Spidey beats up all the witch doctor goons, makes a pop culture reference, and realizes that his costume is stitched up (cue Twilight Zone music).

asm1-3 chan

Back to Harlem – Spider-Man confronts the Santerians and they try to convince him it is a miracle.  “So how does an ordinary man come back from the dead?” Spidey only answers “I don’t know”  (gee, how about deal with the devil?).  Spidey takes the Q-tip and heads over to see Beast who is hanging out with the Inhumans for some reason that I am sure would make sense if I cared about the Inhumans.  Beast and Spider-Man have another theological discussion.  BEast discovers that Julio is not human.  Meanwhile, Julio kills an old man with the kiss of death.  I thought the old man’s name was Viejo, but turns out that it is Spanish for ‘old  man’.  Hey, Dora the Explorer never used that word and that is the extent of my knowledge of Spanish.

What Passed

This issue is better  than the previous.  There are no glaring miscues (like swinging from planes).

Seeing Spider-Man choke lift Uncle Ben, even a hallucination version that I can’t recognize, was pretty powerful.

I liked the Jackie Chan style fight move where Spider-Man webs some chairs and swings them as weapons.

asm1-3webbing

The art is a tough one.  At times it is good.  I particularly like Simone’s tactic of having Spider-Man breaking the panel borders.  It makes the action more dynamic.  I also like Simone’s way of drawing webs.  McFarlane may be the one credited with “spaghetti webbing”, but Simone’s really does look like spaghetti.  I wouldn’t want it as my main stream webbing, but I think it works well.

There are a few well made quips in here, like when Spidey calls Beast “Brainy Smurf”.

And of course, I am a sucker for Shakespeare quotes.  The Santerians quote Hamlet and Spider-man responds with a quote of his own.  You better believe this panel will make my class web site:

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By the way, that quote is from Shakepeare’s anti-semitic gem The Merchant of Venice.

What Failed

asm1-3 inconsistentLet’s start with the cover.  How in any stretch of the imagination can Spidey have his leg like that.  I missed the part in the comic where Spider-Man completely breaks his leg and valiantly swings on while it flops about.  And don’t try to tell me it is just how flexible he is.  That leg is just wrong.

Let’s discuss the religion in this comic.  Now Peter has never been shown as holy roller going to church every time the doors are open type of guy, and you might would expect a scientist to be skeptical of unexplained miracles.  However, Peter goes beyond skeptical and is downright disrespectful toward religion.  He makes a creationist joke, doubts the afterlife, argues with Beast for even entertaining the thought of a divine being.  It is a stance that Peter has not taken in…..ever.  In fact, in The Infinity Crusade, he is picked as one of the 33 most religious superheroes in the Marvel Universe.  In JMS’s run, Peter prays quite a few times.  Even in the Ultimate universe, Peter expresses a belief in God, not a die hard “Save me Jesus!” belief, but a belief nonetheless.  So this utter disdain for religion seems quite out of place.  However, if consider that this is the Peter that is post-deal-with-the-devil, maybe his soul now just can’t take God anymore.  

The Santerians.  Why are they here?  They really seem to play no role in this story other than to give it a mystical feel and to pass on Q-tips.  I have no real understanding of what their end game it and we are three issues in already.

The art – way inconsistent.  I would  have thought that two or three pencilers worked on this book.  Take a look at the three panels to the left.  In each panel we see Julio Rodriuez, but if you didn’t have word balloons, it would be hard to know this.  In the last two panels you also see the same old man, but they look nothing alike.  I find myself constantly going back to make sure I am understanding what I am reading because the art is not giving me the cues I need.  

At times the Beast looks more like a blue ape and Spider-Man’s costume looks quilted (I keep envisioning the Shocker handing Spidey his card and saying, “You know, I could help you with your costume design…”).

Extra Credit

Uncle Ben gets extra credit in the following exchange:

Uncle Ben: But with great power…

Peter: Comes great responsibility, I know.

Uncle Ben: Great responsibility? Who said that?  That’s good.  I’m going to use that.

It is quite funny, so I’ll overlook the fact that it should be must come great responsibility.

If you want to learn more about Peter’s religious beliefs, try out this site: http://www.adherents.com/lit/comics/SpiderMan.html

 

Final Grade

Well, it is getting better.  Nice fight scenes, no chickens.  But I’m not completely sold yet.  I’m not hanging up my optimism and am not cringing for next month’s issue like I was after 1.2.  Better, but with room for improvement:

D+

What’s Next

More awkward poses!

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(11) Comments

  1. Tommy

    Ditto to what you all said, but I'll mention another salient point: The One Above All. Hell, Peter's monologue in Spider-Man #17 before ascending to the afterlife to face Thanos, or his out of body experience during Web of Death (Amazing Spider-Man #397 & Spectacular Spider-Man #221). Yes, Peter, by will of Joe Quesada, ignored TOAA, so everything I say will be rendered moot. Nevertheless. The eff? It reminds me of those instances of Peter fighting Drac-u-freakin'-la and still being dubious of vampires in later stories.

  2. Gex

    I feel exactly the same way with this story, great review. I was particularly upset that this writer turn peter into one of those stereotypical neckbeards you see on the internet. It seriously just shows that Jose doesn't know squat on who he is writing about, and has very militant views. It's disgusting. Looks like the only Spider man comic I'll ever buy is that crossover with deadpool.

  3. krankyboy

    @3 - Good Lord, no. I'd much rather dump Miles Morales -- who has been an overpowered, boring, and unnecessary character from day one -- and get a better writer who truly understands Peter Parker (otherwise known as the real Spider-Man) on Amazing Spider-Man. Just get rid of all the insufferable dreck (i.e. the knock-off and race replacement characters -- black Spider-Men and future Spider-Men and Spider-Women) that have de-uniqued the greatest hero in the Marvel universe. Then give Peter to someone who knows what to do with him. There is nothing wrong with Peter Parker as a character. There is a lot wrong with the people who have been writing him and the editors running Marvel.

  4. Neil Bogenrieder

    @7- Arguably, the Transformers comics from IDW... that may sound a little weird. So in 2012, the Transformers comics ended their main title and split it into two titles: More Than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise (RiD would later be rebranded as The Transformers) and were linked by a single story called "The Death of Optimus Prime." In it, the war between Autobots and Decepticons is over, and the planet's populace isn't happy with the new Autobot government. And therefore, the Autobots split. One team, led by Rodimus, is our team of conservatives, wanting Cybertron restored to the old ways, and another team, led by Bumblebee, are our liberals, trying to create a government which can contain Autobots, Decepticons and neutrals and still maintain peace. The political dilemna actually works here given the shambles that the Cybertronian race is in, and both factions are determined to prove the other wrong, and doesn't make the other side evil. In fact, the morality of all of the characters is rather skewed, and their own personal beliefs don't even feel forced. I dunno. Maybe in the current pit that Spider-Man has dug itself, I've found a comic that, somehow, has robots be more relatable than Spider-Man.

  5. Mark Alford - Post author

    @#4 - Thanks! That makes a lot more sense if there was a second artist. I kept flipping back and forth to make sure I didn't miss something. I didn't look at the cover for more credits. Won't make that mistake next time. @ The rest - I'm glad to hear that you guys feel the same way. I didn't feel like I was, but I wondered if maybe I was being too sensitive. It just felt forced and OOC. I have no problems with politics and religion being a part of a story if it is part of that character's core being, but it can be done in a way that doesn't alienate half of the audience. Can anyone think of a story where the character's religious of political views work?

  6. PeterParkerfan

    Yeah, all this religion stuff should stay OUT of comic books. Especially Superhero comic books. @3 & @2 Try reading Robbie Thompson's SPIDEY.

  7. Al

    @#3: It's more than doable to fix Peter Parker without rebooting his continuity. Also as I've said elsewhere this story is asinine for discussion religion in this way. I think we've clearly demonstrated over the years Peter isn't an atheist and he clearly isn't a Conservative person politically speaking and both of those are realistic to when/where he grew up, how he was raised etc, but Marvel wisely never went a head as said "He's a hard Leftist and a Catholic". They made him generic enough for yo to get the general impression he's probably more liberally minded and has a monotheistic religious belief but never took it beyond that. Although Judas traveller probably was Jesus BFF the actual Judas

  8. Stillanerd

    Hey Mark--Figured I take the time to say you're doing a great job on the Amazing Spider-Man reviews. Second, regarding your confusion about the inconsistency of the art, there's another reason for the confusion. You wondered about whether or not there are two or three different artists working on this comic? That's because there may actually be two different artists. As you noted, the Rodriguez family during the house fire appear to be in a complete different art style than the rest of the issue. Well, take a look at the front cover which lists the main creators who worked on the comic. Notice it list "Bermudez" as one of the creators, which may or not be Raymund Bermudez. However, in the credits page, "Bermudez" is nowhere to be listed as an artist, inker, or colorist. Which means if he's the secondary fill-in artist in this issue, somebody in the Spider-Man office at Marvel forgot to list his name in the credits. Thought I point this out.

  9. Mike Murdock

    I'm not buying Amazing Spider-Man anymore and I'll never be convinced to again. I'm 110% behind Miles Morales. Parker is RUINED as a character and nothing short of an ultimate style reboot will fix him. And that's the LAST thing I want. i would rather just HATE Peter Parker and HATE the Amazing Spider-Man than to sacrifice Miles Morales-last bastion of hope in the Spider-Verse.

  10. DXD

    I personally found the snarky comments about religion off-putting, and agree that either way it doesn't belong in a spider-man comic book. To me it comes across like the writer is pushing their own agenda/beliefs. Peter to me represents the every man and this really divides and alienates a segment of your reading audience. I actually did enjoy the artwork in the series though...thought it looked interesting and different. As far as the character overall I wish we could just get back to some classic Spidey stories...just old fashioned Spidey taking on Electro, Doc Ock, Vulture etc.

  11. Bill

    Nice review. One thing particularly stuck out to me, and that is the religious stuff. They say to remain friends with someone you should never discuss religion or politics. And I strongly believe that holds true for superhero comics as well. 1. First of all it's unnecessary. We don't need to know Spider-Man's, or Daredevil's, or The Thing's, or Batman's, or Nightcrawler's religion (or their political leanings) in order to enjoy their adventures. 2. Second, it is exclusionary and divisive. Spider-Man (and others) belong to everyone, and to assign them a certain political or religious designation automatically alienates a portion of the reading public. Leave that stuff out of our comics!!! 3. And thirdly, it is nothing more than a selfish attempt by the writer to exploit his/her own beliefs and foist them on others through a beloved and influential character. So, I think as a general rule, iconic superheroes like Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, and others should remain neutral on the subject of religion and politics. That way the reader can project their own beliefs on the character, and not have someone else's ideals shoved down their throat at the expense of their favorite superhero.

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