“This is the nuttiest thing you’ve ever done!”
Mary Jane’s face on the standard cover is the most punchable I’ve seen in awhile. And I work on the Internet.
The Amazing Spider-Man (2015) #15
“Power Play (Convolution-I-Mean-)Conclusion: Suit Yourself”
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Giuseppe Camuncoli
Inker: Cam Smith
Colorist: Marte Gracia
Editor: Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis
At Avengers HQ, MJ and Jarvis watch Spider-Man and Iron Man get their tushies kicked by Regent. (Hail to the King, baby!) MJ, in a sudden lapse of logic, decides to let Camuncoli draw her having a heart attack and grabs the Iron Spider costume out of one of the crates shipped over from Stark Tower. (First off, what the hell was with MJ’s face there? Second, I don’t watch Game of Thrones. Make jokes that everybody can understand, Slott. Third, as I learned from other people who have watched Game of Thrones, that joke doesn’t even make sense in the context given. So boo on you, Slott.) In the Cellar, Harry breaks free of unit meant to contain Thor with sonic waves. (That somehow don’t shatter the glass on the other tubes? Consistency, it’s a word Slott covered with more black ink than an opinion that doesn’t match his.) Harry runs away, sending a distress call, which Spidey receives, and proceeds to pound on his bubble to distract Regent so MJ!Iron Spider can take him by surprise. (I’m pretty sure the Spider-Sense can detect more than one incoming threat. And this writer claims to “get” Spider-Man.)
Peter, MJ and Regent all happen to faintly remember Secret Wars (Hey, Dan! Remember when you used to write good stories? Your characters do!) and Tony tells Peter to get Harry while he and MJ take care of Regent. (Marvel Team Up! Iron Spider and Iron Man, featuring the Amazing Spider-Man!) As Harry is saved by Spider-Man (Holy crap, Spider-Man saves people! I thought all he did was fight other heroes because of his fragile ego!), they also free Miles, who proceeds to take out Doc Stilwell with his deus-ex-machisting. (So is she related to the other Stillwells? I want answers, comic! Also, I see she’s acquired the rocket boots from Star Trek V! Will we be seeing the floor numbers break euclidean geometry?) Afterwards, Spidey sics the rest of the Marvel Universe on Regent. (Oh my God, Renew Your Vows, Slott! You can do better!)
At the end, we see Peter and Tony locking Regent away in his own prison (Oh, the irony!) and Peter tells Tony he can have MJ. (Peter treating MJ like she’s a valuable trading card. Either Slott’s trying to make Peter as unlikable as possible, or he forgot how to treat women like people.) Peter gathers all of his friends for a night out at the Coffee Bean, (Ew, something from BND! Kill it now!) while MJ gets a raise from Tony, while Slott teases us with Peter and MJ going out together. (R. Y. V. Slott. Never forget.) And so our story ends with Jay coughing up blood and collapsing. (Time for General Hospital! Boom!)
Okay, well… it was better than the first two issues of Power Play?
Not that it’s much of a compliment. This series has been plagued by bad art, bad jokes, and just all-around bad writing. It’s hard to believe that nearly a year ago, we had Renew Your Vows, a story that, in general, was a well-written tale of a married Peter Parker who was able to put his family as his primary responsibility. That was a story worth enjoying, and I will give Slott credit for that story.
However, since then, he has earned zero credit since he began writing Amazing Spider-Man vol 4.
Let’s start with the one or two pros the issue has going for it. The art is all around a massive improvement, especially since Camuncoli has to only draw faces for a few of the pages. However, those same faces from the last three issues come back to haunt us. Once again, because the majority of the issue there are no issues, I can say that the art is… passable, mostly because the action feels very static and nonflowing, and this especially hurts for a character as mobile as Spider-Man.
I think for a time, Slott should do a Peter Parker and put Camuncoli on the back burner for an extended period. I know what Slott’s trying to do; portray Amazing Spider-Man with a sense of realism that Camuncoli has been proven to provide. However, in recent issues, Camuncoli has become more cartoony and delved into art that can be classified as Uncanny Valley material. And it’s sad because there are plenty of artists at Marvel (Joey Vazquez and Stefano Casseli, out of a good number of artists) that can do the job that Camuncoli is supposed to be doing, and return the art of the story to its proper glory.
I still haven’t gotten over Camuncoli’s practically zombie MJ. A look into those eyes and the life just gets sucked out of you.
The other pro is that the story wraps itself up cleanly, if a bit forcefully, and does clean up all the Regent plot points before we get Dead No More. (I dunno, the book’s been dead for a while, I doubt another event will fix it) That said, the issue is stretched out over an unfathomably long reading time. The fight scene could have been compressed a bit more and we still would have gotten a proper effect.
The dialogue is probably the central problem, as it leaks into the rest of the story and infects it with problems. Let’s be blunt: the dialogue sucks. It’s always hamfisted and crammed down our throats. This may have been acceptable in the mid-60s, but modern dialogue is a lot more realistic as compared to the stilted dialogue of what I’m supposing Dan Slott is making a callback to. Characters state the obvious and aren’t subtle at all, particularly Aunt May regarding Bobbi. (“She’s lovely! And not wearing a wedding ring!”) It just feels like the dialogue only exists to fuel Slott’s narrative rather than tell a cohesive and intriguing story.
Regent has also been reduced to just a stereotypical, monologuing bad guy who has no sense of character aside from “Look, we’re hot off the heels of Civil War so let’s make a villain that’s similar to Helmut Zemo!” It smells of Slott simply using the movies as a way to reinforce that he’s “hip” and can make his characters “sympathetic”, but the laughable way he just gives up and his utterly hilariously bad dialogue gives me the impression that Slott did not think of any character traits besides “his family died and he’s sad” when drafting the script.
I’m going to tell you guys something that a lot of us here at the Crawlspace have pointed out Ad Nauseum. Peter Parker is now a secondary character in his own book. There is now no arc for him to develop as a character, and every nod to the original cast feels forced in. Worst of all, Spider-Man suffers zero consequences, as though he can get away with embarrassing his protege and walk away scot-free. One minute, he and Iron Man and shooting each other on the side of the street, and the next they’re just shaking hands and talking about MJ like she’s a baseball card. By the end of this issue, Peter does jack besides play a lame quip or song-of-the-week, and hides away while the other superheroes do the heavy lifting.
Ultimately, however, my main gripe comes down to the way Slott handles Peter and MJ in this issue.
Slott continually treats Peter and Mary Jane as though they can never be together, lest the characters become stale and have a happily ever after. Except that, in real life, something Spider-Man is supposed to parallel, marriage doesn’t work that way. There are dozens of challenges to overcome, from finances to work-related stress to even divorce. Like you guys, Spider-Man got married and was slated to have kids. But the writers decided that it would age Spider-Man. And you know what? They should have aged Spider-Man. We as an audience are supposed to grow with Spider-Man, and those who did grow up alongside Spider-Man probably did have kids. The only reason Joe Quesada wrote One More Day was because they weren’t the kind of stories he grew up with, what with love triangles abound. But Quesada failed to realize that his childhood wasn’t around anymore, and that Peter Parker had matured past those love triangles and had a new responsibility: family. A new generation would love to see how Peter and MJ fared as a married couple. I certainly did; I would know, I’m of the most recent generation. I don’t need to be married or even old enough to marry to understand how hard life can be and how important it is to overcome the challenges in later life. Right now, the return of Peter’s marriage is tipping in the wind, and Dan Slott is, unfortunately, the hand on the trigger. And by reinforcing that MJ should no longer belong in Peter’s life, but in Tony’s, Slott is therefore reinforcing the idea that Spider-Man is no longer relatable to an older audience that has grown up with the character. And that should not be a problem, but in this book’s case, it is the biggest.
When I look at this book, I see a lot of potential for amazing story-telling, expanding on Spider-Man’s character, and seeing him grow alongside those who have been reading his stories since the 1960s and 70s. But when I read it, bad art, hammy dialogue, weak characters and all, my mind instantly shuts down and I feel no sense of joy or awe at how Spidey overcomes his challenges. I want to see it do better, but with this current creative team, I can’t ever see that happening. And that, the loss of a sense of wonder regarding Spider-Man’s growth as a person, is perhaps the worst offense it can commit.
Final Grade: D-