Alford Notes: Amazing Spider-Man #17: Before Dead No More – The Spark of Life

ASM17-CoverWow! The plot progresses and questions are answered (of course leaving new questions to replace them).  This comic has everything you’d want in a Spider-Man comic – action, intrigue, down to earth setting, and good jokes.  Well, except Spider-Man and his supporting cast, which really makes grading this difficult.


The Devil in the Details

Writer: Dan Slott

Penciler: R. B. Silva

Inker: Adriano di Benedetto

Colorist: Marte Gracia

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramanga

Cover Artist: Alex Ross

Editor: Nick Lowe

Published: August 31, 2016

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

This comic goes back to fill in the gaps from some previous issues.  First we see Francine Frye get, well, fried by Electro and her subsequent resurrection.  The Jackal tells her that they are the good guys and that she will work for them now, especially since she will need a pill every day to stay alive.


Hobie is out doing some Spider-Man work on the West Coast so that people will not put together that Peter is the real Spider-Man.


What was Hobie’s job before becoming the Prowler?

a. news reporter

b. professional gambler

c. window washer

d. fire fighter


CIick the image to see the answer.


Peter sends Hobie on a reconnaissance mission to find out more about New U (this is right before the warehouse fire in the last issue).  Hobie easily infiltrates the New U building and stumbles into the main room and sees the Jackal, the Lizard, and Electro.  The Jackal’s attempt to give Electro his powers back fail, but unexpectedly, Francine begins to absorb the electrical powers.  This is because she has some of Max’s DNA on her cheek which was used to clone her.  She kills Max while sucking out all of his power and Hobie is too late to save him (that Lizard tail is no joke!).  He runs off to tell Peter, but before he gets too far, the new Electro fights him and kills him.  The Jackal is very upset (he keeps saying that he is a good guy now), so he clones Hobie and uses Clobie to put Peter off his trail.


I bet Clobie’s glad that his goatee is a part of his DNA – plus the cloning process helped to thicken it up quite a bit on the edges.

What Passed:

Pretty much everything.

The art – Silva and Benedetto are a fantastic team.  Based on this issue, I would gladly take them as the regular team from now on.  Nice panel lay outs, too.  Some interesting circle panels going on.

Hobie’s costume – I like the spider on his chest.  I wouldn’t want it for Peter’s costume, but it gives us a nice change between the two.

The words – from dialogue to caption boxes, most of the words were well placed.  For instance, the comic starts with (re)introducing Francine Frye.  She makes the statement on the first page, “I collect supervillains.”  That’s intriguing enough for me to want to know more about this character.

The quips – funny and not over explained.  This is Slott humor at its best.  Even the Pokemon Go reference was well done.  The first one was funny.  The second one, when Hobie distracted the guard by saying there was a Mewtwo behind him may have been a bit much, but then again, I figured if some of my students were in the 616 universe, they might would end up working security for a company like this after they graduate, and well, looking behind you for a Pokemon seems about right.


Plot progression – more on this in the analysis section, but Slott really moves the concept forward and answers some of the speculation, while of course adding new questions to replace them.

The Prowler story – AWESOME!  I’ve never been a Prowler fan before, but I want to see more of him now.  He uses his equipment to break in the office building in a clever fashion and I really enjoyed how he used the temperature control on his suit to shut down the Lizard.  Let’s put Slott on a Prowler mini-series.  I don’t care for his Spidey, but his Prowler in this issue was perfect (IMO).


Don’t you know? The new Electro! – I think we’ll see some good stories from the Francine version of Electro.  She’s reckless and quick to use her powers at full strength.  She loves being the villain.  It will breathe new life into this character.

The cliffhanger – Holy Moly!  Hobie now a clone?  Hobie now working for the Jackal?  Wow!  You can see by the look on his face that he just realized his dilemma.

And of course, we have our OOTI (onomatopoeia of the issue):



On a scale of 1 (POW) to 10 (BLRKBQRKPQRBLNB), this rates a 7.


What Failed:

spideycomicWell, I did think the cover said this was an Amazing Spider-Man issue.  I must have been mistaken because the real SPIDER-MAN DOESN’T MAKE AN APPEARANCE IN THIS BOOK.  Peter Parker appears in just nine panels (and one of those is just is wrist).  That’s only 8.37% of this book!  You know who else appears nine times?  Martha Connors!  But sadly, that is the charm of this book.  Without Spider-Man being in this book, I don’t have all the baggage that usually brings this book down.  That’s sad to say, but it is what it is.  I try hard each issue to get past the mischaracterization of my favorite hero, but in this issue, I didn’t have to.

Plus, death is going to be coming fast and furious at us with this story-line and that is going to be a problem.  Deaths, especially of an established character, need to be meaningful.  With the quick death of Hobie and the undeathing (sure it’s a word – I’m a teacher, you can trust me) of others, we run the risk of losing what makes death special (*shameless plug – just see the latest Cobwebs post).  But, good writers know when to break the rules, so maybe…

Also, the caption in this panel is confusing:


Who is saying this?  The art and surrounding panels implies that it is Francine, but nothing else in the comic leads me to think she would have this thought.  Weird.

Analysis –

We get some more information about what is going on here.  The recap page specifically calls the man in red the Jackal.  So it seems that this is actually supposed to be Miles Warren, but he is so far away from the previous iterations of him, that I’m thinking he’s still got to be someone different.  Maybe a clone of the Jackal seeking to make amends for the misdeeds of his former self?  He is really keen on promoting to himself and others that he is the good guy.  Sure, he still kills people, but in this issue, it seems that he really believes that he is doing the right thing.  Hobie sure believes it after checking out the place.  So how does the Gwen Stacy that we saw on FCBD fit into all of this?


O.K., I was wrong in my theory that the U in New U stood for ‘universe’.  Apparently they are cloning after all.  Since Electro had kissed Francine in the cheek before killing her, that DNA got mixed with hers when they cloned her, so cloning it is.  This still leaves the unanswered question of why Spider-Man’s spider-sense went off last issue when they saved the factory worker (presumably by cloning him, or at least some of his organs).

Hobie having to stay alive by taking a pill really compromises him.  I feel that he would rather die than to join the Jackal.  That means that whatever the Jackal showed him, he really believes is for the good of all.

We also get to see more of Peter and Hobie’s relationship.  Apparently Hobie does NOT know that Peter is Spider-Man (spoiler alert).  Maybe I missed that earlier, but I assumed that since he was donning the mask, he knew the deal.

Extra Credit:

Spot and correct the grammar error in this panel:


Final Grade:

This is difficult.  What standard is used to grade a comic?  Is this enjoyable?  Yes.  Does this move the plot in a satisfactory way?  Yes.  Was I happy that I read this comic.  Yes.  Does it represent Spider-Man well?  No – but it doesn’t do harm to the character either.  In fact, the main selling point in this comic is that I didn’t have to deal with the current Peter Parker/Spider-Man and all the problems it brings with it.   I’m really stumped by this.  In the end, while I would not put this on any essential Spider-Man reading list, it was a really enjoyable comic.  I leave it thinking that Slott would write a great Prowler limited series and I am excited for the next one to come.


Will you disagree with it?  Maybe.  I decided in the end, the enjoyment factor of a comic trumps most everything else.  My son vehemently disagrees with my logic.  He says that a Spider-Manless Spider-Man comic cannot have over an F.  He says my job is not to grade comics, but to grade Spider-Man comics.  He goes as far as saying that BD should take me off this review gig if I leave it as an A.  Hopefully BD has more faith in me than my own flesh and blood.  I know my students probably wish I was as easy with their grades and I am with these….

Your Turn:

What grade do YOU give it?


What’s Next?


BEFORE “DEAD NO MORE” marches you closer to the Spider-Event of 2016.


Doc Ock has been trapped in the body of The Living Brain since the first issue, but now it’s time for him to act!

I got to say that next issue looks good too!  This is the first ASM I’ve looked forward to in a long time!


‘Nuff Said!

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