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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(24) Comments

  1. Mark Alford

    @ Al part 2 - would you be happier if Hobie is not really dead? I put out in my review a comment on his goatee, but I didn't flesh it out (one of the problems with trying to put out the review the day of). When Hobie is cloned, he has a goatee - perfectly trimmed and all. Normally I would chalk it up to just someone not thinking it out, but they went through a lot of pains to mention that Francine does not have her tats and piercings, so it seems a bit odd that they would then overlook look Hobie's goatee. So here is a possible theory: Hobie didn't die, or at least not yet. The Jackal was able to use New U tech to heal him. I think the possibility is here that they have this technology. Remember that Peter is given the process that they would use to heal Jameson Sr. Obviously the process didn't involve killing and replacing with a clone. Peter looks this process over in great detail. Jameson Jr. has people look it over in great detail. Could it be that they used the process to heal Hobie and they are telling him he is a clone in order to better control him? The other idea is that he may be a clone here, but the real Prowler is still barely alive and in some stasis chamber. I mention this because I believe (but am not sure) that I saw a preview cover for the new Prowler series that showed two Prowlers fighting.If either one of these scenarios are true, would that redeem this issue some in your eyes? I'll throw that question out to anyone who did not like the issue.

  2. Mark Alford

    @ Al - I was wondering were you were! I figured you would not agree with my assessment on this particular story and was waiting for the scolding. I completely understand your disagreements, but allow me to explain why I am able to overlook them for this particular issue:"There is a lot of criteria involved in evaluating a comic book story critically. Enjoyment is part of it but at the same time the nature of Spider-Man means there has to be a consideration for the wider mythology as it exists and for as it can exist."The enjoyment value of a comic for me is a huge, but not not the only, criteria. It is also not isolated from the wider mythology. Often, when the story contradicts the wider mythology, it takes away so much that I cannot enjoy it. That is why most of my reviews have been Cs or lower. However, I agree with Peter David in an interview he did with the podcast several years back that we shouldn't be afraid to break the tradition in order to pursue new stories. Breaking the tradition is what enables the mythology to grow. Peter graduates high school. Peter graduates college. Peter gets married (or at least made some serious commitment to a girl with gas). These things all broke the established tradition and yet they became later a part of the mythology. And some (like the marriage) have always been controversial because people have a hard time deciding on if the breaking of the tradition was worth it.Now, let me go back and say that this issue is in NO WAY COMPARABLE to the event listed above. I'm just using those to establish that I can be O.K. with breaking the tradition in order to pursue a story. If the story is enjoyable enough, then the break in mythology can be worth it. Doc Ock was Spidey for a whole year. Was it worth it? I think so, even if I feel that the follow up to it wasn't as good as it should have been."It’s for the latter reasons that this story is F worthy because Slott just unceremoniously murdered two classic Lee/Ditko/Romita/Romita Junior characters and replaced them with a clone and a nobody character. Bye Electro, thanks for that great 1990s story which made you a dark reflection of Peter. Now we get fun stories with this new character = super villain fetish and body art. WHAT AN IMPROVEMENT! "Is Electro sacred just because he was created by Lee? I don't know if I agree that he has the untouchable status. Electro stories, to me at least, are not usually ground breaking. I think his Sin Eater and his 1990s run are exceptions. Am I sad to see him go? Not in the least. Is Frye a good replacement? That remains to be seen. I like the potential for her in the short run. I like how they could not put him back after Peter fixed him. THat builds up Peter's scientific ability. I also do not believe that his death was quick and out of the blue. Electro's story has just been spread thin over the last year, with his powers being out of control, to the murder of Frye, to the capture and removal of his powers by Peter, to the release and attempt to restore by Jackal. This has been a long and involved end for Electro and I think if you are going to kill a Lee villain, he had a nice long ending. However, some of that gets lost in the sheer amount of issues it is spread over.Now Prowler, O.K. We really should have gotten more from him. Slott wrote him so well this issue up to his death. I really had no feelings for Hobie until this issue and I was disappointed to see him die so quickly at the hands of a novice (but a novice who does wield tremendous power). The death was to show how out of control this new Electro is, but I can agree that she could have killed someone else to show this. Is the death of the Prowler warranted here? Maybe not, but that will be fleshed out in issues to come." then we get Warren and Peter being OOC and bullshit DNA science on top of it (there is no way the garbage about Electro’s saliva makes any sense)."Well, it makes as much sense as the Jackal being able to clone their memories too. And that the Jackal can clone people so quickly. And that getting bit by a spider can give you powers. And so on. In fact, the DNA from the saliva makes as much sense as any other science we usually get in comics.So I feel that these breaks in the mythology COULD be worth it. That is for this story arc to to decide. I do not have high hopes that Slott will be able to finish this to my satisfaction, but for me, this one issue was fun to read and gives me some hope for the next few issues.

  3. Al

    Alford I have to disagree with you a whol Hell of a lot. There is a lot of criteria involved in evaluating a comic book story critically. Enjoyment is part of it but at the same time the nature of Spider-Man means there has to be a consideration for the wider mythology as it exists and for as it can exist.It’s for the latter reasons that this story is F worthy because Slott just unceremoniously murdered two classic Lee/Ditko/Romita/Romita Junior characters and replaced them with a clone and a nobody character. Bye Electro, thanks for that great 1990s story which made you a dark reflection of Peter. Now we get fun stories with this new character = super villain fetish and body art. WHAT AN IMPROVEMENT!And thank you Slott for reviving the Prowler from obscurity just so he can die and get replaced by a clone the thing everyone loathed about the 1990s storyline you yourself hold in low esteem but will still mine for ideas because what’s hypocrisy?Electro and Prowler are gone and it was a weaksauce exit for them.That alone is enough to destroy the value of this comic but then we get Warren and Peter being OOC and bullshit DNA science on top of it (there is no way the garbage about Electro’s saliva makes any sense).

  4. Mohammed

    @Mark AlfordYeah that surprised me to, but we shouldn't get use i, something tells me we'll be getting back to the normal agree to disagree situation on the book when the next issue comes around.and you're welcome for the boost.I'll say this again, How bad can the state of a book be, when it's more enjoyable without the character who's name is the title of the book actually being in it.

  5. hornacek

    I used to be with "it". But then they changed what "it" was. Now what I'm with isn't "it", and what's "it" seems weird and scary to me! It'll happen to you!

  6. Mark Alford - Post author

    @ mrread7 - Yeah might get old quick, but in the hands of a good writer, they could use those ideas to springboard into a better one.@ hornacek - I missed the joke completely the first time around. I feel pretty stupid. right now. Hanging with Mr. Cooper - got it. Now I know what my students feel like. :(@ hornacek - what do you mean disco won't live forever? Disco forever, man!

  7. Hornacek

    @PeterParkerfanMarvel thinks that their comics should reference current pop culture topics, believing that this will make the issues "relevant", never learning that doing this dates the issues just a few years (or in some cases, months) later.From "Crazy town banana pants" to Aunt May talking about the Bush/Gore election, all the way back to the Hypno Hustler (I'm sure someone was telling Marvel "disco will live forever!").

  8. mrread7

    They killed Hobbie and replaced him with his clone and he is getting his own series. Trying to be the "real" Hobbie. Hmm... yeah, interesting concept, but I don't see it making it.

  9. Mark Alford - Post author

    @ Mohammed - wait - we agree on a book? It's a Festivus miracle! :) I do agree that it speaks volumes for this series that the best issues are the ones without Peter Parker. Oh, and I appreciate you bumping up my comment numbers. What a pal!@ WolfCypher and Evan - to the head of the class! For everyone else, the rule is that of nominative case (I) and objective case (me). Since this is an object of preposition, we use the objective case (me), so Peter was correct to use me. However, you always put yourself last, so it should have been "with Spidey and me." When in doubt, remove the other person and the correct pronoun will rear its head. The gerund is inconsequential here, just something to cause more grammar headaches. Sorry - forgot this wasn't the Spider-Man Grammarspace.@ Frontier - yeah, the killing of a character with the subsequent replacement is a problem and it could get out of control really quickly and pull this series down fast. It cheapens the death and death in general. If the story is good enough, we'll be able to forgive it. If not, it will cause the series to leave bad tastes in the mouths of fans.@ Jack - No, that didn't rankle me, although I understand why others may have a problem with that. Peter, as Spider-Man, is constantly breaking into places and spying on others in order to catch the bad guy, so it could be understandable that he would consider it here. Plus, he could easily rationalize it to himself by saying that he is not stealing information to make a profit - actually quite the reverse. If the information gathered by Prowler works, he would in turn be paying the New U for their services. Is it still illegal? well, yes - but he is doing this for Aunt May (sure it is is for Jameson Sr., but we really know that he is concerned about it primarily for Aunt May's sake. This is a Peter that sold his marriage to the devil for his aunt, a little breaking and entering is nothing in that context. Plus, the plot demanded that we get Prowler in there and this was the easiest way. Otherwise there would have to be some big coincidence to get him there. In the end, I enjoyed the comic enough to overlook that issue. Again, I understand if this is a stumbling block for you and Doug.

  10. Jack

    Doug Ernst is very upset that Slott has Peter authorizing corporate espionage for illegitimate reasons (and I agree with Ernst). But that didn't rankle?

  11. Frontier

    So not only do they actually kill Hobie, but they clone him and make that clone the star of the upcoming Prowler book. So Prowler gets his first ongoing and then gets killed and replaced by a clone before it actually hits stores. Seriously Marvel?Why am I not surprised that Slott killed off Electro just to make a new one out of his own original character? I guess the only question now is if Max is ever going to come back.

  12. Evan

    "Hanging out with Spidey and me." Object pronoun comes second. Here, "hanging" acts as a gerund in that sentence which, admittedly, is causing me to doubt myself a little, but that's my guess.Hey, that was fun! ZAXXX!

  13. Mohammed

    just wanted to clear what I meant in the previous comment Unfortunately yes, I did say I somewhat enjoyed it and to my shame, because Spider-Man wasn't in the story I enjoyed it, not a lot but some. which proves how bad things have gotten for the book.

  14. Mohammed

    Opps what I meant to say While I hate to admit it, this issue was somewhat enjoyable. but what it proves is that Slott can write a Spider-Man story WITHOUT Spider-Man actually in it, at least as it pertains to the main book.

  15. Mohammed

    While I hate to admit it, this issue was somewhat enjoyable. but what it proves is that Slott can write a Spider-Man with Spider-Man actually in it, at least as it pertains to the main book.

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