There are some things in this world that must change. Time conquers all, and we are simply along for the ride. Such is the way of all things, and we must accept that.
However, with the constant change of the status quo, we must never forget that which we leave behind. It is our driving force, and we must always remember it, pay tribute to it; for it is the driving force of every action we take.
We are our own legacy.
Dan Slott does none of those things.
Welcome, friends, to the All-New, All-Different Crawlspace! My name is Neil Bogenrieder, your friendly neighborhood reviewer, and today, we take a much-delayed delve into my first review of Amazing Spider-Man Vol 1, to see just how much Dan Slott craps on Peter Parker: CEO No More!
Amazing Spider-Man #789
“Fall of Parker, Pt 1: Top to Bottom”
Writer: Dan Slott
Pencils: Stuart Immonen
Inks: Wade von Grawbadger
Colors: Marte Gracia
Editors: Nick Lowe and Devin Lewis (I think, it’s hard to tell when they actually do their jobs)
One month after the Secret Empire tie-ins, and things have gone all but rock bottom for our boy Peter Parker; his company is gone, Harry is selling off all of their assets, the media has made him their laughingstock, and he’s forced to bunk with Mockingbird at her new place. Basically, the only thing she lets him do is live on her couch; to make things worse, she tapes hit pieces of his fall from CEO on the fridge, which motivates Peter to go and talk to Robbie about it.
After a brief transition to show that Harry Os- Crap, I mean, Lyman and Liz Allan are back together (So, one of the few status quo changes that nobody wanted back) Peter arrives at the Daily Bugle to call out Robbie Robertson on what should be Journalistic Integrity 101. Robbie counters by saying that Peter put thousands of people out of work (Hey, remember that guy who destroyed his easily weaponizable hardware to keep literal Nazis from getting their hands on it? What a loser, amiright?) to which Peter just gives up. (That’s just plain push-over territory right there) After going out of the way to correct a guy after Pym Microprocessors for the Bugle’s science section, Peter gets invited to Flash Thompson’s birthday party by Betty Brant (Why is she so cute here?) while Robbie gives a smug smirk that reminds me of the Grinch.
On his way back, we get yet another reminder that Peter screwed lots of people over to save the world as an angry mob chases him down. (Because I didn’t remember that Peter Parker under Slott’s pen is a horrible screw-up. I’ve been reading that for more than two years. Maybe seven if you count the more subtle jabs since Big Time.) At Flash’s birthday party, we catch up on our favorite Spaceknight (I’d say it’s ROM, but he’s out of town for now at IDW, so Venom will do) while we continue to hear Peter’s supporting cast (Hey, y’know how we’re supposed to be celebrating the return of one of our friends and his birthday? Nah, let’s just shit on that other guy! It’s in the script!) lay down the slam hammer on how crappy of a CEO Peter was.
Returning to Bobbi’s apartment, the two suit up and go crime-fighting for a little, running into the Griffin attacking food trucks. After the public hates on Spidey some more (Oi, Pete, just pull a Jake Paul and dab on ‘em… On second thought, don’t. I’ll probably hate you more.) Peter saves a food truck from being destroyed, knowing it’s the guy’s entire life. (How subtle a metaphor) With the public pulling the fastest heel-face-turn since Anakin Skywalker, Peter and Bobbi head home for some drinks and a late-night smooching session, knowing that whenever Peter wants, he can turn into the Amazing Spider-Man.
For somebody who claims to have a deep respect for Spider-Man and his supporting cast, Dan Slott seems to be doing his damnedest to prove the opposite.
It’s hard to believe that I’ve been reviewing Amazing Spider-Man for nearly two years (My first review was posted in March of 2016) and I never thought I’d be here long enough to review a title from Volume 1. Now that I’m reviewing it, I’m slightly disappointed by anti-climactic it is.
We’re going to talk about the cover first, mostly because it’s a novel thing to talk about on my end. Normally, Alex Ross is a gorgeous artist, and I usually have nothing but praise for the guy. But for some reason, there must be some kind of mass-burnout, because this isn’t his best work by a long shot. The color palette is drab and dull, which would be fine, except that Ross normally shines with a brighter color palette. (See: Kingdome Come and his Secret Wars (2015) Covers.) Not only that, but the facial expression of his Peter Parker is really awkward, as is the supposedly dynamic movement of the Spider-Man on the billboard. It just has a very floaty, clunky air to it, and I can’t overlook it, especially given his exemplary work on Spider-Man covers in the past. (I’ll even give Vol 4 this: it always had visually dynamic covers that got me hooked.)
Whatever burnout tablets are being put in Marvel’s water supply, Stuart Immonen must be really hit by it, because this is also by far one of his weakest issues so far. As an artist myself, I take the time to examine other artists’ styles and try to assimilate techniques into my own style (In recent memory, Pepe Larraz (Star Wars: Kanan and Gerry Duggan’s Uncanny Avengers)) Stuart Immonen has a very fluid, albeit inconsistent art style. He tends to use whatever style suits the tone of the book, and in some cases, I admire that. However, I find consistency to be a valued trait in art, and the rapid switches between hatch shading and full black shading. Do not get me wrong, his art is pleasing to look at; he draws action scenes very well and draws a very easy-on-the-eyes Spider-Man and Mockingbird, but his distance shots are very rough and squiggly; almost like he wanted to finish them but was forced to hand them over before he could. His hairlines could also use some work, as well as his facial shapes and structure. Characters like MJ and Flash look like they came out of the Uncanny Valley, and seem to be trying (albeit unsuccessfully) to emulate the JRJR style; it almost comes across as a muted Humberto Ramos with far curvier and more accurate proportions.
While he’s nailed down Bobbi to a T (She’s the most visually consistent character out of costume) Peter tends to fluctuate from page to page, particularly his hair. He has a very boyish face, almost like a member of One Direction. The main problem is that Immonen’s portrayal of Peter doesn’t sell me on his current dilemma. He’s supposed to be broke, at the end of his financial rope. He looks way too pretty, smooth-shaven and well-maintained for somebody living on his Friend with Benefits’ couch. Draw him with some stubble, make his hair a little less frosted-tipped, just something that reflects his status quo. Even Camuncoli drew Peter with a five-o’clock shadow during the “Dead No More” arc, which I found to be a nice touch, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be even more prevalent here. Wade von Grawbadger’s excessively-hatched inks seem to have taken a backseat from the Vol 4 fiasco, which I’m starting to regret asking to go away because they open the backseat to a new problem. It’s pretty enough art, but really a step down from previous outings.
Marte Gracia’s colors are really starting to give me a real “Battered Housewife” vibe, which I suppose is fitting given the past decade of Spider-history. Now that we’re past the high-flying and high-tech adventures of Parker Industries, a more muted color tone would fit the dank, dreary streets of New York. Rather, it looks way too shiny and clean outside, even in the supposedly rank alleyway Peter hides in from the angry mob. Fabrics (notably Peter’s jacket) and skin (Robbie’s skin has a very sickly lighting in some panels, almost like he has a tumor on his forehead) have a very shiny texture. While I can buy it for the Spider-Armor (And excuse it for the Mockingbird suit) it doesn’t fit with the current tone of the book.
Lights are also really weird. Neon signs that are supposed to blur look more like lasers being fired at Spidey and Mockingbird and police light bars have this really weird outline that I can only chalk down to a weird interpretation of the lines Immonen drew. It’s a bizarre creative choice that while I can accept, I won’t ignore it.
Which ties me into the story. I have no idea what Slott was thinking when he wrote this story. Not only is this issue basically him retreading the first few issues of BND and a reminder that he’s still on the title, this first part of “Fall of Parker” does two things. 1) Have everybody constantly remind Peter and the reader that he is a bad person for failing as a CEO and causing millions of people to lose their jobs, and for being broke and having to crash with his new girlfriend. 2) Set up story arcs. More specifically, Venom Inc. with Liz Allan (A major player in Venom) and Flash Thompson returning from Guardians of the Galaxy and Venom: Spaceknight.
We’ll start by delving into point one. Almost every line of dialogue in this issue is dedicated to Peter facing his comeuppance for being a terrible CEO. The media, his friends, even his Aunt May. (Though, to be fair, she has a bit more to lose, being an actual investor in the company.) It even gets to the point where the timing of the TV conveniently plays Steve Martin’s Jerk on, because Slott really has to hammer home what an incompetent moron Peter is. The only one who does anything to help Peter, at least in uplifting his spirits, is Betty, and even then they just use Flash’s birthday as a vehicle to continue dumping on Peter. It gets tiresome, and it’s harder to slog through on repeat readings.
What I absolutely can’t buy is that Robbie Robertson, of all people, would write something that slanderous about one of his oldest friends and employees. Not only does it break journalistic integrity (Something that Robbie has been adamant about in Slott’s own run) but it’s just mean-spirited. He would have talked with Peter about it in private, rather than fight about it in the middle of a busy newsroom. It just reeks of Peter making a fool out of himself because Slott demands it to happen.
While I’ve already delved into the problems of Slott’s take on Peter Parker multiple times, I find Bobbi Morse to be a more interesting case study on how absolutely sociopathic she can be, even when Slott tries to make her a good influence on Peter. Not limited to barring him from eating anything in the fridge (A bit more understandable given that he has to work to earn his keep, but kind of assholish to a guest) she decides to cut out hit pieces from the newspaper and hanging them on the fridge with magnets spelling “Ha, ha, ha.” She comes off as somebody who barely tolerates Peter’s presence and despises it rather than wanting to have a fully functional relationship with him. If Slott wants us to accept her as the new hotness, I’m sorry, but I can’t see it happening.
And about accepting new hotness, I guess it’s a good enough segue into the next big point; nothing of actual importance happens in this story. It mostly works as a setup for later arcs, but even those details are vague enough to not really matter to this story but not make me care about. We already know about Venom Inc. I remember when Slott used to catch me by surprise with his build-up and twists. Remember when Carlie fell into that empty grave? That got me hyped. Now it just feels like Slott is twiddling his thumbs, desperately trying to churn something out.
And that’s a symptom of a greater problem at Marvel right now. Legacy is just Marvel spinning its wheels, to create the illusion of progress rather than actually change anything that readers haven’t been digging. They’ve improved a little. All-New Marvel-Now (2016) had me picking up three titles that I actually thought were good: Renew Your Vows, U.S.Avengers and Nova (Not counting Silk, since she was at #13 by that point). By the end of this past summer, Nova was crawling towards the cancellation issue, and I was sad to see it go. Legacy has me picking up four that have my genuine interest. She-Hulk, Moon Knight, Renew Your Vows and U.S.Avengers. But this feels more like a last chance for me. One last opportunity to keep me on board. If this doesn’t live up to expectations? I may just quit altogether. I’ve been more than patient with Marvel at this point, and I can go on record that the rest of the Crawlspace staff has been as well. As consumers of a faulty product, we certainly deserve better. And while we may giving them exactly the opposite of what we should, we do it because we know they can do better, and we expect better.
I can’t recommend this issue to anybody who says they’re a Spider-Fan. Not in good faith. It rips away every likable facet of Peter’s supporting cast and uses the husks that are left to tear him down. The art is passable at best, and I just don’t feel like it has enough impact. It’s harmless. It provides nothing of value. And in a relaunch that’s supposed to be revitalizing the line and bringing back what we know and love, this is probably the worst crime any comic can commit.
Final Grade: D+