Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 11, originally released December 10th, 2014.
Spencer: My biggest pet-peeve with Geoff Johns’ run on Green Lantern was all the business about Hal Jordan being “the greatest Green Lantern ever.” Maybe it’s just me, but it never felt like Hal earned the title or like Johns was providing much evidence to back up his claim — it always came across like a “he’s the greatest because I say so” moment from Johns. I initially feared a repeat of this situation when, at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 9, writer Dan Slott claimed that “our” Peter Parker from Earth-616 was the most important Spider-Man of them all, but fortunately, this week’s The Amazing Spider-Man 11 convincingly demonstrates why our Peter is worthy of leading the assembled hoards of “Spider-Verse”.
In fact, Slott addresses this right off the bat by having Peter take down the “Superior” Spider-Man, dashing Otto’s hopes of leadership. This is an incredibly cathartic moment for Peter, and a needed reminder for the readers that, despite all the time we were allowed to sympathize and perhaps even root for Otto, he still “killed” Peter and hijacked his body. Otto returning control of their body to Peter at the end of Superior Spider-Man gave Otto an ending that could be simultaneously tragic and heroic, but this more simplistic fight gives Peter a chance to triumph against the man who murdered him, and that’s just the kind of victory he needed to gain some closure on that chapter of his life.
Of course, for this issue Peter’s victory is less important than how he wins.
Here Peter gains both a moral and a tactical victory over Otto. Otto’s willingness to kill has him thinking that murder is always the best solution, but that limits his options against both Peter and the Inheritors, perhaps blinding him to more effective tactics. Peter, though, proves his capability for leadership from both a moral standpoint and a tactical one — it’s clear that his prior experiences with Morlun and his status as one of Earth-616’s longest-running heroes makes him more than qualified for the task.
And Peter immediately gets to work, checking up on the Spiders scattered across the Multiverse as well as sending out some more on new missions; he’s using the Safe Zone of Earth-13 like a hub-world in a video game (think Peach’s castle in Mario 64). This part of the issue has a similar narrative function as much of issue 10, giving Slott a chance to check in with and tease the numerous “Spider-Verse” tie-ins, but while Drew and I had some issues with how this was handled last time, this issue feels a lot more graceful. For starters, Peter’s just established his leadership, creating a natural reason for him to check up on the other missions and avoiding the narrative hoop-jumping issue 10 put us through.
In fact, this issue even retroactively fixes some of the issues we had with those tie-ins. We still can’t be sure why the other Spiders kept leaping through the Multiverse instead of returning to the Safe Zone, but now we know why they can no longer return there: it’s not as safe as we were lead to believe. As soon as Peter leaves (to recruit Spider-Woman on a special mission), the Inheritors attack! Cosmic Spider-Man kills Jennix (who immediately respawns just in time to show up in Scarlet Spiders), but Solus, Lord of the Inheritors, is able to drain him of his Cosmic Energy, killing him and neutralizing the Safe Zone. We end things with a cliffhanger reveal of the final piece of the Inheritors’ Totem-Prophecy: The Scion, Mayday’s baby brother Ben!
It’s a thrilling confrontation beautifully rendered by Olivier Coipel, who has been putting in great work to under-sang praises throughout this entire event. Coipel has an excellent handle on both the quiet moments and the action scenes, but perhaps his most important skill for this particular story is his ability to make each Spider distinct and immediately recognizable.
This is best seen in the side-by-side comparison of Peter and Otto, who technically have the same body, with Peter’s being only a few months older. They should be identical, but Coipel immediately sets them apart with distinct postures and facial expressions (Otto is smug and arrogant while Peter comes across as more earnest) as well as drastically different hairstyles — Otto’s slicked-back look adds to his more adult (and, again, smug) style while Peter’s younger look seems ripped right off of Andrew Garfield. My point is, the two are immediately recognizable, and Coipel brings that same vital skill to the legion of other Spiders present in the issue.
That said, Coipel and colorist Justin Ponsor also get to have a bit more fun than usual this time around.
Peter sends the two Ultimate Spider-Men (Miles Morales of the Ultimate Spider-Man comics and the young Peter Parker of the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon) off to recruit the Spider-Man from the 1960’s cartoon, and it’s an absolute blast (be sure to follow the story to Spider-Verse Team-Up 2, which we’ll be covering in our Weekly Round-Up). Again, Coipel and Posner make each spider instantly recognizable, but contrasting the traditional comic style of Miles with two drastically different animation styles makes for a wild ride that’s not only fun to look at, but shows immense skill on the artists’ behalf.
Although the story of “Spider-Verse” moves forward drastically in this issue, it does so in a quite similar fashion to what came before. Every issue has the repeated pattern of Spider Team-Ups, splitting up, and an Inheritor attack, but I can’t really complain about formula when the results are so much fun. Drew, did you have a similar reaction, or were there parts of this issue that didn’t work for you? Do you buy Peter as leader of the Spiders? Have you recovered from the death of Spider-Monkey? You have my condolences.
Drew: Spider-Monkey, we hardly knew ye. I suppose the fact that even my favorite Spider totem isn’t safe speaks to how serious this event is, but right now, I’m just lamenting the loss of all those monkey puns. Who’s going to reference the Ape-vengers of Earth-8101, with its Iron Mandrill and Boomerangutan? Who will wink at the camera when the Spider-Men resort to guerrilla tactics against the inheritors? Any way you slice it, we’ve suffered a great loss here.
But I do think you’re right about this issue largely avoiding what bugged us about issue 10. We still get editor’s notes informing us where we can follow the action, but those moments feel much more organic to the story, giving us a reason to want to follow those threads, rather than just rattling off how many series this event is splitting into.
By the time I read that editor’s note, I was already hooked. Giving us a taste of what that story might actually be like goes a long way to piquing my interest, which is the surest way to make those editor’s notes feel less intrusive. It’s no longer a crass pitch for a series I have no interest in, but a helpful tip about where to follow these characters on an adventure I’m already invested in.
The same can be said of the Ultimate Spider-Men team-up Spencer mentioned. The action back on Earth-13 is decidedly the important part of this issue, but Slott clearly revels the opportunity to write all of these different Spider-Men. Ultimately, that sequence is an extended tease for Spider-Verse Team-Up 2, but again, Slott gives us just enough to make us want to follow that story. (Also, I’ve never seen an episode of Ultimate Spider-Man, so I don’t know if Peter is always embarrassed about his “day-dreamy cutaway sequences”, but I like the idea that this is somehow a dig at former Spider-Man-editor-turned-Marvel-animation-executive Stephen Wacker.)
Anyway, I think the biggest reason I enjoyed this issue so much was that confrontation between Peter and Otto. Spencer is right to note that the victory is both moral and tactical, but I think one of the key points is that Otto doesn’t know that it’s a tactical victory. Otto believes he can’t kill Peter, lest he erase himself from existence, so in his mind, Peter’s advantage is entirely circumstantial. Of course, Peter knows the actual truth, and his silence about it is a clear tactical move, making him irrefutably the Superior Spider-Man, even if he needs to allow Otto his misconceptions about ownership of that title.
There’s a lot to like in this issue, but that pattern you mentioned — “Spider Team-Ups, splitting up, and an Inheritor attack” — is starting to wear a little thin for me, particularly the “Inheritor attack” portion. I haven’t gone back to do an actual count, but I think it’s no exaggeration to say that I’ve probably read about a dozen of these attacks, between all of the various back-ups, features, and tie-ins, which is long past the point of diminishing returns. I get it — the Inheritors show up and wreck everything. I suppose the fact that they could (and do) kill Captain Universe is a bit of a shock, but honestly, we only thought they couldn’t because we were told that a few issues ago — a classic (and meaningless) sci-fi reversal of impossible nonsense. The result — that there’s nowhere to hide — does kick the story into high gear, but honestly, I’m just tired of seeing Inheritors pop in and kill a couple Spiders every issue. They’ve crossed the threshold of “menacing inevitability” and have moved into “predictable fact-of-life” territory.
Ultimately, my complaints are trivial — this event is WAY more about Spider-Men than it is about Inheritors, and in that light, this issue is a great success. We get great character moments with Peter and Otto, as well as teases for fun adventures spinning off into other tie-in issues. I may lament the Inheritor glue that holds this narrative together, but when everything else is so much fun, it’s easy to overlook.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?
So I really love that Coipel and colorist Justin Ponsor take dramatically different approaches to the cartoon versions of Spider-Man, but it kind of makes me wish they did the same for Spider-Ham. Like, they keep acknowledging that he’s a “cartoon pig”, but he looks way less like a cartoon than these guys, who they never say anything about (other than acknowledging the oddities of the Daily Bugle building). I imagine this all has to do with precedent, but it still bugs me.
So I’m hoping that next issue will see this pattern we both mention broken a little, since this issue doesn’t end as the others did (with the Spiders escaping the Inheritors). They’re still there, and hopefully this will force some sort of confrontation, or at least some sort of screwing with the formula (though, as long as we get to keep seeing these Spiders interacting, I’ll be happy)