Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 18, originally released May 6th, 2015.
Love fades. But things? Things last forever.
Tom Haverford, Parks and Recreation
Spencer: We live in a materialistic society that oftentimes tries to convince consumers that the key to happiness and success is simply owning a lot of stuff (thanks a lot for that, Don Draper). For these Tom Haverfords, their entire identity is wrapped up in their possessions, but even those who reject consumerism have to rely on their possessions to provide sustenance, clothing, and shelter. Yes, “things” are important to everyone, even if it’s in drastically different ways. Dan Slott, Christos Gage, and Humberto Ramos’ The Amazing Spider-Man 18 pins both its stories on the power inanimate objects hold on their owners, and just as we’ve discussed, Parker Industries means something far different to its employees than Black Cat’s vast collection of stolen goods means to her.
Let’s focus on Parker Industries first. It’s still under attack by the intangible industrial saboteur Ghost, and although Spider-Man holds his own, it’s Anna Maria and Clayton Cole who save the day by appropriating some of Spider-Man’s sonic weaponry. Thanks to these three no lives are lost and Ghost is captured, but Alchemax still gets what they want: the absolute destruction of Parker Industries, and with it, the morale of its employees.
Peter tries to argue that Parker Industries wasn’t that building, but an idea that will survive as long as they persevere, but his employees don’t share his optimism, and it’s hard to blame them. Sajani no longer trusts Peter, and that lack of trust is effecting the entire staff, shattering the very foundation of their bond in the same way Ghost has shattered their actual physical headquarters.
Can they recover? It will be tough, and ultimately depends on how available Peter is willing/able to be (which may require putting some of his Spider-Man-ning on the backburner — will Peter be willing to do that? Will he take Anna Maria’s advice from a few issues back about how to do so?), but I do think it’s possible. Actually, the key to rebuilding Parker Industries may very well lie with the Living Brain, who seems to be perfecting Anna Maria and Sajani’s nanite research, which could net them a small fortune or even possibly be used to rebuild the building itself — assuming, of course, that the nanites don’t blow up in their face or turn the Living Brain into a supervillain, as tends to happen to Peter.
I’m going to back-pedal for a moment, though, because I’m also interested in Peter’s reaction to the collapse of Parker Industries. It obviously takes a lot out of him, but he actually seems more nervous about how his employees and investors will react than by the actual loss of his business. Peter can certainly be selfless and compassionate in both his identities, but his reaction here does reveal a bit of a self-centered streak in him. If Peter’s going to save his business, he may have to worry less about how he appears to others and more about looking out for his employees’ best interests.
Meanwhile, the back-up story finds Black Cat completing her quest to regain all the goods that were taken from her when she was arrested. Unfortunately for May and Jay Jameson, Black Cat’s feelings about those items and what they represent in her life has changed drastically.
While I’m sure Felicia enjoyed the monetary and aesthetic value of the items she stole, I get the impression that they were more treasured as trophies and reminders of successful heists. That collection was her life’s work, a testament to her skill and freedom — now, though, they only remind her of how she can be owned and how easily that freedom can be taken from her. Either way, Black Cat is someone who’s always been defined by her possessions, and now she hopes that by burning them all up she can purge herself of the weaknesses they’ve come to represent, and come to define herself in a totally new fashion.
In both stories the possessions in question may not actually have all that much power on their own, but their owners have assigned them so much meaning that they can’t help but to take on a significant role in their lives. I found the exploration of the various roles our possessions can take in our lives to be a interesting and prominent theme in The Amazing Spider-Man 18, but Drew, I’m curious to hear what your take on the issue was. First, though, I wanted to ask you a question: your and Patrick’s discussion of last month’s issue focused a lot on Peter’s reactionary nature and Anna Maria’s differing, more direct methods. Did you have any further thoughts about this concept after witnessing Anna Maria save Peter’s life? In many ways this issue was Anna Maria’s finest hour, but it was far from Peter’s, and I’m sure there’s some significance to be found in that.
Drew: I definitely got a big kick out of Anna Maria and Clayton rushing in to save the day. It was a great moment that speaks to their courage and selflessness as characters, but also of the inspiring force of Spider-Man. They were essentially becoming Spider-Man in his hour of need, an act which is actually pretty damn inspiring in its own right. I also can’t help but see it as a comment on the collaborative nature of comics. I can’t speak to the conditions that brought Slott and Gage together to script these last few issues — they’re definitely the top writers when it comes to Spider-Man — but I’m curious if Slott was in Peter’s position, overwhelmed by all of the plates he’s spinning. That’s getting into some serious conjecture, so I’ll stop there, but I can’t help but wonder if Clayton, as a former villain turned rescuer, isn’t meant to represent Gage, a writer whose earliest writing credits were for DC.
But I think you’ve nailed what this issue is really about, Spencer: the power we give our possessions over us. Of course, Slott and Gage come up with just about every wrinkle they can to make that moral more complicated. Peter is rescued by Anna Maria and Clayton, sure, but only because they had the appropriate weapons to join the fray; Felicia recognizes that the power her possessions have over her is purely symbolic, but she needs them all back just the same; Peter suggests that Parker Industries is something bigger than the building and inventions it housed, but his workers aren’t so sure.
That last one seems particularly interesting as it ties into this notion of Spider-Man as an idea. Nobody needs to remind Slott how upset fans were when Peter was NOT Spider-Man. To those fans, Spider-Man is a thing — a toy that can be broken and discarded — but I think Slott always understood Spider-Man as an idea. Spider-Man isn’t just a guy in a suit, he’s quippiness, optimism in the face of adversity, and above all, he’s the great responsibility that comes with great power. You can’t kill those things, so Spider-Man was never in any real danger, even if Peter Parker was being taken out of the mix for a little while. It’s clear that Peter feels very much the same way about his company, but his employees seem to think — like the fans who rage-quit Spider-Man — that an idea isn’t worth anything if it isn’t backed up with stuff.
In that way, it’s remarkably clever that this issue sees Black Cat giving up her possessions in service of a bigger idea. There are very few characters in the Marvel universe more obsessed with things than Felicia Hardy, but even she can see that being defined by those things is limiting. Obviously, the takeaway from this issue isn’t “be more like Black Cat,” who nearly kills three innocent people in a symbolic gesture designed to firm up her growing criminal empire, but the fact that even Felicia understands the value of ideas reminds us of how obvious that point is.
Of course, Slott and Gage don’t necessarily need the lessons of Superior Spider-Man to make ideas so important to them — they are writers, after all. Interestingly, as much emphasis as they place on ideas, this series continues to pack more ideas into a single issue than most other series get in entire arcs. The technologies, their repercussions, and the motivations of characters here are all tossed off like they don’t matter, but it’s exactly those details that make this series such a blast to read. They’re not things, they’re ideas, but I still like having as many as I can get.
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?