Spencer: If you’re reading a Spider-Man book, then you know his deal: “With great power must also come great responsibility.” For Peter Parker, his “power” has always been the superhuman abilities granted him by a bite from a radioactive spider, but are these abilities truly his greatest asset? It’s a question Dan Slott and Giuseppe Camuncoli tackle head-on in the newest Amazing Spider-Man 1. Skipping ahead eight months from the conclusion of Secret Wars, Slott and Camuncoli present us with a version of Peter Parker who’s found a way to honor his Uncle Ben without even needing to put on a mask; in fact, Spider-Man now exists mainly to protect and support Peter. It’s a take both radical and faithful in a way only Dan Slott could pull off.
Thanks to Peter’s new Webware, Parker Industries has gone global, and thus, so has Spider-Man. Peter’s cast Spider-Man as the company’s mascot and his personal body guard, but despite the change of locale and a boatload (Spider-Car load?) of new tech, he’s still the same exact Spider-Man he’s always been.
Instead, it’s Peter who has really changed and grown. Parker Industries was founded by Doc Ock masquerading as Peter, and upon his return, Peter struggled with the responsibility of leading a company he never wanted. Now, though, Peter is thriving as a CEO, and it seems clear why: he’s found a way to use Parker Industries, along with his natural genius, to help people, and to help honor his Uncle Ben.
Not to downplay Spider-Man’s accomplishments over the years, but Parker Industries already seems to have enacted more widespread, beneficial change than Spider-Man could ever have done on his own. It’s not just Peter’s inventions or his new charity helping people, but even the way he runs his company itself that’s making a difference.
Can Peter Parker just run every business in the world? Please?
A few times during the previous volume of AMS we complained about Peter’s seeming immaturity and his failure to evolve and “grow up,” but I can understand why that happened — considering Peter’s lengthy absence during Otto’s tenure as Spider-man, it makes sense that both Peter and Slott would embrace the most iconic incarnation of Peter Parker possible upon his return. Now, though, Slott finally shows us a Peter who’s been allowed to mature, and it’s a flawless transformation; in light of all Peter’s accomplished, I’m actually starting to wonder how he ever thought the most effective way to help people would be to punch guys in animal suits in the face in the first place.
Even Spider-Man’s new weapons — such as the new functions on his web-shooters — as well as Peter’s enlistment of Hobie Brown (Prowler) as a secondary Spider-Man (to throw villains off Peter’s trail) give me the same kind of buzz that Otto’s various innovations once did; with each new reveal I just marvel, “why didn’t I think of that!” Yet, despite all these advancements, the biggest change here is the new role being Spider-Man now plays in Peter’s life.
Despite Mockingbird’s ribbing of Spider-Man’s typically heroic nature (which also seems to indicate that someone close to Peter may have died — uh-oh), this isn’t a Spider-Man who’s going on patrol or chasing down muggers. Every action he takes throughout the issue is with the express point of protecting Parker Industries. Spider-Man is no longer the instrument Peter Parker uses to change the world — now he exists to make sure that Parker Industries can keep changing the world instead.
That may seem like a subtle distinction, but it marks a rather radical shift in Peter’s priorities, and as much as he’s embraced his new company, Peter still seems to be adjusting to the new arrangement.
When The Zodiac attacks Max Modell’s wedding, it makes much more sense for Hobie’s Spider-Decoy to step in than for Peter to try to sneak off and change costumes, but that doesn’t stop Peter from living out the battle vicariously through Hobie. Balancing his dual identities has always been a struggle for Peter, so I’m definitely curious to see how he continues to handle them under such dramatically new circumstances.
While the back-up stories mostly focus on teasing the upcoming relaunches of Spider-Man 2099, Silk, Spider-Woman, and Web Warriors, Slott still finds a way to use them to further explore Spider-Man’s new status quo as well. Here Slott and each story’s creative team focus on how New York has changed in Peter’s absence: we get our first peek at Miles Morales as the Spider-Man, at Black Cat’s new partner, and at NYC’s newest super-prison. That last one brings the most shocking reveal: Regent, the big-bad of Renew Your Vows, has crossed over into this new continuity, and he’s back to his old tricks!
Regent’s return just hammers home for me what I love so much about Slott’s work on this title: even when taking Spider-Man in brave new directions, Slott never fails to respect the core of the character and everything that’s come before. Drew, what’s your take on the new Peter Parker? Any thoughts on the work of Giuseppe Camuncoli? How about the threats posed by the Zodiac, Sajani, and our dear ol’ disembodied Doc Ock? Peter actually seems to have his affairs mostly in order for once, and to me that just screams that things are going to go downhill fast.
Drew: I’m going to start with your first question, but hopefully circle back for the rest. I’m fascinated that you see this as a kind of logical next step for Peter, because this doesn’t feel at all like Amazing Spider-Man to me. This gets down to that age-old question of “how much are characters defined by their circumstances?” (I maintain that Han Solo wouldn’t be Han Solo if he was a suburban dad, or something). For me, Spider-Man has always been street-level, and Peter Parker has always been a relatable everyman. A global Spider-franchise and a position as CEO (albeit with a “middle management” salary) violate both of those elements, creating something altogether different from the Spider-Man we know.
Obviously, there are other elements that define Peter Parker. Spencer already pointed out Spidey’s quippyness as one of those elements, and I have to agree that it’s as true now as it ever was. Unfortunately, in light of his changes in status and scope, the jokes feel less like Peter being Peter, and more like Peter channeling Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. His character traits and circumstances are all interconnected — a web, if you will — so changing any one can have profound ripple effects.
I know that sounds like a dire diagnosis of this series, but here’s the thing: I know nobody understands this better than Dan Slott. Whatever changes Slott may make (say, turning everyone into spiders, or just straight-up killing Peter Parker) are all about celebrating what’s great about Spider-Man. I may not see how “Spider-Man does Batman Incorporated” fits with the Peter that I know and love, but I have absolute faith that Slott does. Maybe this will all bring Peter back to zero, or maybe he really is done swinging around New York City, but I trust that it will feel like Peter Parker, even if I can’t see it now.
But that leaves this issue as more of an intriguing question mark than a stable statement of purpose. As you suggest, Spencer, all of these things going right in Peter’s life sure sounds like a set-up for some of that classic Parker luck. We get hints of that in this issue — the Zodiac showing up immediately after Peter’s grand gesture at Max’s wedding, whatever it is that Sajani is planning, and of course, the return of both Doc Ock and Regent — but it’s still weird to see Peter with such stability in his life both in and out of the costume.
Spencer, I’m most intrigued about your questions regarding Peter’s personal life. Even Max’s wedding turns out to be more about business than pleasure, so we don’t really have any idea what’s going on with Peter. I think I might put “relationship with Aunt May” up there on the list of important Spider-Man story elements, so it’s a little disconcerting that she doesn’t appear at all. That might be a change too big (and too cruel) for Slott to try and pull off-camera, but I think Slott is trying to goose us a little. She’s probably fine, but that question might be masking some smaller tragedy we don’t see coming.
This issue definitely was not what I was expecting. Maybe I’m just jarred by the time-jump — so much of Slott’s run has been about deliberate (if sometimes long-gestating) cause and effect that a sudden change like this feels particularly sudden. Ultimately, I know that whatever reservations I have about the premise are designed very intentionally by Slott. That doesn’t make for the most satisfying first issue, but it might just set up an even more satisfying payoff than we’ve ever seen before.
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