Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 25, originally released March 15th, 2017. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.
Spencer: As Aunt May herself points out this week, Peter Parker’s always been a busy guy. Add running a major international company to his already impressive pile of responsibilities and it’s almost guaranteed that something will start to give. The massive Amazing Spider-Man 25 digs into that dilemma from all angles, reminding readers of every task Peter’s got on his plate and what’s at risk if he fails at any one of them. It’s an almost overwhelming issue, a trait that effectively puts readers in Peter’s overstressed shoes.
With the finale of Clone Conspiracy still clear in the rear-view mirror, I’d have expected this installment to be more of a downtime issue, but instead, Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen barrel head-first into another major story: Spider-Man’s hunt for his greatest enemy, Norman Osborn. The opening segment of Slott and Immonen’s lead story focuses on an uncharacteristically stressed and agitated Peter Parker, a condition eventually blamed on both Peter’s history with Osborn and the fallout from Clone Conspiracy.
Despite saving the world from the Jackal, Peter views that whole incident as a loss: not only did he have to witness beloved friends die a second time, but his own closest friends and allies (such as Betty Brant) are traumatized as well. That’s why he needs this “win” so badly — it’s yet another responsibility for him, something he feels he owes everybody hurt by the Jackal and his clones. Yet, as I mentioned, this is far from Peter’s only responsibility this month. He has his duties to Parker Industries, to his friends and family, to the public as Spider-Man, even to his villains (as is the case with Clash in Christos Gage and Todd Nauck’s “Police & Thieves” back-up). Peter handles some of these better than others.
James Asmus’ and Tana Ford’s back-up makes this explicit. Spider-Man is needed in two places at once, and while even the employee he let down can’t help but to laud his priorities (Peter saves a building full of hostages over his own prototype), he’s not wrong about the precarious position that puts Parker Industries in. I wouldn’t put human lives over an invention either, but there are thousands and thousands of employees whose livelihoods are relying on Parker Industries. What happens if he lets them down?
Obviously, Peter can’t do this all alone; he needs support structures, like the ones his employees (like Lien, who proves her own heroic capability in Asmus’ back-up), heroic allies (Mockingbird), and friends and family (Harry and Aunt May) all try to provide. The problem is that, while Peter does view them as a source of strength, he also views them as yet another responsibility in their own right. He’s not entirely wrong, either; for every time he tries to push away somebody who could be useful to him (again, Mockingbird), he also has a loved one in legitimate danger. Aunt May and Harry are prime examples — May’s fragile (although in good spirits, for now) after Jay’s death, and both she and Harry are targeted by Norman Osborn at some point in this issue.
To Peter’s credit, he’s starting to figure out who he can lean on, even if he does so in the most awkward way possible.
It’s a painful attempt, but I can understand why Peter would be attracted to Bobbi — not only can she take care of herself, but she’s been through just as much (if not more) bizarre, weird stuff as Peter, yet handles it with far more grace. There’s a lot Pete could learn from her.
With so much on his plate, and even more coming down the pipe, Peter may need those lessons more than ever. Slott and his collaborators focus several of the back-up stories on upcoming threats, as if saying “Hey, think Peter has it bad now?! That’s nothing!” As someone who was introduced to Slott’s run through The Superior Spider-Man, his and Giuseppe Camuncoli’s “Superior Octopus” back-up especially caught my attention. Under Slott’s pen Otto Octavius is just as fascinating a character, if not more so, than Peter himself, and his feelings of ownership over much of Peter’s life should make for an interesting dynamic with a Peter who’s increasingly overwhelmed by the very company Otto covets.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “grim” issue, but still, with so much angst over responsibility, the more lighthearted back-ups serve as a much-needed breath of fresh air. They’re an important tonal contrast in that sense, but they also provide a necessary reminder of the joy and humor inherent to Spider-Man’s character as well. Of these back-ups, my favorite is Hannah Blumenreich’s “Mutts Ado About Nothing.”
This story has it all: laughs, heart, and a dog named “Sandwich.” Blumenreich was apparently discovered and recruited by Marvel due to her online Spider-Man fan-comics (I’ve only read one, but it’s stupendous), which is perhaps the most phenomenal story related to this issue, and it’s well-earned. Besides writing perhaps my new favorite rendition of Aunt May, Blumenreich taps into the melancholy of youth in a way few other superhero writers do. This story may take place in the past, but I’d love to see Blumenreich’s take on Spider-Man be a major part of the character’s future at Marvel.
Patrick, I’m tempted to try to give you a really difficult prompt here as payback for giving me only one night to write-up this massive beast of an issue, but I’m just way too nice to go through with it. Honestly, there’s so much to discuss in this issue that I don’t know if I even need to prompt you at all; you’ve got plenty to work with here without my guidance. So instead, I’ll leave you with just one question: what the hell is a Tsum Tsum?
Patrick: Oh, brother: you got me. I’m not even sure how we pronounce “Tsum.” Does it sorta rhyme with “soon” as implied by “coming tsum?” Do we pronounce the T? The name of the story is “Spider-Man Tsum-Up,” a play on “Team-Up,” so I’m tempted to say yes. “Tuh-Soom?” As far as what they are: my best guess is that their sentient plushy-pillows with superhero faces. Why? People got sick of buying Funko Pop! figures?
I guess we don’t need to rag on “Spider-Man Tsum-Up” too much — there’s always going to be at least one back-up in each of these mega-sized issues that leaves me scratching my head — but this one really does feel like an outlier among the stories presented in this issue. The lead story, “Bug Hunt,” does a great job of establishing that well-worn Spider-Man theme of “Peter’s too busy for his own good,” and there’s some wonderfully loose connective tissue that ties the other back-ups into that story, and each other. Spencer mentioned that we can see Peter’s people-over-things morality on display in both “Police & Thieves” and Asmus and Ford’s story. But how about that Clash story ending with the villain giving his ill-gotten-gains to an animal shelter and “Mutts Ado” featuring a dog that will eventually end back up at one of those places? It’s not a mind-blowing series of connections, but it does serve to make most of this thing feel like a cohesive package.
I’m still not sure where I land on The A-May-Zing Spider-Aunt, by Cale Atkinson. It’s a cute series of comic strips laid out together on one two-page spread. There are some old lady gags, some superhero gags, and it’s all pretty innocuous. There’s one joke in here I’m not even sure I get, but which becomes even stranger in the context of this 80+ page tome.
I’ve been trying to figure out the scenario we’re being presented with here. Does Aunt May have a pumpkin patch in her backyard? A garden I sorta understand, but a patch? I originally read this scene as a trick-or-treat scenario, and thought the joke was May chasing off kids dressed as Goblins, but the more I look at it, the less evidence I have of that (I was momentarily tricked by Peter’s cookie in the first panel). Beyond not totally getting this joke, it does paint May’s relationship to the Goblins, and by extension to Norman Osborn, in a particularly trivial light. That’s a weird thing to do in an issue that is effectively all about Norman putting May in danger.
But enough grumbling about one of Atkinson’s jokes! I wanted to express my experience coming back to ASM after taking a break for a couple months. I sat out the entirety of the Clone Conspiracy, and the majority of the post-Secret Wars issues. This issue is clearly designed to get a reader like me up-to-speed on the emotional framework Peter is working within. I think Slott and Immonen excel at this whenever they’re not in exposition mode, but stumble whenever they slow down to explain. I love this introductory mission – at 18 pages, it’s nearly a complete issue in itself. Spider-Man, Mockingbird and a handful of Spider-Characters I’ve never heard of, attack a gunrunner that Peter suspects is really Osborn in disguise. It’s a simple premise, and Peter’s determination and lack of one-liners, quickly communicates his psychological state. Slott and Immonen do flash back for one second to give context, and it’s one of Immonen’s best drawings in the book.
The composition is unnervingly symmetrical, King Pin is huge, Spider-Man is lost in this negative space – it’s kind of a perfect panel. This story also sets up the Gray Fox-esque stealth-sniper without explaining anything about her. It’s exciting, there are explosions and swimming pools and daring sewer tunnel escapes! What more could you ask for? It’s probably for the best that the pages to follow have such a strong, fun base off of which to build.
Spencer said he might not describe this issue as “grim,” but “dire” might be appropriate. Pete’s wealth, even when he’s charitable with it, isn’t a great look on Marvel’s every-man. Bobbi calls him out on this when he’s flying home on his private jet. “Don’t get all ‘one percent’ on me.” It comes up again later in the issue, also about flying: Bobbi asks why they have to fly a commercial airline to Hong Kong when they could just as easily take the private jet. It’s in the shop, so Bobbi jokes back: “Just have to settle for first class. Tough times.” I don’t really know what we’re supposed to take from these moments, but it does make it seem like Peter’s losing that ever-man quality. And on a personal note, that makes me like him less.
Oh and one more tiny gripe before I wrap this up: there’s a mistake on the first page. I know this issue was a giant undertaking, and way more artists, writers and editors worked on this thing than your average comic book, and the more moving parts, the more likely a mistake is going to trickle through. But goddamn is it a bummer to settle in to read your first Spider-Man story in over a year and be greeted by a fucking typo.
“Has now has.” To my eye, that’s the only typo in the book (unless you want to count when the editorial note says that “Abuela?” is translated from Spanish, but that’s just me being overly pedantic), and a crummy way to kick off what is otherwise a pretty tight volume, especially for its size.
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