The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1 Presents a Feminist History

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Pixar

As a kid, I always suspected the inanimate objects in my life had secret lives of their own. It wasn’t so much that I thought they got up and walked around when I wasn’t looking, but that they had feelings and aspirations and friends that they cared about. That was the bit about Toy Story that really hit me when it came out — that my toys were desperate for my love and attention, and they felt neglected when I turned my attention elsewhere. Worrying about the feelings of inanimate objects speaks to some of my most well-worn neuroses, but I’d defend those early experiences as helping me practice sympathy for other humans. I hesitate to call Toy Story a feminist history, since the marginalized perspective it adopts is entirely fictional, but it certainly has the shape of a feminist history, cuing us (or, at the very least, eight-year-old me) into the heretofore ignored plight of children’s toys. (To be clear: “feminist history” isn’t the history of feminism, but feminist approaches to history — approaches that highlight otherwise overlooked perspectives and narratives in history.) With Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1, Saladin Ahmed and Garry Brown achieve something similar, retelling the classic arc “Alien Costume Saga” from the perspective of the Venom Symbiote. Continue reading

It’s Power vs Responsibility in The Amazing Spider-Man 5

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 5

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

O, it is excellent
To have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.

William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure

We tend to define power optimistically — we might list the duties of say, the President of the United States, for example, with the expectation that they’ll wield their power responsibly. But there’s another (perhaps more timely) way to define power, not by the amount of good it allows someone to do, but by the amount of harm it allows someone to inflict. Try as we (or Uncle Ben) might to link the two, power and responsibility are independent variables. That is, “With great power must also come great responsibility” isn’t a statement of some inviolable rule of the world, but a goal to strive towards. That’s why the “must also” part is so essential (and so missed from Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man) — it makes it clear Uncle Ben isn’t just stating a fact. Indeed, that power can be separated from responsibility is precisely what this first arc of Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s Amazing Spider-Man has focused on, demonstrating the inefficacy of either without the other. Continue reading

The More Peter Changes, the More He Stays the Same in Peter Parker: the Spectacular Spider-Man 306

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Peter Parker’s been a lot of things in his 50+ years of existence — a bullied high school student, a harried college student and photographer, a loving husband, a clone, a CEO — but none of those roles have ever changed who Peter really is inside. This holds true in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man 306, an issue that asserts that, no matter how much Peter changes, he’ll always be a hero. Continue reading

Finding Strength in Others in The Amazing Spider-Man 800

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Spider-Man has one of the most iconic, expansive, and enduring supporting casts in all of superhero comics, and that’s a fact Dan Slott has used to his advantage throughout his long tenure on The Amazing Spider-Man. He especially leans on his supporting cast in issue 800, the penultimate issue of his run and the grand finale of “Go Down Swinging.” It’s an issue all about the power of the people in Peter Parker’s life, be it the power he gives them, or the power they give him. Continue reading

Amazing Spider-Man 797 Does What Only a Comic Book Can

by Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

I was initially drawn to comic books simply because I loved superheroes, and wanted to find more stories about them. Story is still probably my favorite part of comics (or anything, really), but over the years I’ve learned to appreciate the specific strengths of comic books as an art-form, the things they can do that no other medium can. Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen certainly understand those strengths, as their Amazing Spider-Man 797 revolves around a sequence that just wouldn’t work on TV or in the movie theater. Continue reading

Old Habits Die Hard in Amazing Spider-Man 796

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 796

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

There’s a concept in psychology of the “repetition compulsion,” which essentially lays out a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy for our neuroses. A straightforward (and non-pathological) example would be an introvert avoiding big crowds, which in turn prevents them from developing comfort around (or at least strategies to cope with) big crowds, which in turn encourages them to avoid big crowds, but this phenomenon can be seen operating at everything from our smallest habits to our biggest problems. Lest this sound too fatalistic, those cycles of repetition can be broken, but my actual point in bringing them up is just to emphasize how cyclical our lives can be — even when embarking on a new adventure, our old habits may force them to resemble our old adventures. Such has long been the case of superheroes, whose new adventures are in part only marketable because people liked the old adventures, so leaning into those repetition compulsions (even the destructive ones) is a logical choice.

Writer Dan Slott has always managed to keep a remarkable balance between the old and the new, repeating enough to keep his characters recognizable, but changing enough to keep the stories exciting, largely by changing the big patterns (Pete’s job, relationship status, identity, etc) but holding onto the small ones (Pete’s talkativeness, bad luck, sense of responsibility, etc). But with issue 796, Slott and co-writer Christos Gage begin folding some of those larger repetitions back into the mix, suggesting that Slott might just be putting the toys back in place as he hands over the reigns of the series he’s been writing for over a decade. Continue reading

Parker Luck Returns in The Amazing Spider-Man 789

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 789

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Here’s a question: What would you say is the platonic public perception of Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe? Never mind the exceptional circumstances of specific story arcs, do we imagine in general that the public sees Spider-Man as a hero, or do we think J. Jonah Jameson’s one-man crusade against him has influenced public opinion? I suppose I’ve always seen him as misunderstood by the general public, but his interactions with individual New Yorkers always seemed positive — there’s not a whole lot of ambiguity when you see him rescuing babies from burning buildings. Maybe it speaks to just how street-level Spider-Man has traditionally been that his sphere of personal influence would be small, but it sure seems like the citizens of Spider-Man’s New York are on the whole easily swayed by the media they consume. That’s probably an evergreen theme, but it’s one that feels particularly relevant in our modern political climate, and one that comes back in a decidedly unexpected way in Amazing Spider-Man 789. Continue reading

Invincible Iron Man 3

invincible-iron-man-3

Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Invincible Iron Man 3, originally released January 18th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: Brian Michael Bendis is a polarizing figure in comics. I know plenty of people who consider him to be one of the best writers working today, but I know just as many who find his writing to be aimless and self-indulgent. I tend to think that he’s a very good writer with some very bad habits — I think he writes charming dialogue, but tends to write too much of it, for example — but I had been impressed at how well Bendis had curbed those habits in Invincible Iron Man, keeping scenes tight and efficient, and staying very close to the perspective of his protagonist, Riri Williams. That last piece really played to Bendis’ strengths, keeping the focus on his charming and well-written lead, avoiding the kind of wandering perspective that so often bogs his narratives down. Unfortunately, issue 3 loses some of that momentum, opening with a corporate power play between characters Riri has never met. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 5

Alternating Currents: The Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows 5, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 5, originally released September 2nd, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, check back Tuesday for our Secret Wars Round-Up!

secret wars div

Drew: It’s rare that we ever put a spoiler warning up on the site. It’s been suggested more than once, but we usually come to the conclusion that it would be redundant — it would be impossible to have the kind of in-depth discussions we have about comics without acknowledging what happened within them. That’s always been enough to end the conversation, but I also tend to think that superhero comics are impossible to spoil — or maybe that it’s they’re impossible not to spoil. That is to say, we don’t come to superhero stories to be surprised at the outcome, but to be inspired by them. I mean, “Spider-Man saves the day” isn’t exactly revelatory, but it describes the majority of Spider-Man stories (though not necessarily each individual issue), and doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. Indeed, that we know Spider-Man will get back up to fight again is exactly what makes him such an enduring character in the first place. So when The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows inevitably lives up to its name, its predictability is a strength, not a weakness. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 1

ASM Renew Yor Vows 1 header

Today, Spencer and Patrick are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 1, originally released June 3rd, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, check back tomorrow for our Secret Wars Round-Up!

secret wars div

Spencer: Becoming a parent requires a serious reshuffling of priorities. Unlike what a lot of movies will try to convince you, it doesn’t mean that a new parent has to drop every activity they ever loved, but it does mean that those activities — and literally everything else in the world — takes a back seat to the duty they have to raise and protect their new child. It’s a staggering responsibility, even to someone like Peter Parker, who, as Spider-Man, has devoted most of his life to shouldering great responsibility. What happens when Peter puts his family before his duties as Spider-Man? That’s the question at the heart of The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows 1, and the answer is rather startling. Continue reading