Stripping Down to Basics in Amazing Spider-Man 31

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 31

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

This volume of Amazing Spider-Man has always been about amplifying Uncle Ben’s famous mantra that “with great power must also come great responsibility,” forcing both global power and responsibility on Peter Parker’s shoulders. It’s an elegant way of further dramatizing Peter’s relationship to that mantra, taking a naturally street-level character responsible for resolving international conflicts and global pandemics. But, as with any change in superhero comics, this new status quo came with an expiration date — even if we didn’t know what it was. Amazing Spider-Man 31 doesn’t necessarily represent the end of Parker Industries, but it returns Spider-Man so convincingly to his platonic form that it’s easy to see it as the conclusion of that particular chapter of Peter’s life. Continue reading

Advertisements

Exploring Thematic Connections to Secret Empire in Amazing Spider-Man 30

by Spencer Irwin

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

The current arc of Amazing Spider-Man is a direct tie-in to Secret Empire, with its opening scene even taking place during the Free Comic Book Day issue and with Otto’s newfound might largely coming from Hydra resources. This story is ultimately more concerned with Peter and Otto’s battle for Parker Industries, but even there Dan Slott and Stuart Immonen are able to create spiritual and thematic connections to Secret Empire. Continue reading

The Art of the Tie-in: Amazing Spider-Man 29

by Drew Baumgartner

Amazing Spider-Man 29

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

It’s easy to vilify crossover events for disrupting your favorite series, but that’s kind of the point, right? An event that boasts “everything changes here” should be disruptive to the universe around it — that’s just making good on that claim. The feeling that the story we were reading has been put on the back burner is definitely frustrating, but it’s exactly what would happen in the event of a Earth-shaking change in the status quo. But there are ways to soften the whiplash effect of event tie-in issues, and Amazing Spider-Man 29 features just about all of them. Actually, it might be to precise to pin it on this one issue — while this is the first to explicitly acknowledge the events of Secret Empire, so much of what happens here spins out of threads writer Dan Slott has been spinning for years. In many ways, it feels less like the event forced a change to the series and more like the changes that were coming all along were given a fresh twist by tying them to Secret Empire. Continue reading

Secret Empire 3

Alternating Currents: Secret Empire 3, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing Secret Empire 3, originally released May 31st, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.

Drew: That Secret Empire is about big ideas goes without saying. As with any tentpole summer event, it promises to change the Marvel universe as we know it (at least temporarily), but the bigger story is the way the event (and the stories leading to it) have reflected the real-world political climate, often in uncanny — and uncomfortable — ways. But issue 3 reveals that, underneath it all, writer Nick Spencer may have been building to an even bigger (albeit, perhaps less controversial) question about the very nature of the superhero genre in the present day: does it still have room for moral absolutes? Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 25

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. Continue reading

The Clone Conspiracy 1

Alternating Currents: Clone Conspiracy 1, Drew and Spencer

Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Clone Conspiracy 1, originally released October 12th, 2016. As always, this article containers SPOILERS.

The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.

Plutarch

Drew: The Ship of Theseus, as this thought experiment is commonly known, is often used in science fiction to address the notion of personal identity — that is, how much of you has to be, say, cybernetic before you are no longer yourself — but I actually think the key to the problem Plutarch laid out is that the ship isn’t a person. The question of whether or not a partially-replaced thing could be called the same thing is an interesting question, but I’m less inclined to think that a person’s identity is tied up in the provenance of their body parts. Moreover, I doubt anyone would assert that someone who receives a liver transplant is even a little bit a different person (especially since our livers are constantly replacing old cells, and best estimates suggest a full turnover of liver cells happens every 1-2 years). I’d suggest that the inverse is also true: that someone’s identity can change without changing their bodies at all (besides their liver, obviously). Point is, identity is much more complex than the simple summation of our body parts. For colloquial evidence, we need look no further than Dan Slott’s work with Spider-Man, where characters’ identities might inhabit other characters’ bodies (or octo-bots) without any real questions about who is who. That’s not to say issues of bodies and identity can’t get messy, just that it takes something a little extra to take us there — something like Clone Conspiracy. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 18

amazing spider-man 18

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. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 17

amazing spider-man 17

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 17, originally released April 1st, 2015.

O, I am fortune’s fool!

William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Drew: Of all the heroes in Marvel’s pantheon, Peter Parker might be the most defined by his passivity. I don’t mean to say that he never takes decisive action, just that it’s almost always reactionary. Heck, he doesn’t even play a key role in his own origin — the spider bites him, then Peter lets the robber get away instead of doing something. This manifests itself in his perpetual bad luck, that is, outside forces that always make his life harder. It makes for great drama, but after a while, it also starts to paint Peter as kind of incompetent. Why is he always stammering for a cover story? Why is he always facing off against the same bad guys? Why is he always running out of web-fluid? The smartest part about The Superior Spider-Man was pointing out these obvious areas for improvement, shaking up the formula of Spider-Man as we know him. It was an exciting development, but Peter’s return to his body was also a return to form, failing to capitalize on many of Otto’s inarguably superior developments. Amazing Spider-Man 17 finds Peter coming up against some of those age-old problems, but this time, Anna Maria doesn’t have the patience to watch him keep bumbling through them. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 14

amazing spider-man 14

Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 14, originally released February 11th, 2015.

Patrick: Were any of you paying attention to Twitter when they announced that Spider-Man would be appearing in the Disney Marvel movies? It was surreal: like a piece of super-fan-fantasy mutated into a news item and enthusiastically expressed itself in the middle of the night. On my feed, no one more more elated by this news than Amazing Spider-Man writer Dan Slott. He filled twitter with all-caps celebrations — not because he had anything to do with negotiating this deal (nor will he have any role in developing Peter Parker’s role in the MCU), but because he’s a goddamn super-fan. As the impresario and master weaver of Spider-Verse, Slott has had the opportunity to shout his love for all the Spiders from the heavens, and in issue 14, he goes out swinging, symbolically ceding his own control over the Spiders back to the characters themselves. Continue reading

The Amazing Spider-Man 12

Alternating Currents: Amazing Spider-Man 12, Drew and Patrick

Today, Drew and Patrick are discussing The Amazing Spider-Man 12, originally released January 7th, 2015.

Drew: Last week, Patrick and I spent a good ten minutes laughing about The Comic Archive’s “Marvel Movie Omnibus” — that is, all of the Marvel Studios films leading up to and through the end of The Avengers compiled into one mega-movie. Never mind that the thing weighs in at an ungainly 12-hour play-time, what really amused us was the steamrolling of narrative cohesion in favor of what the video description calls “correct story order.” I’ve always been a bit peeved when fans are more concerned with how stories fit together than whether they’re emotionally satisfying, and this struck me as the ultimate manifestation of those priorities. Indeed, flashbacks from Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy are included, even though Malekith and Peter Quill don’t otherwise appear in the movie (remember, this only carries through the end of The Avengers), passing over Chekhov’s gun in favor of boneheaded reportage. The result is a work that is so focused on its whole (however unwatchably long it may be) that it fails to offer satisfying servings, such that any movie-sized chunk of it wouldn’t be a satisfying chapter so much as an arbitrary slice of an indivisible monolith. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how I feel about Amazing Spider-Man 12, a slice of “Spider-Verse” that ends up being mostly connective tissue. Continue reading