Dual Review: The Amazing Spider-Man #1 and Superman #1
Bear with me here for a minute as I cleanse my mind of the recent decade’s worth of reshuffles and reboots to point out something mildly historic that happened when I stumbled into the comic shop this week: Superman and the Amazing Spider-man both have #1 issues. While the legitimacy of the #1 doesn’t mean what it used to, both blue and red flagships are setting off on brand new paths–starting on the same Wednesday! How crazy is that? Then, on a personal level, the fact that both series-es are helmed by writers I really enjoy, this Wednesday may mark the beginning of a grand new age of comics for the ole’ Chadster here. Now, neither series is an entirely new start, as Bendis’s Superman got kicking already in Action Comics 1000 and the Man of Steel miniseries (Read that review here) and Nick Spenser’s Spider-man debut happened in the free comic book day issue in May. Both series, however, are steps away from previous iterations of the characters that left several tastes soured. Bendis is taking over from the solid Tomassi and Jurgens runs on the character, which were good, but not good enough to clear the taste of those awful Zack Snyder Superman movies or the new 52 away. Spencer takes over for Dan Slott, who I respect as a creator and usually enjoy, but he had a different idea of who Peter Parker was than me, and after 10 years of Slott, a change was definitely welcomed.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead! Be forewarned, lest ye be forever spoiled!
Let’s start with Superman, which I had previously pledged to pick up in trade, but the David Mack cover looked so good, I couldn’t resist. The series kicks off with Superman dealing with the emotional impact of the Man of Steel series. His wife is gone. His son is gone. His Fortress of Solitude is gone.
He sets off to find some peace. First, he leaves to find Lois and Jon, only to find an alien armada preparing to attack Earth. He takes them down quickly and realizes that he is needed. Lois is capable, she can handle herself.
That doesn’t make him miss her any less as he lies alone in bed, though. He sits alone and remembers talking to his son. His son isn’t there right now, either. As a family Chad, I can really relate to this. I get so used to the noise and hustle and bustle of the wife and kiddos, that when they’re not around, that void, that silence–it can be deafening. If they weren’t around and I didn’t know where they were, I’d go out of my mind with worry. Bendis truly made me feel Clark’s loneliness here.
Then, it’s up to Superman and the Justice League to clean up what’s left of the Fortress of Solitude and re-establish a new home base–in the Bermuda Triangle. It’s an odd choice, but I like it. Storing the remains of Krypton right in the middle of where lost things go seems poetic. Once again, Superman’s loss of Kandor and his fortress feel like real losses, and the rebuilding comes with the sweet sadness of starting something new.
Later, Martian Manhunter tries to reach out to Superman, to let him know that he isn’t alone–only to be interrupted time and time again as Superman goes to save the day. It was funny and frustrating and I can only imagine what it’s like trying to have a conversat–hold that thought—ion with Superman.
Manhunter makes a big proposition to Superman before the big twist to end the issue happens: Earth is trapped inside the Phantom Zone! To be continued!
Overall, Bendis demonstrates that he knows how comics work. He tugs at the heartstrings. He makes you laugh. He knocks you over with a big reveal at the end. This was a great start to the Superman series. Ivan Reis handles the art duties with aplomb. His action sequences are kinetic and his quiet moments show the love and loss and emptiness just as well.
Trades be darned, I’m in for the next issue, this was so darned good. I will note this issue has the digital copy included. That’s good. If the next issue does not, I’ll consider it a slap to the face, DC. You can’t just give people the first part of a story and expect them to be satisfied! So my only gripe with this comic isn’t even a gripe yet. Art is great; Story is captivating; kudos all around!
Final Grade for Superman #1: A
The bar is set high for The Amazing Spider-Man #1. The story opens with a sequence involving Peter and Mary Jane, a callback to Matt Fraction’s “To Have and to Hold” story from Sensational Spider-man Annual #1. That story in itself, which takes place just before all of the “One Moment in Time” hullabaloo is a modern classic and worth tracking down. But, just like that moment can’t last forever, Peter wakes up to his new, sucky life. He’s rooming with Randy Robertson and Fred Myers, a.k.a. Boomerang. My Superior Foes of Spider-man senses smiled with the first mention of “this guy.” It’s all an elaborate plan for Peter to figure out Mayor Kingpin’s gameplan. Fisk’s gameplan, by the way, includes celebrating Spider-man, thereby taking away the edge he gets from being hated by the public and shifting it to being hated by his super-heroic peers. I like it. It’s just crazy enough to work.
Then Spencer gets to work. Spencer has Spidey figure out the problem and take down the bad guy while he acknowledges and subsequently dismantles much of what became of Spidey under the Slott era. Spencer exposes Peter’s doctorate as being earned by Otto Octavius (which it was). He has Peter fired by the Bugle for the bad press. He shows the disappointment from Aunt May. He lets Spider-man punch Mysterio and save the city. Except for that last thing, Spencer lines as much of Peter’s life up behind the 8-ball as he can–except for one thing. I fast forwarded a bit–Peter will have a chance to redeem himself academically. He’ll surely get his day to accept responsibility for himself and his actions. But that other thing I can’t bring myself to spoil.
I’m a fan of Spencer’s writing. The little callbacks, the bad jokes/dated pop culture references (Bye, Felicia!)–they all work for me. Better yet, in one issue, Spencer demonstrates that he gets my Peter Parker. Not the one who declares that “No one dies” or acts like he’s Tony Stark, whom Dan Slott has been directing for the past decade. This Peter Parker loves and respects the people around him, but he inadvertently screws things up somehow. Then, like Sisyphus, he pushes the rock back up the mountain, only to have it fall back down again for some other reason. I felt like several of the notes Spencer hits upon in this story are speaking directly to me, as if they’re saying, ‘it’s ok. Your Spider-man is safe. He’ll tell bad jokes and screw things up and try his hardest in between.” I didn’t even touch upon the backup story with Mysterio being represented by Beetle, which was comical and sad and a more than a little troubling…just like it should be.
The art by Ryan Ottley is challenging for me. I’ve never gone too far down the Invincible well, but what I’ve seen, I’ve liked. His characters remind me slightly of the old Tick cartoon, which I also really like. His pencils (my comic shop guy saved me a copy of an extra that shows just the pencil work), I like a lot–I just don’t know if I’m 100% sold on Ottley for Amazing Spider-man yet. I feel like his style will take me a few issues to get used to. I’m ok with that. He definitely makes a distinct sylistic impression, and it’s a positive one. If he keeps up this quality, combined with Nick Spencer’s writing, I’m sure I’ll get there sooner rather than later.
Amazing Spider-Man #1 Final Grade: A
Stew says I’m too easy when it comes to grading, but I like what I like. If I had to pick between these two books, I would lean more towards Spidey out of personal loyalty, even though I would give the Superman book higher marks on the technical aspects for their respective #1 issues. I feel Reis did a stronger job on those quiet scenes. I’m just so excited that Spider-man is in the hands of writers like Nick Spencer and Chip Zdarsky while Superman is being taken over by Bendis. Reis and Ottley aren’t anything to sneeze at, either! It’s like going to the ice-cream shop to find out that all 31 flavors are stuff you love. It’s a great time to be a comic reader, and it’s a great time to get on the bandwagon with these fresh starts!
If you’d like to give either of these a try, but don’t know where to go, try the comic shop locator.
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Until next time, my friends,
My blogs will remain the ones with the squeaky, excited about the future of comics ghost noises!
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