Spider-Man is a fascinating character when thinking of accessibility for new readers. He is, of course, one of the most well-known figures in all of pop culture. That means his comic titles always sell well, which means there are frequently multiple ongoing titles for the character, and more than once, The Amazing Spider-Man has been released weekly as opposed to monthly, creating an enormous amount of content. This creates a situation where there is a constantly lengthening backlog of continuity but also a recurring need for a jumping-on point for new readers, whether they are coming back to read the character after a break or someone who has never picked up a comic before and understandably wants to start with the one that they know from films or television.
This brings us to the fourth first issue of The Amazing Spider-Man title in eight years. As well, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the character, and July will see the 900th (legacy numbering) issue of the title hit shelves, so this has been hyped as a vast year story-wise for the web-slinger and, therefore, one that Marvel wants to be accessible for anyone who wants to jump on board. Zeb Wells has been brought on to helm this era after being one of the main writers on the Beyond arc that finished the last Amazing run and also coming off of one of the most fun titles of the current X-Men era, Hellions. Comics legend John Romita Jr. returns to the Spidey-verse to pen the series, with Scott Hanna and Marcio Menyz on inks and colors respectively.
I am coming to this issue as one of the aforementioned readers who had stepped away from the title for a bit and am now trying to dive back in. Overall, I’ve read more ASM than any other title, and love Spider-Man for the reasons most people have for sixty years. He’s a relatable guy, trying to find that work/life balance that so many of us struggle with. His work just happens to involve webbing up bank robbers and occasionally saving the universe. So even though I haven’t caught up with the last few years of what Peter has been up to, this issue has him with his back up against the wall, looking for a job, and out on patrol. You know, being Spider-Man.
What is different this time around is how he is being viewed by his friends and family. We see Spider-Man in anguish early on before a jump in time. We then see a bearded Peter with Aunt May who’s tired of his lies. Mary Jane doesn’t want to talk to him, and Johnny Storm is more than a little concerned for his pal. This situation might seem confusing for new readers, but this seems like an intentional mystery that will become more clear as the series unfolds. It’s a dour start though and may prove jarring for those looking for a friendly neighborhood Spider-Man swinging gleefully through the city.
In the seedier side of the story, Tombstone is trying to keep his territory together from those seeking to break in, and his current supporting muscle includes The Digger and White Rabbit. Peter of course gets involved in the struggle, and we see some classic heroics where he is saving some disreputable people from certain death. Tombstone, also dealing with his daughter’s relationship to Randy and now a newfound hatred for Spider-Man, seems to be the big bad for at least this first arc. I like the idea of having a villain be showcased that’s known but not necessarily one of the top tier that can get overused. Though there is also another iconic foe lurking in the shadows that surely has his tentacles wrapped up in some kind of scheme.
JRJR’s art works well here, especially for iconic looks like Spidey in the costume and The Human Torch. The soft edged faces of the cast are still plenty expressive, but I may be most impressed with the color palette used. It’s vibrant without feeling over the top, giving the title a fresh look that simultaneously feels classic. I can see it working well with Wells’ sense of humor, which he only gets to use a few times in this somewhat solemn first issue.
I’m interested to see what new readers and old fans alike think of this issue. New readers should find Peter punching villains and dodging the cops familiar from what they know about the character, while the promoted mystery of “What did Spider-Man do?” puts every reader in the same boat of being thrown into the story in media res. It’s a bold #1 in that it’s asking for patience so that the story and reveals can unfold at the chosen pace. It’s not the typical first issue that reestablishes what the character is all about, like 2014’s #1 needed to be after Superior Spider-Man ended. But this is purposefully going for a dissonant tone where we are supposed to know something isn’t right.
And personally, with what we’ve seen so far and a truly surprising cliffhanger of an ending that I won’t go into, I’m certainly going to stick around to see what’s going on. And with #900 only a few months away, I imagine this arc is going to ramp up incredibly quickly.