Amazing Fantasy #1000 is an anthology with a blockbuster list of creators attached that celebrates Amazing Fantasy #1000 and 60 years of Spider-Man. Enough has been argued about the numbering of the comics and I have nothing to add there, so I came to this with the only expectation of having a good time. If this is just an excuse to have an anthology of short stories, I have absolutely no gripe with that other than just wanting to be entertained and amazed
Just Some Guy by Anthony Falcone and Michael Cho is a good kick-off story that is a character study of Spider-Man’s empathy and perseverance in wanting to mend a low-level criminal. The art is stellar on this one and does a good job of re-introducing Spider-Man and calling back to his motivations.
In His Sinister 60th by Dan Slott and Jim Cheung, Spider-Man running late for his sixtieth birthday dinner as he keeps getting sucked into fighting crime. It masterfully manages to write a heartwarming and funny story about Spider-Man and his drive and shines a light on the impact he has on the people around him. The art again is great.
Focussing on Daily Bugle’s role in Spider-Man’s world, Spider-Man vs Conspiriton by Armando Iannucci, Ryan Stegman, and JP Mayer tries to cleverly tell us about some trickery afoot that is manipulating how people are perceiving the news. I appreciate how this story attempts to capture the spirit of Amazing Fantasy, and talk about the age of media manipulations we live in, all with a new antagonist. However, it feels a bit like it’s pulling its punches and could’ve been pushed to become a great story. The mech-based costume for the villain is incongruous.
The Kid’s Got a Good Eye by Rainbow Rowell and Oliver Coipel is a cute slice-of-life story that seems to be celebrating New York summers more than Spider-Man. This one would’ve been skippable but it has Olivier Coipel art which I can look at for hours.
In the Flesh by Ho Che Anderson, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Klaus Janson is a physiological horror story with themes of trauma which is very central to Spider-Man. I wish there were more Spider-Man stories in this vein. This story, however, feels a bit unfinished and misses the mark in my opinion.
If you are looking for a fun and campy adventure story Slaves of the Queen by Kurt Busiek, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson is just that. It perfectly captures the spirit of Amazing Fantasy for me. For how cheesy it was, I wouldn’t mind if more of the stories in this anthology captured this sort of storytelling.
In You Get It by Jonathan Hickman and Marco Checchetto, Spider-Man reaches out to an interdimensional council of Spider-Man to see if any of them have it together. It touches very much on Spider-Man’s suffering, guilt, and how hard he is on himself. It brings under the lens that Peter Parker is bound to attract misery since he is compelled to throw himself at problems. Splendid character study.
With Great Power by Neil Gaiman and Steve McNiven is about meeting your heroes, which are both Spider-Man and Steve Ditko in this story. In this very personal story, the great responsibility of Spider-Man, both in the comic book world and the reader’s world is beyond just crime-fighting in tights, it is about the impact on his fans. This story is worth a read, if not for the meta reading, then to just be transported back to the summers reading a Spider-Man comic as a young kid.
There is a special story at the very end, following a sombre letter about the passing of Mile Pasciullo, who unfortunately passed away during the production of Amazing Fantasy #1000. This story by Mile Pasciullo and Todd Nauck introduces a new rookie superhero that Spider-Man is mentoring with some fun dialogues.
Reflecting on Amazing Fantasy, this is where comics are unlike any other medium. Comic books occupy this singular space where they can be like pulp short stories, which is where I would put Amazing Fantasy. Stan Lee had described it as “odd fantasy tales that I’d dream up with O. Henry-type [twist] endings”. However, the success of Spider-Man, who first appeared in Amazing Fantasy and several other such characters helped comics expand from this to serialized fiction and blockbuster event stories, and stand-alone stories. Sometimes this expansion can become a handicap, how can we tell a new Spider-Man story without the weight of it crushing us under it? I propose, much like Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man #33, that the answer is digging into the roots of our motivations to tell these stories. It’s instances when the creative teams truly understand this that we see reinvention and something fresh for the readers. I wish more stories in here brought in more interesting and wild ideas or fun quick little adventures with great twists to the table. I wish there were fewer that relied on our throwbacks to aspects of Spider-Man’s mythology and relied on our nostalgia for it. Spider-Man is an icon and a powerful character and has had an immensely impactful sixty years on our culture. Our recognition of this power, should not short sight our understanding of this responsibility.