The relationship I have with the Amazing Spider-Man title is so toxic. I’ll love it, I’ll hate it, I’ll love it again and expect better, I’ll get disappointed and hate it once more, and then I’ll love it again with the promise of the fact that maybe it will be good.
What stage am I at, after reading Issue #31, is a question you might have, dear reader. And the answer is, I’m at the stage where I have faith in this book being good, but I don’t know if I can give it my heart, because it might just crush it and break it all over again, like it usually does.
Issue #31 of this volume, or rather, legacy number 925, is a special oversized issue, in line with how Marvel celebrates quarter milestones now. It focuses on the day leading up to – as well as the day of – the wedding between Peter Parker’s best friend, Randy Robertson, and the Tombstone’s daughter, Janice Lincoln, otherwise known as the Beetle. Half of this issue is focused on that story, and the rest is split between eight short stories, some standalone, and some that set up future titles.
Spoiler-free thoughts: I love that this issue exists, because it works easily as a jumping-on point for the second year of this book, as well as other titles across the line. Would it help if you had some context? Absolutely, but even without it, you’ll be perfectly fine, and that’s the beauty of it.
Kicking things off is the big wedding story, written by Zeb Wells, with art by John Romita Jr., inks by Scott Hanna and colours by Marcio Menyz for the prelude and the wedding itself, and art by Emilio Laiso with Ze Carlos and colours by Bryan Valenza for the bachelor and bachelorette party. Joe Caramagna lettered the entire story.
So far in this run, aside from the Hellfire Gala tie-in issue, the best parts have been the street level crime stuff – which is to say, the first arc. When this issue got announced, seeing that this will be focused on that cast of characters was exciting to say the least. “This book is leaning into its strengths again? Maybe it’ll be good.”
And it was. In an era where this title is trying so hard to capture the magic of the 80s era of Spider-Man comics but failing, it’s great to see it slowly create the foundations of being able to do so. The prelude is a conversation between Tombstone and the rest of the leaders of organized crime, inviting them to the wedding of his daughter. Romita Jr.’s art can be wonky, and there are some wonky faces here, but it’s still effective in getting the story across. The writing is what takes the cake though. Wells clearly has a handle on how to write these gangsters, how to establish a sense of control in the crowd, and how to make them bounce off each other. Fantastic stuff.
The entire first chapter, the parties, were also fantastic. It’s great to see a Spider-Man book focus on Peter Parker and the people again, especially after getting back-to-back arcs of just him being a superhero. I come to this book more for the people drama than I do for the superheroics, so it’s good to see that Peter never dons the suit once the entire time. In classic Spider-Man fashion, there’s clearly a difference in two lives, where Randy’s bachelors’ party is boring with only Peter there, Janice’s is fun, eventful and she’s clearly having the time of their life. These two events run parallelly, switching perspectives from the men to the women every page or so, which really helps with the pace and never makes any scene feel like it’s gone on for too long or not enough.
Peter displays that classic guilt here, where he takes everything on his shoulders to make it easier on someone rather than push the blame on someone else, and it’s so endearing to see him be an actual character in the book rather than just see Spider-Man all the time. He and Randy are natural fits who bounce off each other super well, and while I’ve been wishing we got more of them, it’s cool to get a taste of why their friendship works.
Felicia’s friendship with Janice is a call-back to an issue from Jed Mackay’s Black Cat where they infiltrate Rand Industries, and while that particular event isn’t referenced, it’s good to see things from her perspective in this book too, for once. She’s super fun in this, and I’m glad to see her finally being written well in this title. In particular, there’s the conversation with Janice that leads into one of the big moments here, and I’m glad it happened.
The big event in question is the fact that Peter and Felicia break-up. It’s a really sweet conversation, and a natural break-up, rather than anything forced and contrived. While their reasonings are valid within the context of the run as a whole, I can’t help but wonder if this was meta commentary on their relationship here in any way.
“And that made me think… What are we even doing here?” – Felicia Hardy
“Going through the motions.” – Peter Parker
“Going through the motions.” – Felicia Hardy
It’s technically not wrong. There was barely any focus on their romance throughout the time they were together aside from the two issue arc, but even then there wasn’t ever any compelling reason for them to be together. It just existed for the sake of it. It’s framed well here, through a conversation with Janice where Felicia realizes that this relationship is just a waste, I just couldn’t help but speculate anyway. Nonetheless, it was a sweet break-up, and I do hope that she doesn’t return to comic book limbo after this.
The art during this section is gorgeous too. I love how Laiso, Carlos, and Valenza showcase the two sides of the night, and my only nitpick is I hate when Peter’s eyes are coloured blue when they’re meant to be brown.
After this is the actual wedding itself. If you don’t keep up with any comic news, you’ll be surprised by the events that unfold, but if you do, then you already know what happens since they announced it at SDCC last month.
Yet, the build-up to it is phenomenal. Again, to pull back to good, 80s Spider-Man, there’s that clash of the world of Peter Parker colliding with the world of Spider-Man. That’s the draw of the event after all: there’s Randy Robertson, Peter Parker’s best friend, and then there’s the Beetle, someone Spider-Man fights with every so often. But there’s more! Not only are people he knows as Peter Parker at the wedding, but so are the gangsters he knows as Spider-Man, and he’s the usher of the wedding.
There’s this tension brewing right until someone from an unknown gang comes up and shoots Tombstone, before Spider-Man can stop him. The fight is so kinetic, it’s Romita Jr.’s greatest strength, and he absolutely gives it his best here, helping to really sell how fast it goes and accentuating how Spider-Man moves. It’s good character-based storytelling while setting up the big Spider-Man event of the year – “Gang War” later this year, and honestly, if we get writing this good then too, it’s going to shape up to be awesome.
Shout out to Joe Caramagna’s lettering too, he uses a lot of different styles for both speaking and SFX throughout the issue, and they all helped keep me always immersed in the book, great stuff.
The second story in this, also by Wells with letters by Caramagna, art by David Lopez and colours by KJ Diaz, focuses on Spidey and Ms. Marvel after the events of the Hellfire Gala and X-Men #25. First things first, like with X-Men #25, even if I did like the stories themselves, I couldn’t help but think that for one, it really solidifies the idea that her death was just a cheap marketing stunt to build up sales rather than be anything meaningful. The second thing is, as much as I’m glad that Fallen Friend exists (it’s a good issue) I still don’t like that basically most of that issue is – within the context of the Marvel “canon” – nonexistent now, since the memory of her death was erased from the world. There’s obviously the caveat that some other writer might build on it some day, but as it stands, I’m not a fan of corporate marketing gimmicks like this, and this story helps support that notion.
Other than that, I thought it was nice to have a conversation between the two and send her off to the X-Book side of things for good. A little awkward both in the writing and art department (“art” for the expressions on their faces) but it was nice to have closure for that era of the character. Also I love the emphasis of the X-Men logo when Kamala brings it up, it manages to really portray her excitement in a fun way.
The third story is a Dan Slott story, with art by Mark Bagely, inks by John Dell, colours by Edgar Delgado and letters by Joe Caramagna. It builds off the last two-issue arc of Amazing Spider-Man, where Peter and Norman faced off against Otto Octavius, while also setting up the newly announced Superior Spider-Man Returns! one-shot. It’s a fun little story, and Slott always gets Otto’s voice right, so while I’m not a fan of the original Superior Spider-Man series, it definitely has me interested to check out that new story.
The fourth story, by Celeste Bronfman, with art by Alba Glez, inks by Elisabetta D’Amico and Craig Young, colours by Jim Campbell, and letters by Joe Caramagna, is a Mary Jane centric story, meant to serve as a prelude to the to-be-announced Mary Jane Watson miniseries focusing on her as Jackpot.
It opens as a story of grief, with her and Paul going to the therapist, where the two (MJ especially) look defeated since their “kids” are gone. In a very superhero story fashion too, it delves into how ultimately they’ll never be able to truly express how they feel because they’d look crazy explaining it. From there, Felicia surprises her with the new costume, and it ends there.
I will say, I do like how Bronfman writes Mary Jane. As someone who’s always critical of how people write her, there’s a good grasp of her voice here, which at least gives some promise of how she will be written in the story. I’m still not sold on her being Jackpot, I think turning civilian characters into heroes is still lazy, but I’ll tune in to the limited series as well to see how that plays out, with the hope that it will focus on her grief over losing the kids.
Also it was funny to see MJ commenting on how her daughter never really decided on which name she liked best, a quick continuity correction.
The fifth, by Steve Foxe and Eric Coda, is a prelude to the newly-announced Spider-Woman ongoing that starts this November. It’s a really effective hook, starting off with a fight between Jessica and Taskmaster, before shifting perspectives to Carol in order to catch new readers up to speed on what’s going on with Jess, and then ending with the big hook for the story – Where is her baby? Steve Foxe is an amazing writer, so I was sold as is, but this little story sold me even more. This is going to be a book to look out for, and I cannot wait for more of it.
The sixth, once again by Dan Slott with letters by Joe Caramagna, art by Paco Medina, and colours by Erick Arciniega, is set up for the new Spider-Boy book. It focuses on Madame Monstrosity, a woman who originally created the formula to create Humanimals – Human/Animal hybrids, and her trying to find out who created Spider-Boy. There’s a big retcon here too to recontextualize all the humanimals in the Spider-Man lore, and while it didn’t hook me on wanting to pick up Spider-Boy yet, it might do it for you!
The seventh and eighth stories and short joke stories, one by Albert Monteys about Spider-Man constantly saving a man who’s addicted to being rescued, and one by Cale Atkinson about Spider-Man hanging out with a goose while fighting Doc Ock. Both are short and super cute, I loved them.
The ninth story is a short three-page story by Wells, with Caramagna on letters once more, Patrick Gleason on art, and Edgar Delgado on colours that sets up the immediate next arc on this title, which starts in two weeks and focuses on Kraven and the Queen Goblin. Seeing Patrick Gleason’s art on this book is always a treat, he’s just the best, my favourite modern Spider-Man artist, and he completely pops off in these three pages. He’s so kinetic with those panels, yet so expressive, and impactful all the way through. Wells’ voice for Kraven is also perfect, and once again, I’m super excited for the future of this title. Can’t wait.
At the very end is a short tease for the sequel to Spider-Man: Reign. Personally, aside from that one bit (you know the one, everyone does), I thought the book was somewhat enjoyable, so I’ll definitely be tuning into the sequel.
Amazing Spider-Man #31 is a really good issue. I do live with the worry that my expectations will get shattered once again, but I’m hoping for the best, both from Amazing Spider-Man, but also from all the other titles that were teased here. They’ve got a running start, they just need to keep up the momentum.