All-Amazing – The Amazing Spider-Man #5 Review

It’s All-Amazing, the series where I review every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man and tell you all about it. Today, Spider-Man meets a guest from someone else’s rogue’s gallery…


The Amazing Spider-Man – Issue 5 – Review

Amazing Spider-Man 5 is kind of special, y’know? This marks the first time in Spider-Man’s history that he fights a villain from someone else’s book. This is also the first issue not to introduce any major players to the Marvel universe. Our story begins with Peter Parker and his friends watching Spider-Man get trounced by the press again. His friends all love Spider-Man so Parker comes up with an ingenious plan to throw them off the scent.

Parker hates spider-man

Meanwhile, they aren’t the only ones watching, because Doctor Doom is also taking in a little TV and he decides Spider-Man is just who he needs. The press is so convinced Spider-Man is New York’s greatest villain, Doom decides to try and hire him to defeat the Fantastic Four. He does this by putting a spider into a transmitter and using it like a CB radio. It’s sort of like Gene Hackman’s supersonic broadcast in Superman: The Movie, except dumb.

Doctor doom's spider radio

Spider-Man picks up the signal and follows it back to Doom, who puts the offer to him directly. Spidey appears to consider it seriously for a moment, before remembering he’s supposed to be the hero of the book and webbing Doom up. At this point Doom reveals Spider-Man has been talking to a dummy the whole time, and Doom has actually been stood three feet away in the closet. This was the point I realised that 1963 Spider-Man isn’t all that bright. What I am starting to notice however is just how right Tom Holland’s Spider-Man in Civil War is to this era. His Peter Parker is reluctant, goofy, and nerdy too; he can’t stop talking, he seriously considers terrible ideas, and he dramatically underestimates how far over his head he is. So, moments later, Doom kicks his ass. Parker escapes unscathed, but he has to dive out the window to do it. By the time he gets back, Doom has fled, and our hero gets the blame for the devastation once again.

Spider-Man leaves the building

This creates a problem for Doom, Spider-Man knows he’s in the city and is on the case, and Doom has a pathological need for revenge. Now he knows Spider-Man is a hero, he also figures he can threaten his life, and the Fantastic Four will come running to his rescue instead. This is a pretty nice touch really. Doom isn’t my favourite Marvel villain, but even an amateur admirer like me knows his main beef is with Reed Richards, and that comes through. Even when Spider-Man’s in his grasp, The Fantastic Four are his endgame. With all this in mind, Doom develops a device that will actually use Spider-Man’s spider sense against him, tracking him down anywhere in the city.

Flash Thompson dressed as spider-man

Coincidentally, at exactly this moment, Flash Thompson and Peter’s 1960s, white toothed, dead-eyed school chums are planning on scaring Peter by having Flash jump out dressed as Spider-Man and surprise him… do I even need to tell you where this is going?

Doom Kidnaps Flash

The rest of the book unfolds pretty neatly from here, Doctor Doom goes on TV and reveals to the world that he has kidnapped ‘Spider-Man’, and if the Fantastic Four don’t disband immediately he’s going to murder him, Parker finds out about the planned prank and figures out who must be in the Spider-Man costume (and, I shit you not, considers leaving Flash to die), and Aunt May makes Peter promise not to leave the house and get hurt. Peter does it anyway, because he’s a jerk.

He makes a fairly rapid entrance to Doom’s hideout after deducing that Evil Genius Doctor Doom probably only designed traps to protect against the Fantastic Four. He gets in by climbing down the air vent, because Reed Richards could never do that or nothin’…

Spider-Man crawls down an air vent

There our intrepid hero fights Doom while being subjected to various traps, including another robot, something lightning related, and a machine with lots of spinning balls on it. The fight lasts a while, but neither has the upper hand, in a way that feels a bit too much like Stan Lee not wanting to let either of his babies look soft. It only ends when The Fantastic Four arrives to save the day. Flash Thompson unfortunately survives.

This is an interesting issue, because the addition of Doctor Doom is clearly supposed to be a big draw. His name is as big as the title on the cover, and he drives most of the plot forward. He’s a pretty brutal opponent too, he never loses a fight and he outsmarts Peter several times. The only problem is nobody really loses anything at any time in the book. It’s like play-sparring where you know there are no real consequences, and Doom is exactly what he always is, the most cliche and moustache twirling villain in the Marvel library.

The issue is fun at times, but separated from the hype, it just feels like a bit of a distraction. For a series that has prided itself so much on developing Spider-Man as a real character, there’s none of that here. Even Flash’s stupid prank feels more like a chance to have Doom make his scary message than part of Parker’s personal life story. It’s not bad, it’s just very safe, like neither character could step too much on the other’s toes.

One thing I did really love about this issue though was the art, which was heavy and stylised all the time. Ditko has always been a bit off-model for me, but here he really finds his groove and every panel looks great. Top notch stuff.

That’s all for this time, but coming up next we have a hell of a villain making their first appearance.

 

All Amazing – The Amazing Spider-Man #4: Review

It’s time once again for All Amazing! The series in which I read and review every issue of Marvel’s flagship comic, The Amazing Spider-Man. Today we reach Issue 4, and the introduction of The Sandman… and Peter Parker’s failed love-life. 

J Jonah Jameson no Pants


The Amazing Spider-Man – Issue 4 – Review

Something that keeps cropping up in these early issues of Amazing Spider-Man is Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s impeccable sense of what the character is all about, and what his weaknesses are. We’re only in the fourth issue and already they’ve been adept at writing characters and scenarios that seem perfectly designed to match this particular hero. You might think that’s what writers are supposed to do, but comics prior to Marvel in the 60s were often about indistinguishable god-like heroes who fought, and surpassed, whatever foe happened to be trendy that week. Spider-Man is so different right from the start in that each foe he faces challenges him and forces him to confront his own limitations. It’s refreshing and gives the series a weird sort of Smallville vibe. I know it’s easy to say this in retrospect, but the series feels written like a good prequel. We find Spider-Man unformed and learning, incomplete. It’s a joy to read. In this issue we meet another new villain, and he works because Spidey’s powers really offer him little advantage in a fight.

Enter Sandman.

 

 

Before that however, the book continues to remind us how much of a comedy it is with a really quite funny opening. After stopping a heist before the goons have managed to break the glass, both Spider-Man and the crooks realise he can’t actually apprehend them because they haven’t committed a crime yet. While he’s manhandling them, they start to cry assault until New York’s finest arrive and Spidey has to scarper. After getting all stroppy about it, he decides to blame J. Jonah Jameson for nobody in the city respecting him and, I swear to god, goes to his office to leave a “deposit” on Jameson’s office chair.

Spider-Man pranks jamesonNow, the deposit turns out to be webbing, but I don’t believe for a second Stan Lee didn’t know what he was writing here. Just read this.

Spider-Man gets revenge on Jameson

While still feeling a bit sulky about things, and doubly miserable because he has to sew the holes in his own costume, word gets out that the dangerous bank robber, The Sandman, has arrived in New York. Spidey makes plans to track him down after school, and blows off a girl way out of his league to do it. (Sometimes you wonder if Parker doesn’t bring these problems on himself really.) It’s a waste of time though because while on the run from his latest heist, The Sandman conveniently runs into Peter’s school to hide. Pete ducks away to change, and Spider-Man emerges to save the day.

SpiderMan issue 4 panelsSo far I think this is the first time a fight has taken place on the school ground, in front of his peers. It’s a scene we’d see play out in so many versions of Spider-Man, but it’s a natural fit for the character. The bullies who taunt the nerd, unaware they’re watching the same guy kick-ass and cheering him on. It’s real underdog porn right there, and on behalf of all underdogs, it’s always appreciated. Still, Spider-Man isn’t having the best time. Sandman is pretty brutal, he can be powder when he needs to be, and solid as a rock the next moment. Peter’s webbing is useless, and at one point he resorts to trying to use a woodwork drill on him. Suffice to say it doesn’t really go so well.

The fight is actually really solid. It takes up a big chunk of the book, and more than once Spidey takes a pretty brutal hit. Of all the fights we’ve seen him in so far, this is one of the most tough and you feel it. It’s weird to think that a minor goon like Sandman would be so effective in his first appearance, but it’s honestly my favourite action sequence in the series so far… until the end. The end sucks.

Spider-Man Sandman Battle


How does Spider-Man dominate Sandman? Soak him and turn him to mud? Melt him into glass? Disperse the sand in the air?

No, he just sucks him up in a little vacuum cleaner.

The ending is also a bittersweet victory for Peter. After washing the crap out of his slacks, Jameson turns up at the school and promises to buy Parker’s photos sight unseen; Parker has the evening free and money in his pocket, but his date now thinks he’s a coward who spent the day hiding under the desk. Not for the last time, Peter Parker ends a fight feeling like he was punished for doing the right thing.

This is a simple but solid issue; all the Spider-cliches are here, but it’s just so well done. The villain is genuinely threatening, Peter’s humiliation is similarly well communicated. There’s a moment after the whole class publicly humiliates him for his assumed cowardice, he turns to Flash, and threatens him. He’s the good guy, of course, so he holds back and reminds himself that Spider-Man can’t just go thrashing teenagers, (even if he’s just a teen himself) but the look on his face as he realises he has to back down and double humiliate himself is pretty sad.

This issue shows why the series deserved to become the hit it did!

All Amazing – The Amazing Spider-Man #3: Review

This is part 3 of my quest to read and review every issue of The Amazing Spider-Man from start to finish, the first two issues were hit and miss, but this time we’re introduced to a really famous foe.


The Amazing Spider-Man #3

In the first couple of issues of Amazing Spider-Man, we’ve really seen Peter Parker take shape from a slightly goofy, classic nerd archetype to more of the wise-cracking, down trodden hero we’ve come to know and love. Issue 3 actually takes a lot of the ideas Stan Lee and Steve Ditko have been working through, and puts them together into the first really great book of the run. It’s probably as good as anything we’ll see for the next few years too, and most of this success is down to Doctor Octopus.

Spider-Man fights crime

As the book opens we find a more confident Spider-Man taking down cheap thugs with ease. In keeping with Parker’s penchant for bringing his biggest problems down on himself, he starts to wish he could actually go up against a villain with a bit more oomph, which kicks off Doc’ Ock’s origin story.

He’s pretty complete here too; a brilliant scientist who conducts research on nuclear power with the aid of four robotic arms, he goes mad after an accident damages his brain and fuses the arms to his body. He becomes fixated on using his new appendages to finish his research, holding a hospital full of staff hostage while he does it.

Otto Octavius is a goofy concept for a character but he’s pure gold here. They enjoy the fun of the character completely, but there’s a sadness to him too; his brilliance is completely destroyed by his madness and power but he still isn’t driven by greed or self interest. He wants to complete his work. Spidey doesn’t fall short in the drama too, and after getting soundly thrashed by Octavius the first time they fight, we see the first of Peter Parker’s many doubting moments. He’s convinced he can’t defeat Doctor Octopus, until Johnny Storm gives a pep talk to the local school and Peter decides to get back on the horse. We also see a little of the classic Parker genius, as he synthesises a new chemical to help him out by fusing Doc’ Ock’s arms together. It doesn’t go quite to plan, but he’s already using that scientific genius to get the job done.

Doc Ock and Spider-Man's first fight

The story is full of tropes we’d revisit in this book for years to come, but it pulls it off so earnestly here it’s hard not to like it. Peter’s on-again, off-again, love affair with his crimefighting career begins here, but we also believe his pain. He really hasn’t fought a villain like this before, and when he loses there’s nobody he can turn to for support. Octavius himself is something new for the book too. Sure, after the accident he gets a little cliche, but there’s never any question of his brilliance, or his capabilities. The Vulture, the Tinkerer, and The Chameleon were all great villains, but they were usually brought down by some failing or underestimating of the hero. Doctor Octopus isn’t like that, he’s a passionate scientist and a strategic thinker. He isn’t beaten until Spider-Man ups his game.

Peter’s personal life takes a back seat here again, although we do see some more of Jameson and Aunt May. The cast of supporting characters is being reinforced bit by bit, but the book is definitely taking a back seat to the villains. It’s rare to see an early run of a book so full of familiar faces, with every major villain faced so far still a player in the current Marvel universe.  This is a good era for the company, and it’s not hard to see why. They really set up a tone and stuck to it. No wonder forty years later, Sam Raimi didn’t see the need to change much.

Peter Parker inspired by Human Torch's speech

Probably my favourite feature of these early books is Spider-Man as the growing hero. This isn’t a perfect, generic, costumed avenger archetype. It’s a character who is new to the job, knows he isn’t one of the big fish yet, and makes mistakes. He beats The Human Torch to the punch in the story, but he makes it clear he’s still a minor player compared to the Fantastic Four, and that’s something that will stick with Spider-Man as the years go by. It’s something DC have got wrong over and over with Batman, insisting that because he’s a major player on store shelves, he needs to be a top-dog in the DCU continuity too, and it’s so much less interesting than a character who’s popular in fiction, but less well liked in his own reality.

These books continue to be fantastic, and hopefully it’s as good next time when we meet The Sandman!