Review: Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 – The Day After Uncle Ben’s Death
A Young, Uncertain Peter
This issue kicks off a five-issue miniseries of Peter Parker’s early days as Spider-Man, beginning here in the days immediately after Uncle Ben’s death. Peter has already experienced more than his fair share of grief, with the loss of his parents. Now, the one person whom Peter depended on most for guidance is gone. Fifteen-year-old Peter sullenly narrates, “With you gone, I’m the man of the house.” This issue is about Peter trying to fill the shoes of providing financially and caring for Aunt May while retaining some normalcy of being a teen, and his anxiety about being unable to do either.
Unlike last week’s landmark Amazing Spider-Man #1, Dan Slott writes a concise, coherent story that doesn’t divert into subplots or delve too deeply into supporting characters. There’s a too brief scene with Liz Allan, who is charming and cutesy like Betty in Archie comics. This is quickly followed by a likewise brief scene with beefcake bully Flash Thompson. I was hoping for more interaction between Peter and Liz and Flash, but Slott keeps the issue moving at a brisk pace. Since Liz has not appeared on the big screen in 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man or the recent The Amazing Spider-Man 2, I hope she shows up more in this miniseries.
A kid wanting to emulate a superhero is a common theme in fiction, but Slott’s introduction of Clayton Cole doesn’t feel recycled. Clayton is almost a sympathetic character due to his overbearing parents and his childlike awe of Spider-Man. I was surprised that Slott chose to introduce a new character in Amazing Spider-Man #1 (Clayton appears in a backup story), when the Spider-Man canon is chock-full of ancillary characters. My guess is that Clayton will develop into a villain, as he seems to have the same envious, mischievous genius streak as Syndrome from The Incredibles.
Ramon Perez draws a classic, old-school look for this issue that fits the setting. Perez and colorist Ian Herring’s flat, almost tri-color look would fit right in to the Sunday comics page when you were a kid, or a spinner rack at a 60’s corner store. The one distracting oddity of Perez’s art is characters repeatedly have eyeglasses that are mirrored white, leaving them looking like Where’s Waldo? characters without pupils. Perez chooses a simple boxy five- or six-panel page layout for most of the issue, which reinforces the classic feel.
Another twist to how we usually see Peter is his youthful dependence on a questionable character. Maxie Schiffman is a smarmy, self-serving agent. He obviously does not have Peter’s best interests in mind, but Peter follows him like a lost puppy at the end of this issue. Slott is skillful at writing a marked contrast between this Peter and the adult, independent hero who runs solo without the Avengers.
The need for money is not a motivation that is remembered much in the comics or movies when we think of Spider-Man’s early days; the emphasis is usually on his heroism and rogues gallery. On top of Peter’s normal insecurities of not fitting in at school or being liked by girls, he’s been thrust into the grown-up world of work and finances. I give Slott credit for bringing out these forgotten pieces of Peter’s past.
Non-main miniseries titles are often overlooked, and Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 does not tie in directly with current Marvel U events such as Peter’s return to life. However, this issue does a dual job of introducing new readers to Peter’s backstory, and giving familiar readers a refreshing, unhurried deeper look at his psyche in the wake of Uncle Ben’s death. This issue reveals Peter as a teen who is struggling with uncertainty about the future. For its well-crafted writing of a character teetering on adulthood, this issue deserves high marks.