Marvel's April 27 release of Amazing Spider-Man #1 (2022) aims to make way for Spider-Man's upcoming 60th-anniversary celebration by dropping Peter down to a whole new level of rock bottom out of which he will (hopefully) emerge heroically.
Arguably the biggest draw to this issue is famed Spider-Man artist John Romita Jr. Paired with longtime inking collaborator, Scott Hanna. Further, veteran and fan-favorite scribe Zeb Wells steps back to the helm to script the story, where we see Peter trying to get back on his feet in a post-"Beyond" world, but it would seem luck is not on his side as this issue gets underway. Considering the tried and true formula of bringing the old "Parker luck" to the forefront as a means of resetting the table for a new first issue and a larger story arc, it would seem to be a winning formula. But does this team stick the landing in this initial foray?
Written by Zeb Wells
Art by John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, and Marcio Menyz
Lettering by VC's Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 6/10
There were some moments where this did feel like a traditional Amazing Spider-Man comic, albeit in more subtle ways. In particular, Wells and letterer Joe Caramagna paired off well with the moments of brief interior dialogue through the captions in various points of Peter's day. The voice felt like the Peter Parker we know and love.
As a whole, however, the story proves challenging on a couple of points. First, we're meant to understand this issue serves to "usher in a new era" for Spider-Man. Ostensibly, this would lend itself to being accessible for not only returning readers but also to those who've been behind on what the Wall-Crawler has been up to outside of the films. Yet, we find out there are conflicts with Aunt May that are sewing seeds of conflict, Peter having disappeared for months along with medical bills that have piled up without any explanation to the reader, along with some sort of conflict between himself and the Fantastic Four where the source of conflict is only hinted at.
With so many characters having conflicts with Peter and Spider-Man, but so little understanding as to why it leaves an awful lot of questions in the air that feel like parts of a missed conversation.
Of course, this could be an excellent means of baiting readers' interests to keep them turning the page and hankering for the next issue. But that's predicated on our being invested in this version of Peter as a hero where we want to see him succeed, and in many of his interactions in this issue, he's dismissive and more than a bit unlikeable at times.
There's too little information and interactions between him and MJ to know why they aren't connecting. Then there's something May has discovered about Peter, but again, we don't really see him showing much in the way of remorse for the kind of pain he's caused her. He's dismissive to Johnny Storm - one of his oldest friends - and he's perhaps downright unlikeable and uncharacteristically rude to one of his newer friends - his apartment mate, Randy, who is set up to be a good guy looking out for and seeking support from his absentee friend.
In short, there wasn't much to this version of Peter Parker to make readers feel like this was who they knew or want to come back and see what else he's up to in Issue #2.
In terms of what readers come to expect from a John Romita Jr. book, his highly stylized, angular line art usually stands out as the defining signature. Fans either love it or hate it, but there is no denying who sits behind the pencil. And whether you do love it or hate it, you have to respect that it's trying for something different and unique. That is what makes this particular issue a bit of an odd duck.
As a whole, the comic is well-polished and feels every bit professional from top to bottom. Menyz's colors are arguably best when we're seeing some action or when the Human Torch arrives on the scene, but his choices for more toned-down moments work well to complement the story, too.
Where this particular issue falls short though is that it doesn't fully deliver on what many readers will no doubt be coming to see: a John Romita Jr. comic book. In many ways, there are opportunities for JRJr to lean into characters like Tombstone and fashion them in ways that maximize his style. But that's not what readers get in this issue. Instead, it seems as though the sharper look and feel that comes with Romita is much more subdued. The jawlines and cheekbones are more rounded and a little less pronounced, and Tombstone looks much less like he's been cut out of granite, and instead, has a softer and more "marshmallow appearance" at times.
It's unclear whether Hanna's inks could have helped draw this out more or not, but it just doesn't feel "on brand." When we think of Tombstone, he's supposed to be a hard, menacing gangster who seems like the perfect villain for JRJr, but the way he's depicted here falls short of conveying those character traits. And while Tombstone arguably is the most obvious place where this shift in artistic style comes across, it's something present throughout the issue.
Ultimately, Amazing Spider-Man #1 just doesn't come across with the same energy as past JRJr efforts on Spider-Man.
For readers who've been following Amazing Spider-Man, this issue will likely serve well enough to move them along into the next chapter of Peter's ongoing story. For newer readers, however, especially those coming with hopes to experience a comic drawn by one of the modern-day living legends, this issue may not quite deliver on the expectations. Instead, it may just be an example of the kind of comic that's more of a Chapter One to a collected trade paperback than a good example of a must-read first issue.
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