In a world of constant reboots, multiverses, and never-ending world-ending threats, I’ve taken to more lighthearted superhero comics in recent years. It’s a major reason why Ms. Marvel‘s been one of my favorite Marvel books on stands as of late, and why I was so excited when I heard that Amazing Spider-Man was starting from the ground up with Nick Spencer at the helm, in an arc appropriately named Back to Basics. Especially in the wake of Stan Lee’s death, I was really looking forward to enjoying a Fresh Start™ for one of his most famous creations.
And my goodness, was this book worth the wait. Spencer adroitly captures what makes Peter Parker, well, Peter Parker in every page. After everything that’s happened to him — including being possessed by Doctor Octopus’s mind, being cloned several times over and rising to the top of his own billion dollar corporation — Peter’s back to how we know him best: a down-on-his-luck, poor, lovesick fool whose life is falling apart around him, but who still wants to do what’s right for others. Thankfully, this isn’t achieved through making everything that happened before a dream, or an alternate universe, or a mind-meld, or anything like that — Spencer is able to have a relatively clean slate while also continuing the story that has brought Peter to this point. It’s as relieving as it is refreshing.
A new technology is invented that allows anyone to instantly find out if any piece of work was plagiarized, and determine who the original author was. Unfortunately for Pete, the public test of this technology was one of “his” papers that was actually written by Otto Octavius back when he was controlling Peter’s body as the Superior Spider-Man. As a result, Peter loses his new job as Science Editor at the Daily Bugle and is forced to move into a crappy apartment with his former boss’s son and, oddly enough, Boomerang.
So that’s where this story kicks off, and it does so by introducing a bevy of classic Spidey baddies along the way, adding to the nostalgic feel of the book. But don’t get it twisted: Back to Basics is not just a wistful trip down memory lane. Just like every other aspect of this volume, Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 1 masterfully takes a concept that seems extremely familiar (TWO Peters?!) and weaves it into an original concept that propels the story forward in exciting ways. And it’s all delivered via the quippy, fast paced dialogue you’d expect from a Spidey title, eye-rolling dad jokes, pop culture references and all.
Seriously, this book is a pleasure to read, with excellent pacing, nonstop banter and an intriguing storyline that, while it continues to build upon Peter’s past experiences, serves as a perfect jumping on point for new readers — myself included. I have been a Spider-Man fan for a long time, but Spider-continuity is notoriously messy, so after taking a few years off from comics jumping back in seemed like a daunting task. I’m grateful for Back to Basics, because, even if it accomplishes nothing else (and rest assured, it does), it has turned me back into a card-carrying webhead.
All of this would fall flat without equally solid artwork in which to package it, and thankfully, Ryan Ottley and Cliff Rathburn are more than up to the task. The title’s artwork evokes the classic Spider-Man feel while also feeling incredibly modern. Several full page spreads are poster worthy, and if Marvel sold them they’d be hanging on my wall right now. It’s that good. Laura Martin’s colors also add to that classic Spidey aesthetic while making every panel feel lively and engaging.
I don’t know if there are enough superlatives in the English language to express how pleased I was with this volume. I’ve been a Spider-Man fan since I was a kid, but after not keeping up with current stories for a few years, the continuity felt too daunting for me to dive back in. Thanks to Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s excellent first foray into Amazing Spider-Man, I feel like I’m right at home again.
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