Nick Spencer has been weaving a host of villains through his Amazing Spider-Man run. It’s been frustrating, because every story and comic gets interrupted by a tease to villains that don’t even factor into the current situation at hand. Sort of like the MCU. But this issue, the beginning of the “Family Matters” arc, uses the cast far better.
On one hand, we spend time with Dr. Connors (The Lizard) and his tenuous family bonds, especially with his son. Connors has always been a character that teeters on the brink, a stand-in for the chaotic result of desperation and science mixing. The image of him eating dinner with Peter in full lizard mode and arguing with his family is an absurd visual at first, but Spencer pens the rocky family terrain with affecting sincerity.
Aunt May gets a good amount of pages to show off how, frankly, badass she is. She may be perceived as just an old biddy to some, but she’s street-wise in figurative and literal terms. Although, her helping a “random” bearded hobo is sure to factor in. But that action is totally in character since she co-ran a homeless shelter back in the Brand New Day era (where she ended up housing post-cancer Eddie Brock).
From there, Rhino, Taskmaster, Beetle, and even more villains appear, intersecting into Peter and May’s subplots. There are still a few too many crooks in the kitchen, but it’s acceptable since Spencer is starting to inch them forward on the narrative field.
The issue may sound like wall-to-wall action, but it’s actually the opposite. In fact, #14 feels closer to a Brian Michael Bendis comic since it focuses so much on dialog and characterization. The talking heads may take a while to get used to, but it’s so well written, it’s worth it. However, the dialog becomes unnecessary when Spidey has to keep stopping to fill in the audience in about backstories. But Spencer does that every issue, so it’s hard to keep getting angry about it.
I’ve been a fan of Chris Bachalo for a long time, and part of that is because of his consistency. His unconventional and even fractured panel layouts, squinty characters, and expressionistic backgrounds are present in all their glory here. His spindly cartooning seems best fit for an eccentric, unpredictable book like Amazing Spider-Man.