This is the fourth time I have tried to start Amazing Spider-Man from the beginning.
The first was in 2013 when I first got Marvel Unlimited. The second was in 2016, after I restarted my MU membership. The third was last year, after Comixology had a Marvel Masterwork sale and I scooped up the first 11 volumes digitally.
My present attempt is the first time I’ve gotten past issue #2. It took me three weeks to read the 250 pages herein.
I like it far more than I thought I would. However, even while defying my expectations, this comic is still held back, partly by its age and the inherent problems of being made in the ’60s, and partly because I have no idea who this is supposed to be for, myself aside.
Before I get deep into my problems though, I do want to highlight the things that worked for me. One is obviously the design, particularly the new cover by Michael Cho. Cho is probably the best human alive to do this kind of work, which feels both modern in design and like it was pulled from decades ago; nostalgic and fresh in one image. His cover along with the digest size made me personally pay attention when this new Masterworks version was announced, and they are both a real highlight of the product. I feel weird about some parts of this book, but I do hope they at least get through Stan Lee’s run on ASM, if only so I can have it collected in this format.
Much more surprising for me, though, was the depiction of Peter Parker. If I had read this in 2013, or even in 2016, I likely wouldn’t have enjoyed Peter much. I think I would have felt like he was annoying, and honestly, the panels I had seen out of context had convinced me that early Peter Parker was an asshole, a stupid nerd who deserved to be bullied. Now though, in my sunset years at the age of 25, I just wanna give this pitiful creature a hug and tell him everything’ll be okay one day, that one day he’d marry a supermodel and his aunt would (probably) never die (somehow).
It reminded me quite a bit of something artist Jamie McKelvie once talked about regarding fiction surrounding teenage characters. He said that the mistakes characters would make were more frustrating to him when he was closer in age to those characters, but upon a rewatch when he was older, those mistakes became more understandable to him, because he realized that teenagers make stupid mistakes, because they’re stupid teenagers. Their dumb accidents weren’t flaws in the writing, rather, they were features of it, McKelvie just couldn’t recognize them for what they were, because teenagers don’t think teenagers are stupid.
Which in some ways, brings me to my main problem with this new version of this 60 year old story: who is this for (aside from me)?
In a lot of ways, that question ties into dumb ideas about marketing that honestly don’t really matter when discussing the content of a story, but I still think the context of this comic coming out right now matters when viewed through the lens of Marvel’s comics that are geared toward children and young adults, and I find it drastically lacking in some ways, and disappointing in others.
If I handed this book to a 12-19 year old and told them to read it, I would expect them to like me less afterward, and I’d probably deserve it! There are so many better options, both in and out of comics, featuring Spider-Man (Go buy Spideyzine) and other characters. There are so many better comics for all readers that I can’t imagine recommending this to anyone really, besides, apparently, myself.
Even outside of that kind of hypothetical, though, the context of this comic releasing this month from Marvel is one that frustrates me. This comic that is using the aesthetics of ones for young or young adult readers released in the same month that X-Factor’s final issue releases, a series that was incredibly young adult oriented but got cancelled seemingly because of low sales. I know and understand that Mighty Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man existing did not in any way really affect X-Factor existing, but reading the content of both series and feeling like they both were targeted toward similar groups, and knowing that ASM has had opportunity and accessibility for more than double my entire life is just…I don’t get it.
This book has a cool design, and a sweet cover. It’s a series I’ve been meaning to get to for years. I enjoyed it fine. But, who else needed to read ASM 1-10, because it feels like I was the last person who wanted or needed to, and I’ve done it now.
Can I please get X-Factor #11 now?
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