A brand new era of Spider-Man is upon us, and the first issue out last week is very good. Amazing Spider-Man #75 established the Beyond Corporation’s new bid to get into the superhero business, and Ben Reilly is their pick for who will wear the Spider-Man costume. Since they own the copyright to the name, that means Peter needs to back off. In a cliffhanger that could mean the death of Peter Parker, will Ben Reilly have a change of heart?
As you can see in the preview, Ben isn’t taking it so well that Peter might die attempting to make things right and inform Peter’s family what is going on. He’s pretending to be his brother, the most likely scenario so the doctors aren’t shocked to death, but it’s clear from the get-go Ben is cares very much for Peter’s recovery.
That’s the basic through-line to the issue as Ben is coming to grips with the fact that Peter Parker may not make it. In a key scene, Ben asks for Peter’s blessing to be Spider-Man, and writer Zeb Wells captures the weight of the moment well. In some sense, Ben doesn’t know if he deserves to be Spider-Man and that is put to bed well here.
There’s also a good juxtaposition between Ben’s support system and Peter’s. Ben has his wife and a few heroes he picked up in the backup stories the last issue, but he also has a corporate overlord breathing down his neck. This conflict is enhanced by the visible care and concern of Aunt May — plus her desire to chew out every doctor she can — and Mary Jane.
Also layered into the story are the villains that put Peter in the hospital who need a butt-kicking and Peter fighting for his life in the unique position of the danger being inside himself. Both threats are well colored by Marcio Menyz, who complements Patrick Gleason’s pencils well. What’s interesting is the supervillains aren’t the main focus in the book and yet the tension runs high on every page.
Gleason continues to do some exceptional work, with great ideas like half of Peter shown on the left writhing in pain, a touch of red on the white sheets conveying danger, and Ben on the right standing tall and proud with sunlight dancing across his shoulder. There’s a great two-panel progression of Peter’s pain getting worse and his Spider-sense going off as if it’s affecting his body more and more. Gleason is very good at facial expressions and even when a reaction from Ben is hard to pin down it adds a layer of attitude or concern that brings out a bit more of the complexity within these characters.
It’s very hard to convince readers that a mainline superhero might die, and yet the creative team has done it here. You’re going to be on the edge of your seat not knowing if Peter Parker may die while also wrapping your head around the idea of Ben Reilly earning the right to be Spider-Man at such a difficult transition. Amazing Spider-Man #76 is a tense issue that is shocking because of how much the comic makes you feel.
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