It's been a big year for Spider-Man, what with a new rebooted movie, the scramble to stop Dr. Octopus from ending he earth, and celebrating 50 years as Marvel's most popular character ever (suck it, Wolverine). While we've already detailed The History of Spider-Man, now we've got a boffo-sized Amazing Spider-Man #692 to commemorate the milestone (even if it's probably that his first appearance was actually published in June - editor Stephen Wacker even makes a note of this in the letters column).
And I can't help but feel like I'm a part of the whole thing, because a new character introduced in this issue is named Andy Maguire, and his Flash Thompson figure is a guy named Mark Hunsacker. Seeing as how master ASM scribe Dan Slott was on our humble Book Report Podcast #100, I'm claiming influence - and demonstrating exactly why comic professionals cannot accept unsolicited scripts from aspiring writers. They would claim influence as well. The 'c' in Hunsacker skews it all, anyhow, but it wouldn't be the first time somebody shoved one of those into my surname unbidden, for hun's sake.
Anyhow, enough of my own horn-tootin'. There are three stories being told here, and the main one is from Our Man Slott and his frequent ASM collaborator Humberto Ramos, introducing a new character named Alpha with a lot of callbacks to that famous fifteenth issue of Amazing Fantasy. In fact, the first two pages of ASM #692 are a direct homage to the first ever Spider-Man story, introducing us to young Andy M. in the same way we were introduced to young Peter Parker. However, while Parker was an outstanding science nerd, Maguire does his best to not stand out at all, out of the crippling fear of failure. That is, until the fateful day he goes to a science exhibit that gives him super-powers.
It's a fun inversion, having Peter himself hosting a group of Midtown High School kids to show off his new "Parker Particles," and of course it goes awry - although this time, it's thanks to a bit of skullduggery from a jealous aspiring Horizon Labs scientist named Tiberius. This little sabotage actually brings to mind the origin of Spider-Man 2099, when Miguel O'Hara was cursed with spider-powers he didn't want after a spiteful co-worker tried to kill him with his own device. That probably wasn't intentional at all, but I saw it, so I'm calling it cool. Anyway, the resulting disaster gives Maguire a crazy level of super power not unlike Ultra Boy from the Legion of Super-Heroes in that he's got all the generic superhero basics but can only use them one at a time.
Maguire's transformation also prompts the same kind of journey Parker went through. He's stoked about his powers, and as an ass-covering legal maneuver, he becomes Horizon Labs' new spokes-super Alpha, hitting the rich and famous track running, romancing Chrissy Chen, the girl who he couldn't ever speak to before, and even shoving around Hunsacker in a dickish way (even though, as far as we've seen, the animosity was only in one direction between these two - Andy hated Hunsacker, but Hunsacker didn't know Andy existed - no Flash-style bullying, and that was a fun sentence for me to write... but again, the horn-tootin').
So it turns out that not only were Peter's "Parker Particles" something Reed Richards had already discovered and knew to leave well enough alone (the egghead version of a wedgie for Ol' Puny-Noggin'ed Parker), it seems Spidey has to take this kid under his wing to make sure he doesn't repeat the same mistakes that resulted in the loss of Uncle Ben Parker. Alpha could've become a Poochie-styled character, but thanks to Slott's deft storytelling, any potentially annoying edge is taken off of Maguire, and he's likable enough to get invested - especially when he goes off half-cocked after the internet calls him "Poochie" (as the internet is wont to do) and shows up Spidey AND the FF by knocking out Giganto. It also turns out the kid is an "alpha level" powerhouse, which outranks "omega level" threats. Not exactly sure how that works - "omega level" is used because it's a world-ending sort of threat (omega = the last letter of the Greek alphabet and all), and "alpha class" is how you quantify mutants like Franklin Richards - but we'll roll with it.
It's a giant can of worms that has fallen in Peter's lap, and a cocky kid is about to be the least of his problems. Ramos' art is cool like always, a bit of an acquired taste thanks to its angular and elongated style, but much fun when you do acquire it.
The second story is "Spider-Man For A Night" by Dean Haspiel and Giulia Brusco, telling the story about an old crook trying to get money to take care of his granddaughter, who happens to find the discarded Spider-Man costume in the trash can from the famous "Spider-Man No More!" storyline from Stan Lee and John Romita back in ASM #50. It's a nice little callback for an eight-page interlude, giving us a sense of Spidey's impact on people he's never even met.
The third chapter is an exploration of the infamous Parker Luck from writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (I, Vampire) and Portuguese artist Nuno Plati. Peter is trying to get across town for a lecture at his alma mater and has a hell of a time trying to manage it without getting derailed into superheroic mishaps and misunderstandings and even some bird crap. It's a fun li'l romp, showing us Fialkov can do stuff that's not horror and that Plati's style is very bright and shiny with a hint of that whole manga-face without going too far overboard with it.
All in all, Amazing Spider-Man #692 pretty cool anniversary issue - we get some pathos, some comedy, and a big, thick ol' mess that Spidey's gotten himself into and will have a hard time extracting himself from. It's what Spidey's all about. Let's hope those Marvel NOW goons don't decide to yank Slott from Spidey for the sake of a stunt.