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Review by Jesse Schedeen

Amazing Spider-Man Is Still in Good Hands (The Amazing Spider-Man #1 Review)

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Brand New Day 2.0.

The prospect of a new Amazing Spider-Man #1 may not hold the same appeal it once did, considering how this is the third relaunch of the series in the past four years. However, this is the first of those relaunches to boast a completely new creative team. Like the rest of Marvel's Fresh Start titles, this #1 issue offers a clean and easy gateway into a long-running franchise. But unlike some, it also keeps one eye fixed firmly on the past, resulting in a book with a unique ability to replay old hits and chart new territory at the same time.

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As far as first impressions go, Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley could do far worse than opening with a flashback to Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's Sensational Spider-Man Annual #1 (quite possibly the greatest Spider-Man comic of the 21st Century). Spencer and Ottley show a reverence for Spidey's colorful past, referencing key storylines and using various loose ends from Slott's run as fuel in establishing a new status quo for the character. The very title of this opening story arc - "Back to Basics" - establishes a clear mission statement. This is a book about Peter finding his bearings again after achieving and losing so much in recent years. And if there's one takeaway from this issue, it's that he still has plenty left to lose.

Conversely, as much as this issue succeeds in playing with comfortably familiar toys, it also has a tendency to subvert reader expectations in clever ways. Several iconic villains and supporting characters show up over the course of the main story and the two backup tales, but Spencer's script never goes in quite the direction you'd expect. Again, he's able to keep the reader just enough off-balance that the book is able to surprise even as it brings Peter back to a more traditional status quo. And the book's cheerful sense of humor always serves to balance out the darker moments. Spencer always seems to do his best work when there's a strong undercurrent of humor at play, and this series is no exception.

There are a few storytelling choices here that don't entirely work. Spencer seems intent on reestablishing Spider-Man as a character as unloved and unappreciated by his superhero peers as he is the general public. Spencer's justification for that sudden shift in perception is extremely flimsy, especially considering that this is a guy who was bankrolling the Avengers not too long ago. It's also disappointing that, after the highly entertaining FCBD prologue, Boomerang and the whole roommate situation winds up playing such a minor role in issue #1. But at least that's an area Spencer and Ottley can continue to explore going forward.

All other things being equal, it's a treat just to open a major Marvel comic and see Ottley's art on display. No doubt there was a fierce bidding war to snatch up Ottley after he wrapped up his lengthy Invincible run, but it's hard to imagine a better fit than Spider-Man. Ottley's expressive figure work and dynamic fight scenes make him a natural fit. And as someone who has sometimes taken issue with the pointlessly grotesque displays of violence and gore in Invincible, it's refreshing to see him working in a slightly more restrained setting (even if Spidey does spend several pages drenched in alien blood).

Thankfully, inker Cliff Rathburn also made the jump. Rathburn's thin, precise lines make the most of Ottley's confident art style. Colorist Laura Martin proves an apt fit for the book as well, giving it a bright, inviting shine while also making the most of the darker and more foreboding moments.

The Verdict

It can't be easy trying to take over a series that's been dominated by one writer for the past ten years, but Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley have no trouble making their mark on Amazing Spider-Man. This first issue manages to simultaneously give Peter Parker a clean slate while also building on recent storylines. And in the process, it plays with a number of familiar characters and concepts while frequently veering in unexpected directions. This series looks to be an ideal blend of old and new.

Great
Amazing Spider-Man #1 gives its hero a fresh start while also charting an exciting and unpredictable path forward.
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