Comics

Pros and Cons, Alphas and Omegas: "Amazing Spider-Man #692"

Michael D. Stewart

Writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos in the main feature of Amazing Spider-Man #692 re-craft Spider-Man’s origin to debut Alpha, adding an 80’s style action montage (minus the ubiquitous power-chords)…


Amazing Spider-Man #692

Publisher: Marvel
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Dan Slott, Dean Haspiel, Humberto Ramos
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2012-10
Amazon

A hallmark of Spider-Man throughout his publication history has been the character's relevance to his readers. The adventures of the Amazing Spider-Man are about chronicling the life of Peter Parker, in and out of the costume. Dealing with death, romance, social anxiety, guilt, job-related stress, career frustrations, or more succinctly: the ups and downs of modern life. Stories about Spider-Man are at their best when they are equal parts super-heroics and melodrama, creating a likeable anti-hero whose own neuroses match or exceed our own.

Most comicbook characters are timeless. They may grow emotionally, but they are frozen in time, not aging (and only occasionally de-aging). Yet, Spider-Man has grown with his readers, moving beyond high school to college, then beyond college and on to a career and marriage. While that aging certainly matched the life trajectories of some of his earliest readers, other younger readers may have been at a disadvantage. So the marriage was erased and the character was reset to a post-college position. Now in Amazing Spider-Man #692, he is again aged by having to take on the mature responsibility of being a mentor.

With great power comes great responsibility. We can recite the phrase or lesson in our sleep. But it’s something that Spider-Man comics have laid their narrative hats on for 50 years, rationalizing the guilt-ridden anxiety of Peter Parker as motivation for his heroics. If we were to have a “It’s-A-Wonderful-Life” moment of sorts and remove the great power/great responsibility lesson, we might have a character similar to Andy “Alpha” Maguire…or at least that’s the negative parallel we are presented.

Writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos in the main feature of Amazing Spider-Man #692 re-craft Spider-Man’s origin to debut Alpha, adding an '80s style action montage (minus the ubiquitous power-chords). This character is minus the endearing character-traits of Peter Parker, leaving something of an empty shell onto which Slott can project postmodern understandings of alienation, commercialization and commodification. Very similar to the experiences of Peter Parker that led to his heroic journey as your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The absentee (or in this case distracted) parents notwithstanding, Andy’s short tenure as a comicbook character are proposed to have many of the trademarks we have come to understand as essential to our appreciation of Spider-Man.

If only the character was remotely likeable.

Putting aside the generic power set and the origin parallel, we have a character whose life experience is somewhat dated. He certainly doesn’t match the generational life experience that researchers have noted of children his age. If he was a teenager of the 80s or 90s, his high school experience and relationship with his parents would be a bit easier to understand, but as a late millennial, Andy’s distracted parents have more in common with Baby Boomer parents than they would with rationalized Generation X parents.

Trying to right the perceived wrongs of their own childhoods, Gen-X parents have shown to be more involved with their children’s lives, resulting in Gen-Y children being much more attached to their parents than some previous generations. While Andy’s indifference could be mistaken for a generational attitude, it is a perception not in keeping with what has been observed. What this illustrates in comparison to the pages of Amazing Spider-Man #692 is that no matter how well in parallel the origin of Andy is to that of Peter Parker, the lack of timeliness is in contrast to the relevancy that has been a hallmark of the title for 50 years.

Slott does work very hard to differentiate Andy from Peter despite their common origin. Yet Andy comes off as more of a plot device to progress Peter rather a wholly-rendered character. In the immediate, it is problematic. However, this is only the character’s first appearance and there are a multitude of narrative tools at Slott’s disposal to advance Andy beyond his current position.

For the all the tribute Slott pays to Spider-Man’s origin, it’s the scene in the middle of this story that makes the most earnest connection to the legacy of Amazing Spider-Man. Peter, distracted by the Alpha developments and racked with guilt, sits down to dinner with Aunt May, Jay Jameson and Mary Jane. The subtle drama that unfolds with Jay talking to Peter about his perceived flakiness, followed by questions about the relationship status of Pete and MJ, rings truer to the heritage of Spider-Man than the origin parallel. As mentioned previously, the best Spider-Man stories are equal parts action and drama.

With exceptions, Amazing Spider-Man has always tried to be a contemporary hero story, involving cultural and generational struggles common to its current readers. Slott has certainly tried to continue that idea, albeit with some hiccups and misunderstandings. That he can craft the quiet moments with authenticity speaks better to his current handling of the character and title rather than the big over-the-top super-heroics.

6

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image