REVIEW: Amazing Spider-Man #4 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Laura Martin, & Joe Caramagna

By Zack Quaintance — If Amazing Spider-Man #1 was a series intro and primer, than Amazing Spider-Man #4 seems to be our first real glimpse of its scope, giving readers a better idea of where the fresh creative team wants to take Marvel’s flagship character. As I wrote in my review of #1, I loved that issue, but if I’m being totally honest, I still had trepidation, albeit buried somewhat deeply.

Basically, I wondered if I’d simply given in to Spencer’s quippy scripting and Ottley’s shiny kinetic pencils, and if that meant eventually the glow would fade and the book would feel hollow. Ottley is a massive talent, to be sure, and I’ve liked Spencer’s work, especially Astonishing Ant-Man and The Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Those books, however, were decidedly straightforward in terms of ideas, and neither sustained the type of multi-year run all signs suggest is coming on Amazing Spider-Man.

And, really, it’s almost certainly too soon to say Spencer and Ottley have shown they’re able to tell a meaningful long-form story about Peter Parker. That said! I’m doing it anyway, because in Amazing Spider-Man #4, I saw hints that Spencer was interested in far more than jokes (which he’s great at) and bringing back bygone plot points that if mishandled could end up being fan service.

There were two decisions in this issue that made me more bullish about the future of this title. The first was the choice of villain, which was a fantastic reveal that both changed the way I viewed the past two issues and made me nod my head back like—respect—in regards to Spencer’s knowledge and use of Spidey’s deep continuity.

The second was how the sci-fi hijinx in the foreground was able to meaningfully unpack and examine part of Spider-Man’s defining belief system, which is perhaps the defining belief system in all of superhero comics: With great power comes great responsibility. I won’t spoil the details of how this happens, but I will note that a great way to realize the impact of ethos is to revisit what life is like when that ethos is absent. And Spencer, Ottley, and co. found a really entertaining way to do just that.

As a friend on Twitter noted, this book is benefiting right now from some great Spidey alchemy between Spencer and Ottley, and as I noted on Twitter (I really need to spend less time on there), Amazing Spider-Man is etched in stone on my pull list, but when it’s at its best (as it has been now through these first 4 issues), it makes Marvel’s entire line feel more exciting.

Anyway, I’ll wrap up by noting I like this series so much (and it’s so prominent) that I’m going to add it to the regular review rotation here, meaning we’ll have a new Amazing Spider-Man review for every new Amazing Spider-Man issue.

Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #4 continues with the great art and hilarious quips of the first three issues, also adding a villian expertly culled from deep Spider-continuity plus a well-done examination of Peter’s core beliefs. Simply put, there’s seriously good comic book-ing going on here. 9.5/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.