REVIEW: Amazing Spider-Man #5 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, Laura Martin, & Joe Caramagna

Amazing Spider-Man #5 is out 9/12.

By Zack Quaintance — We as readers have maybe come to take for granted twice-monthly flagship superhero books, now basically standard at both Marvel and DC, with Amazing Spider-Man and Batman both on that schedule (plus others too). To write and edit a title at that pace surely means a yeoman effort of planning, an inability to have even a minor misstep in terms of completing one’s work, lest a high-selling title in a publishing line skip a week and cost the company all kinds of money.

As much as I’ve loved Tom King’s Batman (and overall I have loved it, quite a bit), there’s no denying the sometimes major gaps in consistency, story arcs flawed in both conception and execution. For whatever reason, Dan Slott’s recently-concluded Amazing Spider-Man run seemed to suffer from slightly different problems. Whereas King’s scripts never lack for the grandiose or poetic, leaving him prone to mischaracterizations or over-writing in service of grand ambitions, Slott’s run on Amazing Spider-Man at times mired in the minutiae of seeding the future, leading to occasionally slow or less than fully-satisfying comics.

That struggle, I think, is also an issue with Nick Spencer and Ryan Ottley’s Amazing Spider-Man #5, the end of this new team’s first story arc. I absolutely loved Amazing Spider-Man #4, to the point I wrote an effusive and glowing review, but this finale landed for me with a bit of whump. That’s right, a whump. Spencer lays quite a bit of track for the future—be it with MJ, Boomerang, or two other villains I won’t mention here for fear of spoilers—leaving the actual hero versus villain conflict of this story to resolve itself in the space of less than four pages.

And I get that the real conflict here is between two versions of the protagonist—Spider-Man and Peter Parker, who’ve been separated via sci-fi hijinx—but their conversations with each other don’t hit any ground that wasn’t covered in more interesting and concise scenes in prior issues, and, really, what resolves their plight is pretty convenient and lucky, with neither side acting in a way we haven’t just seen last issue. And, yes, this is superhero comics and growth for the main character is all but forbidden, but Spencer’s past work (especially on Astonishing Ant-Man) has found ways to obscure that stagnation with poignant heart-to-hearts or conflicts that force telling choices from the hero.

All that said, Spencer continues to have a knack for Peter’s world and voice, and Ottley’s art is sharp as ever. Slott on his run did have an established pattern wherein he absolutely nailed the biggest issues of his run, the anniversaries and events and the like. Spencer certainly showed in Amazing Spider-Man #1 that he has it in him, too. In an age of high-pressure double-shipped books, that kind of writing rollercoaster may very well be inherent to these characters.        

Overall: The end of Spencer and Ottley’s first Amazing Spider-Man arc does a better job laying track for the future than paying off this first story arc. It has quite a bit to say about the Spider-Man ethos, but it’s all stuff we heard last issue. Still, the voice and ambitions here remain strong, and I’m optimistic for this run’s future. 6.5/10

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