Amazing Spider-Man #2
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn and Laura Martin
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
“He seems like he’s in a really positive place.”
“Yeah, good for him.”
While the context is a pair of Z-list supervillains commenting on the Wallcrawler’s sunny disposition, you could easily say the same thing about writer Nick Spencer in his sophomore issue of Amazing Spider-Man. After the controversies of Secret Empire, the writer has made a loud comeback with his new series - armed not just with a sense of optimism and freedom but also with a superstar collaborator in the form of artist Ryan Ottley. Charming, breezy, and funny, there’s something about Amazing Spider-Man #2 that feels both classic and timeless, even as Spencer unshackles both his lead character and himself from the stories of the past.
In an era where superhero continuity feels paramount, Amazing Spider-Man feels almost slice of life — from the jump, where Spider-Man battles Mountain Man Marko and the Ringer over some first edition books, you get the sense that Spencer is relishing this return to (relative) normalcy. In many ways, Spencer himself is free from all the moving parts and heightened expectations of spearheading a massive, linewide event book centered on the touchiest political hot buttons of the day. Instead, Spencer seems to delight in having a clean space to play in, reminding us why we like Spider-Man’s status quo so much. Jokes? Check. Friendly neighborhood? Check.
And perhaps most refreshing of all - the Parker luck feels like it’s actually turning around, with Spencer bringing back Mary Jane Watson as Peter’s love interest. It’s perhaps reductive to bring this up, but the comparison feels apropos - in a world where Secret Empire set Twitter aflame in politically charged anger, bringing back Mary Jane feels like just as big of a swing in the direction of fan service. Spencer gets that tenderness between the two characters, and having Peter have a confidant to turn to can’t help but win a lot of people back to his side.
Of course, having Ryan Ottley in his corner doesn’t hurt, either. Ottley’s turn on the book already feels destined to be iconic in the same way that Erik Larsen or Todd McFarlane did in the ‘90s - there’s an angularity to Ottley’s Spider-Man, particularly in the eyes and musculature, that makes the character look distinct against the cartooniness of a Mark Bagley or a Humberto Ramos, but it’s never looking brooding or overrendered. And to be honest, Ottley’s artwork of Spidey in costume really pales in comparison to how wonderfully he draws Peter Parker in his civilian life - it’s hard not to fall in love with Mary Jane just based on her expressiveness, and he has a certain level of heightened emotion for Peter that plays up his occasional naivete and wide-eyed enthusiasm.
If there’s any quibbles to be had about Amazing Spider-Man #2, it’s just that the pacing feels a little shorter than one might expect - although Spencer introduces so much in the mix, from a reinstated Curt Connors to an inspired, quip-heavy appearance from Taskmaster and Black Ant, it’s hard to really fault him. But the characterization and artwork are so striking that it’s easy to say that this is both Spencer and Ottley at their best, particularly when they’re filling the massive boots of Dan Slott’s epic run on the book. It’s a tall order, but two issues in, Amazing Spider-Man is proving that it’s a book in good hands.