Amazing Spider-Man #7
Written by Nick Spencer
Art by Humberto Ramos, Steve Lieber, Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado
Lettering by Joe Caramaga
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by David Pepose
‘Rama Rating: 9 out of 10
Out of all of Marvel’s superheroes, you’d be hard-pressed to think of one who’s funnier than the Amazing Spider-Man — but in the hands of Nick Spencer, this is the first time the book feels like an outright comedy as much as it does a capes-and-tights soap opera. And that’s a good thing — while some critics may decry the smaller scale of Spencer’s stories, there’s a unique voice that he carries over from his days writing Superior Foes that I think does the Web-Slinger justice. And for those who might be worried about Ryan Ottley sitting a few issues out, have no fear — because Humberto Ramos continues to show why he’s the Spider-Man artist of a generation here. Even without seeing the Wallcrawler in costume, Amazing Spider-Man #7 continues this creative team’s hot streak.
So stop me if you’ve heard this one before — a superhero walks into a bar… and it’s filled to the brim with supervillains. But when you’re Peter Parker, and your roommate is Fred Meyers (aka Boomerang, aka the least-capable supervillain in town), one night of friendly trivia can turn real deadly, real fast. But with a room full of bad guys looking to collect a bounty on Fred’s head, Spencer immediately lands on a super-fun chemistry between Peter and Boomerang, even as Fred continues to try to fast-talk his way out of any responsibility of stirring up a gunfight at a supervillain bar: “Our institutions are crumbling, our cultural fabric is tearing--even when that fabric is spandex!”
Additionally, Spencer’s premise is one that feels so engaging because, at its heart, it’s character-driven rather than conceptual — the Bar With No Name isn’t just a convenient place to put in a bunch of supervillains, but it organically ties Peter’s hands and forces him to trust someone that nobody in their right mind should trust. Admittedly, some of Spencer’s zigs aren’t as effective as his zags — the payoff for Peter’s “secret identity” as The Liar feels a little convenient — but beats like Boomerang actually standing up for his roommate (or a gag involving music rights issues with Life Model Decoys) really hit the mark. Like I said before, the whole thing doesn’t just evoke Spencer’s superlative work on Superior Foes, but it also feels like a general tonal shift from Dan Slott’s high concept adventure work — Spencer is taking not just the concepts to the street level, but the execution, not shying away from the nitty-gritty in Peter Parker’s daily life.
And while Amazing Spider-Man has soared thanks to Ryan Ottley’s involvement, if you can’t have him working on every issue, you couldn’t find a better person to tag in than Humberto Ramos. And with the greatest respect to his work on years of Dan Slott’s stories, I might argue that Spencer may be playing to Ramos’ strengths even more — Ramos is able to really flex his comedic muscles from the very first page, as we see Peter and Boomerang huddling behind an overturned bar table, with a half-dozen garishly dressed goons like Kangaroo and 8-Ball ready to strike. When the brawl bubbles over, Ramos really is firing at all cylinders — a surprising sentiment given that he isn’t even able to use all of the traditional Spider-Man action choreography. Steve Lieber, meanwhile, gets another great Superior Foes interlude — while his style and Ramos’ are undeniably different, that hint of familiarity from such a great series helps dispel any doubts that Spencer can’t handle this iconic hero.
Of course, there are a few bits that do drag here and there — Spencer also takes some detours with the Kingpin to seed in some more plot points for future issues, and those scenes feel like you’re eating vegetables after you’ve just had a plate of dessert. The exposition feels noticeable on those pages, and even Ramos’ energy subsides a bit, with the shouting Kingpin and an insectoid new villain both feeling like they’re marking time.
But on the plus side, this feels like the smallest of speed bumps on an otherwise superb story — it shows Spencer and Ramos’ handle on Peter Parker that they don’t even need to show him in costume to tell one of the most fun stories of the week. Change is hard, especially after years of Dan Slott’s deservedly praised run on the series — but I think Spencer is absolutely playing to his strengths with his smaller-scale stories on the Amazing Spider-Man, a series that delivers great laughs and great action in equal measure. Definitely don’t pass this book up.