(w) Nick Spencer (a) Ryan Ottley (i) Cliff Rathburn (c) Nathan Fairbairn
Most would argue that the current run on Amazing Spider-Man has been a welcome return to form for the character, with the quality being adequate. The last several issues have seen the title pulled into the events “Absolute Carnage” and “2099”, but even before that Nick Spencer’s Spidey has done little to draw the ire of readers while playing things a little too safe – at least on the surface. Re-teamed with artist Ryan Ottley, Amazing Spider-Man #37 is Spencer’s run in a microcosm – a seemingly safe and uneventful issue with more going on than meets the eye.
The Parker Industries storyline is one of the more polarizing parts of Spider-Man’s recent history. While some saw it as a welcome shake-up to the Spider-Man formula, others saw it as trying to force the characters – Peter Parker in particular – to be something that they aren’t. Personally, I fall in the middle, wavering back and forth between the two sides. But throughout the current volume of the series, Nick Spencer has taken the wreckage of that storyline and retooled it feel like “classic” Spider-Man. This groundwork has been laid out carefully and incrementally since the series’ first issue, and that planning gets a payoff in Amazing Spider-Man #37.
Before continuing on, the artwork by Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, and Nathan Fairbairn must be addressed. Every time this team is on, the enjoyment increases exponentially. The issue opens with a stunning two-page spread of Spider-Man swinging through the streets of New York that instantly pulls the readers in. Ottley bring an expressive and animated aesthetic to the issue that carries on throughout. Although there is notable page in which the character faces are just barely off, the rest of the book looks great. Even in the quieter character moments, Ottley’s art keeps the reader engaged, ultimately making the emotional beats of the story hit as intended. This is aided by the clean lines and definition provided by Rathburn’s inking. Fairbairn’s use of bright primary colors with Ottley and Rathburn’s lines is a great complement, making the visuals truly pop.
Throughout Amazing Spider-Man #37, Peter Parker is struggling with the deus ex machina that he and his classmates have developed over the course of the series. The device, called the Clairvoyant, allows users to choose an optimal outcome based on a scan of the multiverse. It’s predictive in nature, which conjures up memories of Civil War II. Spencer even acknowledges this similarity with a cheeky wink-and-nod moment that ends with Captain America heartwarmingly stating his trust in Spider-Man’s ability to be responsible with the device. Responsibility has been the overarching theme of this volume of Amazing Spider-Man, with this moment being a major payoff.
While readers wait for this to inevitably blow up in Peter’s face, it is nice to see things go relatively well for the hero in the space of one issue. In fact, the only thing that truly goes “wrong” for him is that he’s so productive that he falls asleep from pure exhaustion during a video-call with Mary-Jane. But where most writers would use this for cheap relationship drama, Spencer turns it into one that is endearing, sweet, and authentic. And while there is an ending stinger with Kindred resurrecting(?) a baddie from one of Spidey’s greatest stories, it does not take away from this being arguably the best issue of this entire run. From start to finish, Amazing Spider-Man encapsulates everything great about the web-slinger.