(w) Nick Spencer (a) Humberto Ramos
We’re now eight issues into the new era of Amazing Spider-Man, and perhaps the biggest surprise is the relatively small scale of Nick Spencer’s storytelling. Instead of focusing on big, universe shattering stories, much of the emphasis has been placed on character dynamics – in particular Peter Parker and the relationships with his supporting cast. Even in the moments when the story seems to grow beyond the confines of the “friendly neighborhood,” Spencer has managed to reel it in to focus on Spider-Man specifically, as is the case in this issue.
Amazing Spider-Man #8 is a self-aware comic, playing with long-established tropes of the superhero genre. However, Spencer’s writing does not cross the line into parody. Rather, his script is full of winks and nods with regard to how ridiculous something may be, but then invites the reader along for a fun time. At the end of the day, that’s what a Spider-Man comic should be: fun. Yes, Peter has his problems, but reading Amazing Spider-Man never feels like a chore. This shines in Spencer’s dialogue. There’s a moment in Amazing Spider-Man #8 when Peter and Mary Jane are together at a fair just talking about life, and it’s wonderful. Sure, it’s amplified by the Marvel Universe which they inhabit, but it reads like a natural conversation that two people would have in everyday life. There’s no punching or web-swinging or anything of that sort. It’s two characters talking, and it is fully engaging.
As great as the dialogue is, the issue is more than just characters talking. I mean, it is mostly that, but there are more than just conversations about everyday problems. Much of the issue involves the reemergence of the Thieves Guild and with it comes Spencer’s commentary on the politics of labor unions. It is a problem that many people struggle with. In an ideal world, labor unions do a lot of good for many people. However, there are unions that force individuals to join and pay dues despite their desires. Some people simply cannot afford the union dues, but make sacrifices to pay them in order to avoid blacklisting. It are these situations that Spencer looks to shine a light on through the Thieves Guild in a manner that does not distract from the storytelling.
Humberto Ramos is an artist many have a love-hate relationship with. There are times when is art is perfect for a story and others when it is horribly mismatched. Thankfully, this is the third issue in a row in which Ramos’ artwork is not just great, but enhances the story. In an issue full of dialogue heavy scenes, the overtly expressive nature of Ramos’ characters provide emotional weight, whether a character is trying to engage in shady business dealings or convey excitement over a ridiculous fair concoction (seriously fair food, things are getting out of hand). When the action does finally pick up, Spencer’s script plays to Ramos’ strengths, calling for big, dynamic artwork.
Amazing Spider-Man has felt like a breath of fresh air since the three-headed monster of Spencer, Ramos, and Ryan Ottley took over, steadily improving with each subsequent issue. This issue is a testament to that, easily the best effort by the creative team thus far. Fun and full of heart, this is Amazing Spider-Man as it’s meant to be.