I'll be frank. I did not enjoy The Spider-Verse, in which several Spider-Men fought a whole family of Morluns, for several issues. Parker's been returned to his own universe, to resume our regularly-scheduled programming. I couldn't be happier to see it actually happening.
The Amazing Spider-Man is at its strongest (at least to me) when it's about Peter Parker struggling through his day-to-day life while getting to fight with new villains and old. Dan Slott and Christos Gage removed half that formula for the past few months, so I lost interest. Now it's back, and so am I.
To wit; Parker is dealing with the consequences of disappearing for several days. It was one thing if he got sucked away for a Secret War or two when he was a college student, or a freelance photographer. Now he's the CEO of his own company. He has investors and partners to answer to, and they range from concerned to utterly furious.
So what's our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man do first when he gets back into town? Why, fight an animal-themed supervillain of course!
Iguana (a dimestore Lizard) illustrates the point of Peter Parker's company, while simultaneously just doing what Spider-Man villains do best: monologue, wreak mayhem, and make Parker sweat.
That point being: supervillains don't go away. They go to jail, for a bit, before inevitably breaking out and starting the cycle over again. Parker is on a bluetooth call with his partner, Sajani, talking about why they need to break the cycle.
The most beautiful scene in the whole thing? Spidey is explaining that supervillains need understanding and compassion, while beating Iguana unconscious with his fists. It is ironic, somewhat hypocritical, COMEDY GOLD.
The other thing that stands out about ASM is its simplicity. Parker Industries is competing for a contract with the Dept. of Corrections to build a super-prison that actually strips villains of their powers. Their main competition is Alchemax, led by Liz Allan and Tiberius Stone.
It'd be far too complex for the Alchemax team to be competent but benign. Here, they're perfectly content to be evil jerks, on top of being Parker's competitors. Liz has known Parker since High School, and remembers only too well how he frequently came out on top academically, despite frequent absences and excuses. She fears the same thing will happen here, and plots to sabotage his efforts.
How will they do that? With a supervillain, of course. They visit Black Cat's Evil Night Club, where they hire the Ghost and his spooky services.
In a continuing trend, we only spend 16 pages on Parker and his people, the back 8 are spent on other things. I don't love that— Pete deserves our full attention— but when it's being spent on character development, I can't complain.
Felicia Hardy / The Black Cat has been getting darker and darker since the Superior Spider-Man humiliated her and sent her to jail. She lost everything, and is only too determined to get everything back.
She's a big deal in the NY underworld. People pay her for the right to break the law on her turf. She ruthlessly orders the maiming of C-list supervillain The Ringer, for messing up the arrangement. 'No one crosses the Black Cat' is the message of the day.
Felicia's having doubts, and she's examining those doubts. She didn't used to be so hard. However, as this pair of panels elegantly shows; the meaner she gets, the better her luck turns out. For a crook with luck powers, this is exceedingly important.
So yeah. She's resolving herself to the hard and ruthless path, if it means getting back what she considers hers. While the scene is not 100% necessary, it does justify the change in the Black Cat's trajectory. Most importantly: it works.
I look forward to seeing what comes next, which will likely include more of the Typical Parker Luck. See ya next month!
Casey Jones is a screenwriter and voiceover artist with a day job. His luck could use a boost, too.