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The Amazing Spider-Man #692

“Point of Origin”

Written by Dan Slott, Pencils by Humberto Ramos, Inks by Victor Olazaba, Colors by Edgar Delgado

“Spider-Man for a Night”

Story & Art by Dean Haspiel, Colors by Giulia Brusco

“Just Right”

Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov, Art by Nuno Plati

It’s been a great summer for all things four-colored and square-paneled. The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises owned the cinema box office for weeks on end. Marvel revealed not only its ambitious Phase 2 films, but also the upcoming Marvel NOW! creator shuffle-‘em-ups. Northstar got married to his boyfriend over in Marjorie Liu’s Astonishing X-Men, and brand new series like Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye and Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Captain Marvel lit up the Twittersphere (see @pizza_dog). The Walking Dead #100 sold like a bazillion copies (**hyperbole). And, as a perfect-planned segue, Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man reboot directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone made me weep grown-man tears. Seriously.

This week, Marvel celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Peter Parker’s debut in Amazing Fantasy #15. Now, as Talking Comics’ own Bob Reyer pointed out in this week’s podcast, Amazing Fantasy #15 is cover dated August 1962, meaning that it was actually released for sale in June of that year. To appease the pedants, the Spidey crew acknowledges this historical blip in their column in the back of this week’s issue, but honestly, it’s been freaking 50 years of Spider-Man so HUZZAH!!!! Amazing Spider-Man #692 features a full-length story by series regular writer Dan Slott and artist Humberto Ramos, a short by Dean Haspiel, and another full-length by writer Joshua Hale Fialkov (Elk’s Run & I, Vampire) and artist Nuno Plati (X-23 & Avengers: Fairy Tales). Surprisingly, it’s Fialkov’s back-up full-length that truly celebrates the heart of Spider-Man for this 50th Anniversary, while Slott treats #692 as another entry in his ongoing “Big Time” storyarc.

Slott’s contribution kicks off the much-publicized “ALPHA” arc, which features Midtown High’s own “just there” wallflower-outsider, Andy Maguire, as the Peter -Parker corollary in a new-superhero-origin-story. Maguire’s origin is crammed into 32 pages, and it follows Peter Parker’s own origin story from the aforementioned Amazing Fantasy #15 nearly beat-for-beat (Andy has some internal narration about a cute girl outside the school, complains about a popular jock, goes on a science field trip). There are a few key differences in Maguire’s story: his parental entities are inattentive Crackberry-wielding business professionals, the science exhibit is at Horizon Labs, and Peter Parker himself is the speaker at the exhibit! The Déjà vu is not lost on Mr. Parker, who immediately recognizes his guilt in the accident that grants Andy Maguire his Alpha-level superpowers (hence the whole “ALPHA” codename/storyarc title). Unlike Peter Parker, who was one of the first Marvels, Andy Maguire gets his great powers in a world with the Avengers, Spider-Man, and other superheroic mentors at the ready. Hell, there’s even a whole Academy for Avengers operating out on the West Coast! Whereas Peter Parker had to learn his responsibility for himself, he now finds himself in the teacher position and saddled with Maguire in a pseudo-side-kickery role. Hilarity, as always, ensues.

It’s an interesting first chapter in what should prove to be a great guilt-riddled, action-packed addition to Dan Slott’s increasingly successful Amazing Spider-Man run. Recent press–and a certain “Clone Saga” related reveal at the end of the issue–suggests that Andy “Alpha” Maguire’s storyline will escalate to an explosive conclusion in the upcoming and equally monumental Amazing Spider-Man #700. And yet, I do think that Slott should have saved this “Alpha” story for next issue, and was given the opportunity to write a more introspective, retrospective, 50thAnniversary story. He’s proven his ability to write emotional, hard-hitting Spidey stories (see issue #655), and part of me wishes that he had chosen to whip out an emotionally resonant one-and-done instead of launching into the next arc.

Dean Haspiel’s short takes place immediately after the events of The Amazing Spider-Man #50’s iconic “Spider-Man NO MORE!” scene. It’s a fun little story featuring a small-time crook who finds Spider-Man’s discarded tights in the trash. The crook puts on the tights and tries to hold up a pawn shop, and gets beat up by a lady with a golf-club as a reward (remember when Spidey was a menace?). The final two pages show us the crook’s homelife, and, while it is reminiscent of Sandman’s origin story, it still packs enough emotional punch to wrap the short up nicely. And Haspiel’s art is delectably pop-esque.

Finally, Joshua Hale Fialkov’s “Just Right.” It’s incredible. It’s funny. Thanks to Nuno Plati’s distinctly European style, washed in warm colors and featuring some spectacular Spidey-Mask eye-movements, “Just Right” is one of the most visually fascinating pieces I’ve seen in a long time. The first half of the story sees Peter Parker enjoying some laugh-out-loud hapless city-trotting, filled with self-reflexive wit and error-ridden superheroic attempts (hyphens!). Just as Peter is about to give up on the day’s failed superhero exploits, he sees a young kid being bullied in a schoolyard. What follows is the kind of emotionally resonant scene that I wish Slott had been able to write for the main full-length. There’s also a full two-page spread that shows Spider-Man and the young Chris hitting the town, meeting the Avengers, punching out burglars, and (SPOILERS) driving the flipping Spider-Mobile. Hilarious. Touching. And it shows a Spider-Man who has spent the last 50 years growing up into one of the best heroes of all time.

Verdict

Buy it. Why the heck not? Peter Parker is, like, the greatest fictional character of the 20th century, right alongside Holden Caulfield, Daria, George Jefferson (RIP Sherman Hemsley), and Tyler Durden. It is priced at $5.99, but between Slott’s ongoing Amazing Spider-Man story, Haspiel’s fun little short, and Fialkov’s spectacular one-and-done, you definitely get your money’s worth. Heck, all of the artists bring their A-game this issue, making the art alone worth the price of entry. Furthermore, Dan Slott writes a brief essay in the back that tells the story of how he got hooked on Spidey back in 1975, and it brought a tear to my eye. 50 years, fanboys and fangirls. Can you believe that? Crazy times. Crazy good times.

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