I loved Spider-Man comics growing up. I still do, but I’m not quite devoted enough to keep up with the comics on a regular basis. Hence, I love the opportunity to check in on my favorite superhero when my library gets the latest collect editions of The Amazing Spider-Man.
Recently, I picked up three new collections featuring Nick Spencer as the head Spidey writer and featuring cover blurbs about how great his work was on Marvel’s flagship title. And after reading “Hunted,” I could see what the positive buzz was about.
Then there came the next two collections.
It’s not that they’re necessarily bad. I did enjoy Volume 5’s look at Mysterio a bit and seeing him in counseling was a nice touch. But, I can’t help but feel like Spencer is making this all up as he goes and has no definitive end-game in sight. There’s a lot of treading water across these two collections — whether it’s waiting for the Chamelion’s nefarious plan to unfold or revealing who is behind the new villain who seems to spend a lot of time with Spidey’s enemies pontificating about some agenda he has in mind. At one point, I wanted to scream at the page, “Set your plan in motion already!”
Of course, it doesn’t help that collection six is just a tie-in to a longer arc of stories — without any indication of this on the cover, mind you — so nothing much happens in the storyline. Which all leads to my overall dissatisfaction with the flagship title for the Marvel Universe. Stan Lee always said that writers should treat comic books like every issue is someone’s first issue. And if you go back and read much of Lee’s best stuff, he does just that, making sure that readers are welcome to play in the sandbox of the character(s) you’ve picked up. Sure, they’d joke with readers about missing an issue at times, but it never felt like they were trying to exclude you because you didn’t read every issue or you couldn’t recall every nuance and detail from an issue three years ago.
Not the case here with Spencer who seems to be actively excluding readership by having labyrinth-like stories that are pulling on obscure references from past issues or not bothering to catch you up on what’s currently going on enough to fully enjoy it if you haven’t read all the previous installments plus the latest tie-in storyline. (Again, a quick note on the cover indicating this would REALLY help!). It’s no wonder comic books are in trouble these days — they’re just not welcoming in new fans. And given how huge those Marvel movies are, you’d think Marvel would be ready to welcome readers with open arms not turn them away.
Sadly, I will say I’m invested enough to want to find out who this new villain really is and to see what, if anything, the Chamelion has in mind for our hero. So, I will keep going and pick up a new collection the next time my library has one on the shelf. And I’ll hope that eventually it will all be worth it….