Tuesday, July 1, 2014

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #-1 - July 1997


Where Have All the Heroes Gone?
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Peter finds a stack of Golden Age comics while cleaning out the attic with Uncle Ben and Aunt May.  He reads the comics and fantasizes about being a hero.  Later, Aunt May hurts her ankle after a bratty kid runs into her with his skateboard.  Peter dreams of a way to catch him.  Soon, he sketches designs for what will become his webshooters.

The Subplots:  Jacob Conover investigates a gang takeover.  Don Rigoletto is killed by the Kingpin, leaving Fortunato as the lone representative of “the old ways.”  Fortunato secretly meets with Conover to talk about the story, but they’re ambushed by the Kingpin’s men.  Conover saves Fortunato’s life, but is scared away from covering serious stories.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Kingpin’s murder of Rigoletto is taken directly from the Daredevil: The Man Without Fear miniseries.  Whether or not this miniseries was even intended to be canon was debatable at the time (in fact, the Daredevil Flashback issue directly contradicts it and returns to the original continuity).  I suppose Kingpin’s role in the mini doesn’t create any actual continuity problems, unlike Man Without Fear’s depiction of Jack Murdock’s death.
  • Namor, still in his wandering bum days, is kicked out of the diner where Jacob Conover and Phil Sheldon (from Marvels) are eating.
  • Robbie Robertson appears at the Daily Bugle, asking Jonah about the gangland story.  Tom DeFalco thankfully gets the continuity straight, acknowledging that Robbie doesn’t work for the Bugle at this point, and is only visiting from Philadelphia.
  • The story’s ending indicates that Fortunato owes Conover a debt that he’ll repay later.  I have no idea if this thread is ever picked up on, but the story goes out of its way to draw attention to Fortunato’s promise.

Review:  Surely someone working for Marvel could’ve looked over the plots and determined that they didn’t need two Flashback stories about Peter’s comic book fantasies?  It’s not as if DeFalco (or at least one of the editors) isn’t aware of the Sensational story, since there’s a line of dialogue used to justify Peter getting to read these comics after Aunt May banned the monster comics.  I appreciate the effort that went into such a minor continuity point, but that doesn’t exactly excuse the redundancy.  And that ending with the proto-webshooters is the kind of cutsey wink and nod that showed up in a number of the Flashback books, never ceasing to annoy me.  

The issue does have its moments, though.  Joe Bennett's art is much stronger than his typical ASM work, and I think the Flashback stunt might be responsible.  Artists during this month were supposed to evoke a Silver Age feel, and while that simply meant reverting to a six-panel grid for many artists, some of them actually tried to mimic the drawing style of the early ‘60s.  Bennett seems to have merged his exaggerated ‘90s style with something more subdued from the past, and it’s a vast improvement over his previous issues.  The human characters consistently look human now, which helps the story immeasurably.  And while the “Peter reads old Marvel Comics” angle might be dismissed as cheese, the gangland plot is pretty entertaining.  Contrasting Peter’s naïve thoughts on heroism with the horrifying situation Conover has placed himself in is a clever way to draw the plots together, and to add some depth to the issue.

The Secrets of Peter Parker!
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Pat Olliffe (penciler), Al Williamson (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Thirteen-year-old Peter Parker’s athletic prowess and accessories (backpack, glasses, and pocket protector) are explored in this educational short.

The Subplots:  None.

Review:  This is legitimately funny, even if you’ve never read the original Amazing Spider-Man back-up it’s parodying.  The idea of applying one of those old Marvel tutorial back-ups to Peter Parker as a nerdy middle-schooler cracks me up, especially when the creators provide a diagram for how Peter’s glasses work.  Having Untold Tales of Spider-Man artist Pat Olliffe illustrate the piece makes it that much better, given the number of times Untold Tales ran its own versions of those old annual back-ups.


Matt said...

I vividly recall reading this issue and thinking that the Kingpin breaking that guy's neck on-panel, more or less, was extremely edgy for a Tom DeFalco comic of this vintage. A year or two later I learned the scene was lifted from a Frank Miller comic, and my world made sense again.

Also, worry not; the Conover/Fortunato connection is most definitely picked up later in DeFalco's run, shortly before the Byrne reboot.

G. Kendall said...

Well, we do see Conover and Fortunato together in the modern day, I'm just not certain if the debt played up this issue amounts to anything. I'm not sure if any aspect of Conover becoming the Rose makes sense, to be honest.

Matt said...

I agree that Conover as the Rose makes little sense. Especially after Roger Stern had just used Conover specifically as a non-villain red herring in HOBGOBLIN LIVES. I had trouble with it even at the time, when I was willing to swallow anything Marvel fed me. But I do believe the debt between the two is explicitly paid off by Fortunato outfitting Conover as the Rose.

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