Amazing Spider-Man #692
Writer: Dan Slott, with back-up stories by Dean Kaspiel and Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art: Humberto Ramos [Pencils], Victor Olazaba [Inks], Edgar Delgado [Colors], plus Dean Kaspiel [Art] & Giulia Brusco [Colors] and Nuno Plati [Art] on back-up stories
Spider-Man’s first appearance was 50 years ago this month in Amazing Fantasy #15. Sure, that issue was probably actually released in June because it’s only cover-dated August, but these are minor details. This month is widely regarded as Spider-Man’s “birthday,” so Amazing Spider-Man #692 is the super-sized 50th anniversary spectacular you would expect Marvel to release with the hefty price tag of $5.99. (Seriously, Marvel… Kids see that price tag and think “I could buy an action figure for that same price! Why bother?” Maybe a return to news pulp for lower cover prices is in the cards.)
Regardless of the price tag, Marvel and their Spider Office give fans a good bang for their six bucks here.
The big plot point of ASM #692’s main story–written, of course, by fan-favorite Spider-Scribe Dan Slott–was spoiled a month or two back, because passing up any opportunity for media exposure is a missed opportunity to score figurative new readers and that trumps the element of surprise in today’s comic book market. If you hadn’t already heard, Spider-Man gets a sidekick after 50 years of fighting crime on his own.
Well, on his own except for when he’s a member of the Avengers. And the New Avengers. And the Future Foundation/Fantastic 4. And all of those team-up books, issues, and stories.
But those are all different scenarios. Spider-Man has never had a sidekick, and that’s because when he first became Spider-Man, he was only 14 or 15 years old. That’s standard sidekick age in most superhero books, and probably the average age of most of Batman’s Robins when he first took them in. Stan Lee created Spidey as the exception to the rule–the boy who would be a (super)man.
Anyhow, I digress. As the issue begins, we’re introduced to mediocre teenager Andy Maguire. (Get it? Because the two motion picture Spider-Men are Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield? I see what you did there, Slott!) Andy’s a kid who goes by unnoticed by everyone, including his parents, because not failing is good enough for him. C-average student, no extracurricular activities, not part of any “cliques” at school… He just kind of exists and barely gets by, but wants more.
He ends up forging his dad’s signature on a permission slip for a field trip to a Horizon Labs demonstration where Peter Parker is unveiling the newly discovered “Parker Particles.” An accident occurs after Horizon scientist Tyberius Stone, who secretly moonlights for the Kingpin, disengages the safety measures, resulting in Maguire getting zapped and ending up with super powers. His parents try to sue Horizon, and the world’s foremost experts on superhumans–Reed Richards, Beast, Tony Stark, and Hank Pym–are brought in to study Maguire, revealing that he now has energy projection abilities, super strength, force field projection, and flight, but can only use one power at a time. Additionally, Reed Richards reveals that he had already discovered “Parker Particles” years before and never made their existence public because they increase in power exponentially, saying that where threats like the Hulk or Phoenix are “Omega-Level Threats,” Maguire is the first “Alpha-Level Threat.” He tells Peter that the kid is his responsibility, and Horizon’s head honcho Max Modell offers Maguire’s parents coverage for all medical expenses and a lucrative contract instead of a settlement.
Thus, Andy Maguire becomes Alpha, Horizon Labs’ new face and corporate spokesman, and Peter is placed in charge of the Alpha Project. Of course, Maguire is no Peter Parker and all of the new power and fame goes to his head, but let’s not spoil everything, huh?
Slott does a great job of building up Andy Maguire’s character here and really puts you in his shoes at the onset of the story. Spider-Man with a sidekick is fairly uncharted territory, and the difference in the two’s powers, as well as Alpha’s cocky demeanor, can only complicate things. Judging by the villain reveal on the last page of the book, things ain’t getting simple anytime soon, either. Humberto Ramos also delivers some of his best art to date on this issue. His style has grown so much since his first issue of the book (#648) almost seems like a different artist, and the faces he draws remind me more and more of Todd McFarlane’s style every time I see his art. Victor Olazaba and Edgar Delgado definitely make the art pop that much more with their vibrant ink and color jobs.
As for the back-up stories, Dean Haspiel’s “Spider-Man For A Night” draws on Amazing Spider-Man #50, exploring what happened with Spider-Man’s costume on the night that he decided to be “Spider-Man No More” with a conclusion that tugs at the heart-strings. The story and art are both beautifully done, and the same can be said story-and-art-wise for Joshua Hale Fialkov and Nuno Plati’s “Just Right,” which finds Pete going through a typical “Parker luck” type of day before ultimately helping someone else have a great day.
Overall, a fitting 50th anniversary issue. One might be inclined to feel that there could have been a few more shorter features or gag pages (you do get a page with all five of Marcos Martin’s “Spider-Man Through The Decades” variant covers), but Amazing Spider-Man #700 is right around the corner in December, and that’s sure to have plenty of that sort of material if it’s laid out anything like #600 was. Regardless, I’m definitely interested in seeing where the whole Alpha thing goes, especially with the villain reveal, and the two back-up stories were a great addition. At least it felt like you were getting a couple of issues for the $5.99 price tag.
P.S. As an aside, I can’t figure out why Marvel would keep The Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus, Vol. 1 out of print during the character’s 50th anniversary year. Somebody should figure this out, because I have Vol. 2 and no Vol. 1, and spending $200+ for one on eBay would kind of suck.