Written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage
Pencils by Humberto Ramos
Colors by Edgar Delgado
Published by Marvel Comics
With Spider-Verse finally over, Peter Parker finally gets to return to the streets of New York for a smaller, more grounded adventure. But after being gone for so long, can Peter repair the damage that’s been done in his absence?
The latest issue opens with Spider-Man battling the Iguana, a bargain-bin version of the Lizard that hasn’t been seen since the 70’s. Using a C-list villain such as the Iguana right after fighting a seemingly invincible and ancient threat like the Inheritors is a humorous juxtaposition, which writer Dan Slott fully utilizes. Here, Peter battles the scaly villain while having a conversation over the phone with Anna Maria, trying once again to buy time for Peter to get to an important meeting with a prospective client interested in hiring Parker Industries. It results in some of the best humor since the relaunch of the book, (“Stop your talking on the phone, human! I have a legitimate grievance about the plight of reptiles!”) and allows Slott’s own sense of humor to emerge. This kind of back-and-forth between Peter’s civilian and superhero lives, mixed with some trademark Spider-Man humor is what marks the best moments of Amazing Spider-Man, and it’s wonderful to see it on full display once again.
The other major focus of the issue is the conflict between Parker Industries and Alchemax, both of whom are fighting over the rights to build a new supervillain prison. While a business meeting to secure a prison contract doesn’t seem like the most exciting plot point for a Spider-Man comic, Slott uses the history of the characters involved to make the prospect of an Alchemax-run supervillain prison sound less than ideal. Head Alchemax honcho Tiberius Stone reappears for the first time in a while, and while his actions in this issue effectively set-up greater conflict in the upcoming issues, his characterization seems to contradict the growth writer Peter David provided for him in Spider-Man 2099, who implied there was hope for Tiberius Stone to grow from his selfish ways. That may be more the fault of “Spider-Verse” for hijacking the narrative of every other Spider-book, though, and an editorial mistake in the grand scheme of things.
As far as villains go, the other brewing threat in play here is the Black Cat, still itching for revenge after getting arrested and losing everything thanks to the Superior Spider-Man. While the idea of Black Cat as a straight-up villainess is an interesting one, that shakes up not just Spider-Man’s world, but the entire criminal underworld of Marvel’s New York, her actual characterization and rationale for her new state of mind are not as effective as they could be. It’s another example of Dan Slott telling but not showing, so eager to get to an interesting idea that he forgets to make the process of getting there believable. At this point, though, the bed is made, so the best option is to go all the way and deliver some real, tangible effects from this change.
Returning for art duties is Humberto Ramos and Edgar Delgado. With Slott writing, and this art team, the issue feels like classic “Big Time” Spider-Man once again. While Ramos’ art style can sometimes be hard to follow, here it’s clear and concise. Ramos shines in the Spidey vs. Iguana fight, where his trademark energetic style carries the fight through a lush reptile house filled with snakes, to a penguin enclosure, of all places. Delgado’s colors are vibrant and exciting, making both Spider-Man and the Iguana stand out in an environment already filled with reptiles. The two also get the chance to illustrate Black Cat’s casino-based lair, filled to the brim with her army of C-list supervillains, and they do a fantastic job of clearly identifying each villain, while making the base feel alive with motion and all sorts of illicit activity.
Overall, Amazing Spider-Man #16 feels like a classic, simple Spider-Man story, something that has been missing not just in Spider-Verse, but in the relaunch of the Amazing Spider-Man in general. Between a fun and dynamic fight filled with quintessential Spider-Man banter, to a renewed focus on Peter’s personal life and the struggle of juggling two lives, this is the best Spider-Man comic in a long time. If the book can keep up this level of simplicity and quality, then it might just make Spider-Man fans cheer once again.