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Amazing Spider-Man by Nick Spencer vol 5: Behind the Scenes

December 21, 2019

“Hunted” is done and now it’s back to the fun stuff.  Or, relatively fun stuff in any event. There’s plenty of good times to be had in this volume.  Your enjoyment of them, however, will depend on how willing you are to put up with overly cryptic teases for this title’s future.

Such as the very first issue, “One-on-One,” which is just that in single-issue form.  Artist Ryan Ottley is on point for an issue that’s big on interiors as most of it involves Mysterio being psychoanalyzed by two people.  One of them is his psychiatrist at Ravencroft and the other is the mysterious, bug-commanding, bandaged person who’s been popping up since the first issue of this series.  It’s good that Spencer has some fun playing around with Mysterio’s history and psychiatry in general. That’s because if he didn’t, the issue would be a complete slog until we get to the reveal of the character’s (nick)name.  It’s not really a satisfying reveal and nothing else involving the character gets me excited for his future appearances.


So it’s a good thing he only factors briefly into the next issue, the double-sized 25th “Behind the Scenes.”  While part of the issue features Humberto Ramos on art as he gives a dangling plot thread from “Hunted” some stylish closure, most of the issue belongs to Ottley and Mary Jane Watson.  MJ is attending “Galactus: The Musical” with her friend Carlie Cooper, when she has a run-in with the show’s star, Melanie Daniels. It’s revealed that they both got into acting at the same time and while MJ had her big break in TV first, Melanie wound up replacing her on that show and went on to bigger and better things.


The story initially comes off as very heavy on the “What could’ve been?” until Electro shows up and takes Melanie hostage.  She’s got the idea that doing a live fundraiser to spare the star’s life will be a good way to raise some quick cash. With Spidey occupied elsewhere, it quickly comes down to MJ to save the day.  Which she does, in style. She’s always been a resourceful character and this story further reinforces that as she winds up reinvigorating her acting career in the process. Unfortunately, it looks like the first role of her comeback will require working with a… difficult director.


Following that up is a tease for the next storyline and the currently unfolding “2099” event:  Hey kids! Spider-Man 2099 is back again! If you needed anything else to get excited about this event then too bad!  Good thing that the next storyline harkens back to familiar, funny ground for Spencer. That’d be the not-well-trod-enough terrain of “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man.”


Sure, Boomerang is now Spidey’s other roommate, and we even had Steve Lieber come back to illustrate a few pages in vol. 2.  The last three issues, “Who Run the World?” are a bigger step in that direction as they feature former “Superior Foe” Beetle forming a female-centric Sinister Syndicate.  What’s their first goal? To take down Boomerang for being a generally awful human being. At least, that’s what’s said out loud. Beetle may have other plans.


“Who Run the World?” is a fun throwback to seeing how hard it is for supervillains to make it in the Marvel Universe.  It turns out that it’s just as hard when all of its members can manage basic competency like the Syndicate does here. They’ll still complain about dealing with 401Ks and whether or not the fridge should be stocked with dairy or vegan products.  Oh, and still be susceptible to Boomerang’s manipulations because it turns out that he’s holding all the cards when it comes to dealing with Fisk.


What cards are those you ask?  Well, maybe we’ll find out next volume.  Boomerang’s McGuffin has been almost as annoying as the mystery of who Bandaged Bug-Guy is and it’s even deployed a couple times in the final issue to make the plot go in the direction Spencer wants.  One of the last scenes involves Boomerang sitting down with Spidey to explain things… But it’s anyone’s guess as to whether he’ll be telling the truth or just spinning another charming lie.


All this talk about things which can’t be talked about at least looks good.  Kev Walker finally makes his way back to the Marvel Universe proper after his time giving us quality space opera visuals on “Doctor Aphra” and “Black Panther.”  His work here isn’t as detail-heavy as those, but it’s appealingly lively. Walker’s art has a cartoonish edge to it that works great in an action-comedy storyline like this, while his comedic timing is also pretty sharp as well.  Ottley and Ramos have done great work on “Amazing” so far, but I’d put Walker up for either of their jobs if one of them wants to call it a day.


So while there was a lot to like about this volume -- Mysterio’s psychiatry, MJ saving the day, Boomerang and the Sinister Syndicate -- most of the setup for future storylines fell flat.  That’s not a sign that these upcoming stories will be bad, however. The reason most of these teases failed is because they kept things too close to the vest. I understand that Spencer would want to save the best stuff for the stories themselves, but these teases give us nothing interesting to mull over while we wait for these stories to arrive.  At least the quality writing and art of this series give me a good enough reason to keep reading this series, whatever storylines it has in store for us next time.

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