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Comic Book Review: The Amazing Spider-Man – “Alpha” (#692-694)

By: Adam Basciano

Amazing Spider - Man #693 Cover

“Get ready for an all-new tale about a different kind of power and responsibility. Spider-Man’s 50th Anniversary adventure ratchets up as an old foe returns! An ALL-NEW character joins the Marvel Universe! WHO IS ALPHA!? ” (Marvel Comics)

The first bit of this story will give you a sense of deja vu. Awkward, socially excluded high school student gets caught in a science demonstration gone wrong on a school trip, is gifted/cursed with various powers and abilities and becomes a teenage superhero.  That’s where the similarities end. Peter Parker is on the other end of the experiment this time, with his “Parker Particles” being the cause of the accident.  The victim/recipient is Andy Maguire.  Anyone else pick up on the fact that this kids name is an amalgamation of the two actors that have played Spider-Man, Andrew Garfield and Toby Maguire!? Nice touch there Dan Slott.  After being augmented with super strength, speed, force field capability, and the ability of flight.  The great minds of the Marvel superhero community designate Andy as the first Alpha level threat and task Spider-Man to mentor this new hero.

Amazing Spider - Man #692 - Here Comes Alpha

Dan Slott in my opinion accurately portrays a teenager’s reaction to going from being perceived as a worthless nobody, to being the most powerful person on earth.  Andy Maguire gets swept up in the fame, indulges in the attention of the teenage girls who would shun him, and show’s off his superhero prowess among the superhero community.  This is where Dan Slott went off the rails a bit for me. Having Andy upstage both the Fantastic 4 and the Avengers single-handedly was too much.  I understand you want to emphasize “Alpha’s” power and threat level, but to essentially render two of your pre-eminent superhero teams moot in order to do so is somewhat ridiculous.  Slott uses Andy to point out that Uncle Ben’s death didn’t make Peter Parker/Spider-Man the person he is today, but rather learning from and being inspired by people like Uncle Ben, Aunt May, Max Modell, and Captain Stacy have shaped him into the man he’s become.  That’s important, as I feel some writers and fans alike have gotten too fixed on the death alone as a catalyst for what makes Peter Parker who he is.  Dan Slott has been writing this title for quite some time, and while each storyline stand on its own, the re-use and re-emergence of previous villains, prove his overall run on the title has a much larger cohesive endgame. There are times however, in his dealings and handling of Alpha that Spider-Man acts more like a whiny teenager, instead of an adult superhero.

If you’ve read my review of the “Ends of the Earth” story, you know by now that I’m not a fan of Humberto Ramos.  These three issues haven’t done much in the way of changing that.  The way he draws faces and people, is generally unappealing to look at, though superheroes wearing a mask do look decent.  I will complement Mr. Ramos on his ability to draw monsters and aliens.  The scenes with Spider-Man rescuing a plane with his Aunt May on board, are the best drawn pages in all of Humberto Ramos’ time on this book. Having said all that, I still would rather read this book as a regular novel, then a comic book featuring his art.  That’s just my opinion.

Amazing Spider - Man #694 - Spidey Saves A Plane

This book was heavily promoted by Marvel in the summer.  The character of Alpha was being pushed as a big deal.  Sure there’s some good stuff in this book as I noted above, but mediocre art, the short length, and some head scratching decisions by Dan Slott make this book average, to slightly above average at best.  Certainly, it’s nowhere near as powerful as the Alpha character it focuses on.

Overall Grade: 6/10

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