This issue is the official 50th Anniversary issue of Amazing Spider-Man so it’s an oversized 56 pages and contains three stories. It’s also the introduction of the much-hyped sidekick for Spidey, Alpha. I must say that when I first heard the marketing for this issue I was pretty deflated. I was sure this was going to ruin Amazing Spider-Man and readied myself for the possibility of canceling my pull of the book. I was especially dismayed at the fact that this kid gets his powers at a field trip just like Parker did. Yet Dan Slott was actually able to subvert my expectations and make this a good issue.
It helps that this story has the benefit of bringing Peter Parker’s story full-circle. He started off as a nerdy, outsider kid and was even an outsider hero. He was often disrespected by other heroes and certainly got no love from his boss J Jonah Jameson. But he’s finally got a fulltime job that works for him (he worked as a teacher before, but that didn’t mesh well with his status as a superhero). And it is HIS experiment that causes this new kid to become a superhero on his field trip to Horizon Labs. But even with that setup there was great potential for the story to devolve into the introduction of a kid to the story - the same way they do in faltering sitcoms.
What saves the story is that Dan Slott does not make this kid the next Parker. He may have gotten his powers at a field trip, but he’s no Peter Parker. He’s different in a lot of ways (that I don’t want to spoil) but suffice to say that while even Peter needed Uncle Ben’s murder to convince him to use his powers for good, even an Uncle Ben moment for Alpha would not (or should not) result in an identical person as Parker became. Also, one key difference is that he kid doesn’t have a chance to hide his acquisition of the powers, unlike Parker who is the most jealously guarding of his secret identity, Alpha does not have a secret identity. And, thankfully, Slott makes him act like a teen rather than an adult in a teen’s body.
I don’t want to give anything else away because I’m so excited at what Slott has done with this issue that I’d like for you to experience it on its own. Slott has a really good handle on how to subvert our expectations as well as a great sense of humor with his writing. Every story arc doesn’t resonate with me, but I do enjoy his work most of the time. There are hints (in the letters pages for the past few months) he may be leaving after issue #700 or that he might be doing something really drastic - either way his run on Spider-Man has been one of the best and I’m glad that the introduction of Alpha doesn’t ruin that.
The second story here involves an unseen story that occurs after one of the most famous images in Spider-Man history.
The story, by Dean Haspiel, is funny but it’s a little too cute. Maybe it was meant to harken back to those Silver or Bronze Age stories, but the ending is a bit too corny for me - especially if it wasn’t a reference to the way comics use to end back then. The third story is pretty funny. It’s about Parker having a particularly bad time with the old Parker Luck including Thing (of the Fantastic Four) posting a photo of him with bird poop on his costume to Facebook.
Joshua Fialkov does a great job with the script on this story. It’s full of great jokes at Spidey’s expense, his dialog is on point, and there are some hilarious visuals.
Overall, this issue is a great, fitting tribute to the past 50 years of Spider-Man. If you’re into Spidey you should definitely pick up this issue. If you were worried about Spidey getting a sidekick and cursing out Dan Slott - take a read of this issue first and see if he doesn’t change your mind.