Saturday, 30 May 2015

The Amazing Spider-Man #18 - Marvel Comics

Ever since his first appearance in Issue Fifteen of “Amazing Fantasy”, published in August 1962, the spectacular Spider-Man has constantly fought to overcome great adversity and overwhelming odds both in his normal everyday life and as a costumed crime-fighter. But rarely, even as an adolescent acclimatising to his enhanced strength and wall-crawling, has Stan Lee’s co-creation ever appeared as inept and anaemic a would-be rescuer as he does in “Trade Secrets”.

To make matters worse the owner of Parker Industries isn’t even struggling against one of his main rivals, such as Venom or the Green Goblin. But instead simply facing a battlesuit-wearing saboteur known as The Ghost; an inventive super-hacker who was originally an old foe of Iron Man in the Late Eighties and somebody who “when it comes to a fair fight… [is] pretty weak.”

Such a disappointingly inept portrayal of so iconic a “Marvel Worldwide” character by writer Dan Slott is hard to comprehend or explain, especially when it occurs within the super-hero’s own comic book. Yet not only does the American author depict Spider-Man receiving a sound thrashing at the hands of the Dark Avenger, pinning the former photographer beneath tonnes of fallen masonry in the process. He adds ‘salt to the wound’ by having a trio of Parker’s “amazing friends” Miss Marconi, Living Brain and “ex-super villain” Clayton Cole easily rescue him and capture The Ghost within the space of a handful of panels.

Dishearteningly the wall-crawler is equally as ineffective in the comic’s secondary tale “Nothing Left To Lose”. This six-page conclusion to the Black Cat’s supposedly solo sub-plot “Reposessession” pointlessly places Parker in danger as Felicia Hardy burns down both her old penthouse apartment and all the possessions the cat burglar accumulated during her criminal career. Unable to extinguish the blaze, nor capture the violently erratic female felon, Spider-Man simply settles upon saving Aunt May, Jay Jameson and Regina Venderkamp by swinging them to safety before the fire takes hold.

However just why Slott has the trio of supporting cast members in so a precarious position in the first place is bewildering. Even if the writer, along with regular collaborator Christos Gage, are fashioning “almost a completely different” Black Cat to the anti-hero created by Marv Wolfman, they surely can't have decided to turn the popular thief into so cold-hearted a killer that she would purposely douse two innocent geriatrics with gasoline and set them alight whilst they’re tied to chairs simply because they bought an ornament which Hardy had once stolen?   

Despite such reservations regarding this comic’s disappointing narrative, it is still a rather action-packed adventure and artist Humberto Ramos is more than up to the challenge of providing page after page of dynamic energy-filled illustrations. In fact the Mexican penciller’s drawings of a slightly awkward, long-limbed Spider-Man are the real highlight of this book, alongside the Will Eisner Comic Industry Award nominee’s wonderfully sinister depiction of The Ghost.
The regular cover art of "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" No. 18 by Humberto Ramos

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