Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Amazing Spider-Man [2015] #20 - Marvel Comics

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN No. 20, December 2016
Brazenly advertised on its Alex Ross cover as being “a Clone Conspiracy tie-in”, and then, upon opening, immediately warning its 67,530 strong audience that they must “proceed at your own risk” if “you haven’t read” the opening instalment of the “Spider-Man event of 2016”, it is hard not to view Issue Twenty of “The Amazing Spider-Man” as little more than a frustratingly cynical ‘cash-cow’ comic. In fact, it’s actually awkward to reconcile this twenty-page periodical’s narrative, which focuses purely upon the cloning of Doctor Octopus and subsequently only just scraped into the top thirty best-selling titles of October 2016, with one belonging to the New York City-based publisher’s “popular and commercially successful” “flagship character”.

Foremost of its problems is that anyone who had previously read Dan Slott’s accompanying mini-series would already know the outcome of Otto’s mental battle with Peter Parker, thereby making Octavius’ ridiculous efforts to retrieve his long dead and emaciated corpse in "Spider-Man's Superior" a rather redundant storyline before even a single panel’s dialogue bubble was perused. It certainly strikes as disappointing that rather than bring any conclusion to the current machinations of “Tubby McPsycho”, as he increasingly constricts his wall-crawling foe with his famous mechanical limbs, the American author (along with Christos Gage) instead once again regurgitates Doc Ock’s demise as the “truly superior Spider-Man” before unsurprisingly restoring the super-villain to his “prime.”

Sadly, even this series’ current lead antagonist, the Jackal, suffers from an acute lack of menace, on account of the Berkeley-born writer seemingly depriving the dog-headed scientist of his usual sinister power to manipulate events in his favour. Indeed, the “mysterious” red-suited Machiavellian man appears perfectly happy to ‘simply let things slide’ by paying the considerable cost for Otto’s cadaver, even though he previously never wanted to, and placidly allowing an octobot to penetrate his cloning technology simply to establish “what our little uninvited guest wants”; The biologist even comically stands by and watches Doctor Octopus ‘kill the heck out of’ whatever “you were fighting against” whilst cheerfully eating a box of popcorn…

Equally as disheartening is Giuseppe Camuncoli’s unusually inconsistent breakdowns. Whether or not the Italian comic book penciller’s artwork was detrimentally affected by Cam Smith assisting him on inking his illustrations is unclear. But a number of panels, especially those concerning Doctor Octopus and Anna making “use of that workman’s phone to access the web”, are disquietingly distracting, and not helped by colourist Jason Keith’s garishly red palette either.
The variant cover art of "THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN" No. 20 by Simone Bianchi

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