Posted September 27, 2012 by Mikael Angelo Francisco in Comics

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Amazing Spider-Man #694

Reviewing Amazing Spider-Man #694 by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos.

The story centering on Alpha, the unremarkable boy given remarkable powers in an accident paralleling Spider-Man’s own origin, reaches its conclusion in this week’s Amazing Spider-Man 694. The cover, illustrated by Humberto Ramos, is a decent homage to Ross Andru’s iconic cover for the historic, giant-sized Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man decades ago. It’s also a clever wink to the readers, alluding to the fact that, just like in that treasury-edition comic, Spider-Man is facing off against a hero – or at least someone who believes himself to be one – whose power level greatly surpasses his own.

After writing Spider-Man for so long, it’s no surprise that Dan Slott has really gotten Peter Parker’s personality and dialogue down to a science. However, we see less of our hero’s humorous and fun-loving side in this issue, as he is pushed to the limits of his patience in finding a way to adequately deal with Alpha, his growing power set, and his simultaneously-growing ego. What we get here is a man determined to take responsibility for a problem he strongly believes he caused – a Spider-Man who is completely focused on his mission: to teach Alpha a lesson he won’t forget anytime soon.

This is evident both in his internal monologue at the beginning of the issue as well as his physical appearance; at this point, he has apparently been ignoring his duties as both family member and costumed adventurer, opting to lock himself up in his laboratory while trying to find a way to reverse Alpha’s transformation. Indeed, Peter hasn’t been sleeping and hasn’t even had time for personal grooming, and this is emphasized through Humberto Ramos’s kinetic penciling style. His Peter is unshaven and looks disheveled, really bringing home the point that ol’ Pete has been working overtime. He is only interrupted by an emergency, wherein he is forced to bring in Alpha to assist the Avengers. Predictably, things spiral out of control, and Spider-Man hardly gets a moment’s rest, even up until we reach the end of the issue.

Unfortunately, the pacing of this issue completely throws the momentum of the story’s conclusion off-balance. Too much time is spent on two things: (1) an emotional and dangerous sequence involving Spider-Man that is more strongly connected to this issue’s introduction than to the story arc as a whole, and (2) re-establishing Alpha’s character flaws (as if we weren’t already aware of them). The sheer number of pages devoted to these two items results in an unsatisfactory and somewhat rushed two-page wrap-up that is not nearly as rewarding as the first two installments of this arc.

The gravity of the conclusion ends up being lost,as we hardly get to see anyone in the story going beyond talking about Alpha’s status as potentially the Earth’s most powerful superhero – much is told and not shown. In fact, all throughout the story-arc, we don’t get to see nearly enough sequences of Spider-Man and Alpha working, or at least trying to work, together, which is something of a letdown, considering that prior to the release of Amazing Spider-Man 692 last month, Alpha’s story was promoted as a “Spider-Man gets a sidekick” story. True, it definitely makes more sense that Alpha wouldn’t be a sidekick in the strictest sense of the word (given his power level and attitude), but the misleading hype kind of makes the whole affair disappointing. The conclusion was almost certainly pulled out of thin air, too; I expected more from the same people behind the Spider-Island and Ends of the Earth story arcs.

On the plus side, though, we DO get a bit of some much-needed character development from a longtime Spidey supporting character, which is a VERY welcome change from the rather one-dimensional way the character has been portrayed for so long.

Enough room was left at the end of this arc for someone to write a sequel if the need ever arises. However, given the  upcoming story featuring the return of the original Hobgoblin AND the mysterious and supposedly, in Slott’s own words, disastrous final issue of Amazing (issue #700, in December), I have a feeling that it’ll be quite some time before we see or hear from Andrew Maguire again.


All in all, this was a rather underwhelming conclusion to a much-hyped and promising story, and I guess we can just be glad that Slott and Ramos didn’t drag it on further.

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Mikael Angelo Francisco