"Amazing Spider-Man" #692 is larger than a normal comic because it celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of everyone's favorite wallcrawler. So please, join me in singing, "Happy birthday dear Spidey! Happy birthday to you!" Now, just like elementary school, Spider-Man will pass out treats for his birthday to all of us, although not a single one of us gave him anything even remotely resembling a birthday present.
Marvel's gift to Spider-fans includes signing Spider-Man up for the “Sidekick Club.” That comes in the form of Alpha, an until-this-issue normal high-schooler, not unlike Peter Parker back in the days of yore. Alpha's civilian identity of Andy Maguire is an ordinary C student content with just existing. He's not a loser, but he sure isn't a winner. In short, he's young Peter Parker without any motivation or interest.
Dan Slott's introductory caption boxes for the lead story featuring Alpha's first appearance were so smartly constructed that I could hear the voice of Stan Lee timelessly narrating the opening chapter to this fiftieth anniversary storyline. Not only did Slott find the voice of Lee, but he also brings the Peter Parker we've come to know and love under his watch along with some pretty special guest stars, including Reed Richards and Thing. Most importantly, Slott writes Maguire as a painfully believable modern teenager. Imbued with power, Maguire makes some choices Parker himself never would and through that filter, Slott adds depth to a story that certainly requires more than one dimension from the lead character.
Slott doesn't stop there. Drawing upon the strengths of his art team for this issue, he includes some humor, most notably in the form of the reaction to Alpha using the Thing's battle call. That art team, including pencils by Humberto Ramos with Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado coloring and Chris Eliopoulos lettering the issue, does an admirable job of presenting an exciting transition in the Spider-Man's life and a massive disruption to his world and conscience. Ramos' pencils are an acquired taste, but they are nicely suited to a Spidey adventure that features wildly anatomically bewildered teens. At times his style is so crazily kinetic that it borders on distracting. In some instances, for any character not named Spider-Man, the art is a little too much, for the webslinger, it's simply spot on, adding to the exaggerated poses Spider-Man has made so popular.
Alpha gets his label from Reed Richards and possesses the powers of energy projection, augmented strength, super speed, force field, flight, but only one can be used at a time. With Peter Parker at least partially responsible for Alpha's creation, “Amazing Spider-Man” #692 takes the old “with great power comes great responsibility” adage out of the closet and lovingly threatens to beat us all over the head with it. For all of its familiarity and excitement, the last page of Slott's story made me sigh. I'm not sure if it was exasperation, disappointment or simply a letdown from the proceedings of the story prior, but that last panel just didn't bring the impact I'm certain Slott intended to deliver.
The issue rounds out with two additional stories. The first, written and drawn by Dean Haspiel addresses the situation of when Spider-Man threw out his costume six hundred and forty-two issues ago. Once he did that, what happened to it? This story seems to be predictable for the first few pages, but Haspiel telegraphs one possible ending only to completely punch the reader in the gut at the end. Haspiel's art is light and lively, with enough real-world influence to carry the emotional weight his story delivers.
The second back-up, written by Joshua Fialkov is another tale that matches Spider-Man up with a kindred spirit. In true Parker fashion, Peter wakes up late for an appointment, strikes out on traditional transportation means and sets out to sling across town to keep his meeting. Fialkov's story doesn't float quite like Haspiel's, nor does it have the energy of Slott's, but it does feature the return of the Spider-Mobile. Nino Plati's manga-esque exaggerated characters push in a different direction from the exaggerated stylings of Ramos, but like the stories contained in this issue, illustrates just how widely interpreted Spider-Man can be while maintaining the integral essence of the character.
This issue, in all of its splendor and priciness is exactly what I would expect for a celebration of the Webhead and a chance for Spider-Man to be, well, Spider-Man. Granted he wasn't the only character in the spotlight, but this issue showed many facets of everyone's favorite spider-themed superhero. Slott has done a marvelous job with this character and continues to craft enjoyable stories from start to finish.