One of only two Marvel comics released this week, "Avenging Spider-Man" #15.1 by Chris Yost and Paco Medina gives readers their first look at the new, improved, "Superior" Spider-Man, as he sets about taking over the role he has inherited.
As far as stories go, it's the sort of continuity nuts-and-bolts that could easily be glossed over. We don't necessarily need to know how this stuff happens, but it's interesting to see it nonetheless. Thankfully, Yost has found a way to work this tale of practical necessities into one of character-centric realization. There's an arc here, albeit one that doesn't have much in the way of twists or turns.
Yost's handling of the new Spider-Man, however, is quite important at this formative time, and therein lies a problem: the end of "Amazing Spider-Man" #700 left us with essentially a new character who had, in the classic Spider-Man tradition, learned a lesson about responsibility -- and yet under Yost, he's back to his old self with none of the humility or regret you'd expect given our last glimpse of him. Commendably, his is a noticeably different voice to Peter's, but that's purely technical praise. On a gut level, it doesn't really work.
It's a structurally sound story, there's no doubt about that, but what "Avenging Spider-Man" #15.1 had to do was convince readers that this is a character you want to read about, and it's not a story that does that. We don't see anything sympathetic or relatable; we don't see anything that suggests this character is a hero. Indeed, at best, he's indifferent. And he displays this lack of charm while ragging on our old friend, Peter Parker. Endearing it is not.
The choice of Paco Medina on art seems like a strange one, too. There's nothing strictly wrong with Medina's art, but nor is it historically outstanding. This is by some distance his best work, but that still places it with some way to go to match the greats. It's not subtle, and if this situation is going to work in anything approaching the long-term, subtlety is required.
It's probable that "Superior Spider-Man" #1, when released, will address these concerns. It is, after all, the "real" first issue. But "Avenging Spider-Man" #15.1 -- part-epilogue, part-prologue -- seems to do more harm than good. It's not that Peter Parker can't be replaced as Spider-Man (the stunning career of Miles Morales suggests otherwise) -- but this comic isn't doing his latest replacement any favors, and at a time when one suspects that favors are sorely needed.