Sunday, 9 November 2014

Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time Review (Dan Slott, Humberto Ramos)

There’s a lot of Spider-Man I haven’t read so I’m not sure if this is actually the first time, but the way Dan Slott presents it, it feels like it is: Peter Parker gets a paying gig as a scientist for the first time ever. It took Marvel nearly 50 years to allow this change but it finally happened - ol’ Pete no longer has to sling hammy photos of his alter-ego Spidey anymore! Annnnnd that’s the whole book basically. 

There’s an obligatory big superhero action scene that kicks things off with Doc Ock sending in giant Octobots to smash up the city while Spidey leads the Avengers against them. But there’s no payoff to that scene (at least not in this book) and you’re left wondering what the point of it was at all. Doc Ock is forgotten almost instantly once his ‘bots have been taken out. There ya go, schmucks, superheroes fighting robots - happy? Filling the quota for bland superhero fighting! 

There’s also Hobgoblin, Black Cat and Spidey chasing after a macguffin called anti-vibranium or something, that’s not particularly interesting. But these are minor plot points at best because Big Time is full on Spidey soap opera. 

Before he gets a job at Horizon Labs, along with a sizeable paycheck, we get to see Pete looking for a place to crash because he’s been evicted from his flat! Ooooo, that old Parker luck, eh? So after multiple dreary scenes of that nonsense, we get to see his girlfriend troubles as he hides his superhero secret from Carlie Cooper - and then Black Cat shows up and, wuh-oh, is there some sexual tension here? Ooooo, girl troubles and Peter - will he ever get his life together?! 

Thankfully the Hobgoblin appears to break up this uninteresting sitcom crap. Phil Urich is Hobgoblin, and what’s his motivation for being a supervillain? He wants to impress a girl. But wait, it gets more contrived! Before Phil can become Hobgoblin, another Hobgoblin before him tries to kill him. Then in the space of one panel, Phil goes from normal person to full on supervillain crazy for no reason! Then he becomes Kingpin’s right hand man because that’s what someone who becomes Hobgoblin has to do, apparently. And in case we didn’t get it the first few times, we’re reminded at every opportunity that Phil is doing all of this to impress a girl at work he barely knows. 

So what was good about Big Time? Not much. I suppose Aunt May had a nice scene where she takes Pete to work on his first day (I still can’t believe it’s taken decades for Peter to put his Masters degree in science to actual use) and she looks up at the sky and whispers “He did it, Ben”. That’s sweet. 

Humberto Ramos’ art is wonderful for the most part. His exaggeratedly cartoonish style brings a dynamism to the characters that someone who drew more realistically wouldn’t achieve. But what was up with Black Cat - her boobs are porn-star big and are popping out of his low-cut top in every scene! Because that’s practical for a thief, right - giant boobs hanging out while you’re fighting/delicately robbing somewhere? It’s worse than when David Finch drew Catwoman in the New 52 Justice League of America series! And why on earth would she bathe in a jacuzzi full of milk anyway!?! 

The soap opera side to Spider-Man is arguably the biggest reason for the character’s enormous success over the years. Nobody could possibly relate to Bruce Wayne’s wealth but everyone can identify with working-class Peter Parker, a kid who has to scrape by to pay the rent month to month, who’s shy and awkward around girls, etc. etc. And while I did like that part of Spider-Man once upon a time, I’ve moved past that and want to see Spider-Man change and grow - that’s probably why I liked Superior Spider-Man so much, because it did something fresh and unique with the character. 

With Big Time, it’s like watching the later episodes of a long-running sitcom. Every character’s role is well-established: Peter’s the lovable, bumbling hero; Aunt May, J. Jonah, Robbie Robertson and MJ, all act as you’d expect; Kingpin is the Big Bad and the Goblin character is coocoobananas crazy; the love interest is cute. And this predictability couldn’t be more boring to read. 

If you love the soap opera side of Spider-Man, you’ll enjoy Big Time. For anyone looking for something, anything, more substantial, like a story worth reading, I’d suggest skipping straight to Superior Spider-Man - these lead-in books add very little to that title anyway.

Amazing Spider-Man: Big Time

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