The first comic book I remember reading was an issue of Amazing Spider-Man. No comic character has made as great an impression on me as Peter Parker, and inevitably when I return to comic books after a hiatus I return to Amazing Spider-Man. Or I used to. Several years ago Marvel used a convoluted Mephisto storyline to reset the Spider timeline. Since then Dan Slott has been Amazing Spider-Man’s writer, and I’ve bought very few issues (and always intermittently).
Dan Slott’s Spider-Man (and just as important to me, his Peter Parker) has been perfectly fun as basic entertainment goes but I’ve never connected with the character as Slott has written him. I haven’t read in Peter the same dogged determination to always do right—or at least do better. Prior to this week my last Amazing Spider-Man dalliance was just after Secret Wars. Peter Parker as billionaire? Meh. It’s not hard to do the right thing when you’re rich. But, glutton for punishment that I am, I saw another change in Peter’s status quo—the collapse of his company—and decided to give the book another shot.
Amazing Spider-Man 789 is the first Dan Slott issue that I’ve read and loved. Peter is flat broke, sleeping on Mockingbird’s couch, and reading news articles about how he’s a public menace. In trying to stop a super villain Peter made the right choice for the right reason—sacrificing his company—but in doing so he cost people their jobs and their savings.
Slott starts with a Peter who’s feeling sorry for himself, takes him on a brief sanctimonious rampage, and finally brings him around to acceptance of what he’s done. The journey is a recognizable one—both because Peter has been on it many times and because most readers can recognize themselves in these moments. Rare is the person who hasn’t been in over their head or defensive when the best of intentions didn’t quite work out. The tragedy that keeps Peter grounded and pushes him to do better is what’s made him so relatable. Most of try to be good people, strive to be better than we are, and make mistakes along the way. Peter Parker is most of us.
Slott also returns to a familiar series touchstone—Peter preferring one of his two personas over the other. Unlike most Marvel heroes, Peter Parker has always kept his two lives very separate. Many writers have played with that duality in the series run. That Slott might return to the idea now makes complete sense under the circumstances.
Having long been a Dan Slott skeptic I’m happy to say I very much liked this issue. I’ll be curious to see where he takes things—certainly having Peter be the public menace and Spider-Man the hero is a fun reversal. Amazing Spider-Man 789 let me reconnect with the character that first made me a comic book fan; it was like a welcome visit from good friend after too long away.