Writer Dan Slott has been at the helm of Mavel Comics’ Amazing Spider-Man series since 2010, and even longer if you count his tenure as one of the series’ rotating writers during the Brand New Day era. That’s a tough act to follow for new series writer Nick Spencer, who is taking over with artist Ryan Ottley. Complicating matters further for Spencer, there’s a lingering stigma surrounding his most recent Marvel project, Secret Empire, better known as the Hydra Cap debacle. But despite the factors working against them, Spencer and artist Ottley have already proven they’re just the team to kick off a new era for Spider-Man.
The recent FCBD: Amazing Spider-Man comic established a new status quo for Peter Parker as he struggles to balance his superhero responsibilities with the need to find a new apartment and roommate. It’s a familiar setup for the character, especially considering how different his life was just a short year ago before the events of Secret Empire brought a swift end to his time as a billionaire industrialist. But however much readers may be accustomed to a down-on-his-luck Peter Parker, it’s a setup that plays directly to Spencer’s strengths as a Spider-Man writer.
Prior to landing the ASM gig, Spencer’s most significant contribution to the Spidey franchise was the 2013 series The Superior Foes of Spider-Man (drawn mainly by Steve Lieber). A companion to Superior Spider-Man, Superior Foes explored how a motley crew of C-List villains like Boomerang, Beetle, Shocker and Speed Demon made their living in a world where Otto Octavius has taken over the role of Spider-Man and thrown New York’s criminal underworld into disarray.
In many ways, Superior Foes was a more traditional Spider-Man comic than Superior Spider-Man itself. While Otto took charge of Peter Parker’s perpetually chaotic life and gave rise to Parker Industries, Superior Foes focused on a group of schmucks who never seemed to achieve much success or good fortune. As much as any Marvel book in recent memory, it managed to make the villains sympathetic and even lovable. In terms of cast, Superior Foes was very off the beaten path, but tonally and thematically, it was classic Spider-Man.
It’s already clear the spirit of Superior Foes lives on in the relaunched Amazing Spider-Man. That’s true in a general sense, with the FCBD story emphasizing Peter’s bumbling attempts to balance his personal and superhero lives and avoid the cure of his dreaded Parker Luck. But it’s also true in the sense that several mainstay characters from Superior Foes appear in this story, reminding us that Peter Parker isn’t the only super-powered person in New York who can’t ever seem to catch a break. Most significantly of all, this story establishes Boomerang as an unexpected new addition to Spidey’s supporting cast, revealing him to be Peter’s newest roommate and setting the stage for all sorts of new interpersonal tension.
It’s that knack for writing hilarious yet relatable misfits that makes Spencer such a great fit for the series. It’s not just that Spencer has a knack for writing humor-oriented books, but that he can use that humor to make the reader care so deeply for his characters. Ottley’s work enhances that effect. He’s a clean, confident storyteller, but whether Ottley is working on Invincible universe or Spider-Man, he’s also someone who channels the quirky weirdness lingering beneath the surface of these colorful superhero universes.
The FCBD issue may have offered only a small glimpse of what’s to come for Spidey, and there’s still the question of what state our hero will be left in when Slott finally wraps his long run next month. But even with this brief teaser, there’s every reason to be excited for what’s to come in Amazing Spider-Man this summer.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.