While I've been a fan of Spider-Man ever since I was a little kid and watched his adventures on The Electric Company, I've never managed to read Amazing Spider-Man on a regular basis, though I did read Ultimate Spider-Man for a while when it first came out. Earlier this year I grabbed the hardcover collecting the "Spider-Island" storyline but haven't gotten around to it yet. Now that I'm reading comics on my iPad via Comixology I thought I would go back to the start of Dan Slott's stint as the main writer on the title and catch up on the last couple of years.
#648 ushers in the Slott era, which is called "Big Time" on the cover (a moniker that extends for quite a few issues as well), and also brings Humberto Ramos on pencils. This issue does a great job cluing new readers in on what Spidey has been up to - he's part of the Avengers and dating someone new (Carlie) - as well as what is happening in his world - for instance, J. Jonah Jameson is the mayor of NYC and Aunt May is married to Jay Jameson, J. Jonah's dad. There is plenty of forward momentum here as well, as Peter needs to find a new place to live and a job. He lands at Horizon Labs, a think tank where he will have his own lab and will be free to come and go. It's a positive step and a cool idea. Meanwhile, various villains are scheming, from the Sinister Six to the Spider-Slayer to the Kingpin and Hobgoblin. There is a lot of story here, almost 40 pages, and it is a perfect setup to where the series can go from here. There is also plenty of fun to be had as Slott proves to be adept at writing a comedic Spidey, not only in his one-liners but from situations. The rest of the issue is a Spider-Girl story that takes place in between the pages of the earlier story that is well done by Paul Tobin and Clayton Henry, well done enough that I may have to track down that now-cancelled series.
The first part of #649 focuses on Hobgoblin before someone kills him and takes his place - Phil Urich, a nephew to Ben Urich. Phil is quite unstable and is set up to be a major threat for Spider-Man and sure enough, by the end of issue Spidey is down and out and it seems like Hobgoblin has the upper hand. When you read a cliffhanger like this, you don't come back to see if Spidey will really die but rather how he will get out of it.
We find out that Peter isn't the one to get himself out of this jam in #650 but his new co-worker Bella. This necessitates Peter needing to scramble for a reason why he didn't know the assault on Horizon Labs was taking place, a classic Spider-Man trope that was appropriately funny here. Peter takes advantage of his new lab to incorporate some new technology into his suit that means he won't fall victim to Hobgoblin in the same way and Hobgoblin makes his move with Kingpin and tries to make one with Norah at the new Daily Bugle (an online concern now). There's also a nice bit of comedy here when both Carlie and MJ show up at Peter's apartment. A backup story moves the Spider-Slayer subplot forward as well.
#651 sees Spider-Man in his new suit sneaking into the Fisk Building with Black Cat to try and undo some of the damage Hobgoblin did and it is a great mixture of action and comedy. The new technology means Peter can't hear Hobgoblin's taunts for a while and no one can hear Peter either, leading Peter to make quips to just himself. This issue also puts a point to the parallels that have been made between Peter and Phil Urich over the last few issues, wherein Phil is a mirror-version of Peter but in the same position at the Daily Bugle that Peter used to be. There is a very smart inversion of the famous line about power and responsibility too. Again, the backup story furthers that story of the Spider-Slayer, who now has the Scorpion on his side.
Slott comes out swinging with these issues, showing that he is the right man to shepherd the franchise. These four issues are immensely entertaining with character work, comedy, and smart plotting. He definitely takes advantage of having over 30 pages to work with each issue as well; after reading comics that are down to 20 pages the last year, these stories feel full of story.
It's hard to talk about the appeal of these issues without mentioning Humberto Ramos. I first knew his work back on Impulse in the 90s and he's gotten better since then. He still has an angular yet cartoony style that works well in Spider-Man's world. There is storytelling as well as some cheesecake, most notably with Black Cat.
I really enjoyed reading these comics and I'm definitely looking forward to more. If you want to read along, these are collected in a trade or you could get them digitally for $1.99 each like I did.