Behind a cover showcasing a wonderful tribute to the classic “Superman Vs. the Amazing Spider-Man” comic from 1976, “Amazing Spider-Man” #694 offers up the conclusion to the “Alpha” storyline that heaped yet more responsibility upon the slender shoulders of Peter Parker. Like an iconic cover from yesteryear, Spider-Man and his “creation,” Alpha, square off on the cover, readying for a fight that we never actually see inside the book.
Dan Slott used Alpha to do unto Peter Parker as had been done unto, well, Peter Parker. In a sense, Alpha is a character crafted solely to outshine Spider-Man. He’s Spider-Man if Peter Parker were imbued with power in the modern day. With attention spans of the general public already challenging the lifespan of a fruit fly for brevity championships, there is a whole generation coming up who have never read a manual, never waited for a videotape to rewind or even had to have a competent correspondence with someone via postal mail. Alpha is a hero who is bold and brash, unfocused and privileged. He’s Justin Bieber with super powers. The tagline for the “Scarlet Spider” series seems apropos here: “All of the power, none of the responsibility.” Alpha is a spoiled brat of a celebrity hero and is wrapped in every horrible cliche that can be tossed in that direction.
That makes Alpha the perfect foil to elevate Spider-Man’s heroic status. A few years back, Joe Kelly challenged the concept of Superman being an out-moded superhero with the story “What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way.” In no way, shape or form am I saying this is Slott’s interpretation of that, but there is no denying that there similarities in concept between the two stories as Spider-Man struggles to correct a wrong and prove his relevance to himself and his allies.
The Avengers make an appearance here, drawn in cartoon-like brilliance by Humberto Ramos. As a matter of fact, Ramos’ art is almost more cartoonish than the characters on the “Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” animated show. People are wildly exaggerated caricatures of humanity that bounce and jump through “Amazing Spider-Man” #694, but Ramos tames the characters well enough to tell the story. The animated detail makes the Marvel Universe more vibrant, a quality wonderfully enhanced by Edgar Delgado’s prescription-worthy superhero color palette.
A quick-fix, Saturday morning cartoon (and by that, I mean “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends”) solution to the world’s problems sets everything right as Slott continues to stack up the building blocks for the big Hobgoblin escapade. The “Alpha” storyline is fairly light and positively charged, well-suited as a counterpoint to dark, depressing comics where characters are getting mangled and murdered. Slott has made “Amazing Spider-Man” an enjoyable read with astonishing consistency and stories like the one contained in “Amazing Spider-Man” #694 prove that comics can, and should, still be fun. Especially when you’ve got a guy dressed up in web-covered red and blue pajamas.