Now that he’s no longer on the Thunderbolts’ short leash, the Ghost returns to his old ways: corporate espionage and terrorism. Of course, his appearance in “Amazing Spider-Man” #17 can only mean that writers Dan Slott and Christos Gage are setting him loose on Parker Industries. It’s a bit of a cookie-cutter plot, crippled by only having fourteen pages to unfold, but the story brings promise and the energy inherent in matching heroes against the rogues gallery of other heroes.
Slott and Gage spend very little time on the Ghost and Spider-Man’s fight in “Amazing Spider-Man” #17, choosing instead to have him menace the employees of Parker Industries. Add to that a three-page opening sequence where Peter and Anna Maria update Aunt May on their dating status and this story is just settling on its foundation when it dramatically switches locations for the second installment of the Black Cat’s “Repossession” backup tale.
Six pages of that Black Cat thread are enough to bring readers up to speed on the crimelord’s doings and personality, setting up a clash with Spider-Man in some issue to come. Despite the more intimate setting of the second portion of “Amazing Spider-Man” #17, Humberto Ramos is able to open up the art a bit more. It’s Black Cat reclaiming her collection in a violent manner, so backgrounds are able to melt away on demand. Here especially, the halos crafted around the characters in key scenes or when the action gets intense give Ramos’ drawings more energy and even infuse them with the excitement of scoring a one-of-a-kind convention drawing. His collaborators, inker Victor Olazaba and colorist Edgar Delgado, do a great job of bringing out the characters’ vibrancy while preserving Ramos’ style quite nicely.
Ramos’ Barbie-doll female characters encounter more diversity in body type in this issue, as the artist is clearly making a strong push to evolve his characters. Sajani’s features and form are far different from Anna Maria’s, but Ramos’ take on Aunt May is still a little too youthful. Ramos and crew don’t deliver their best work in the Parker Industries scene, with too much information competing for the readers’ attention too ferociously. When the scenes are scaled back, especially when the Ghost lords over a bank of monitors packed with imagery, the art soars.
“Amazing Spider-Man” #17 is dense with text, making letterer Chris Eliopoulos’ work a bit more challenging. He proves worthy of the task and even provides creepy, electronic dialogue for the Ghost. The sound effects are classic comic style and make the absence of a superhero throwdown just that much more noticeable.
“Amazing Spider-Man” #17 is less “amazing” and even less “Spider-Man” than I hoped for, with fourteen pages of main story and Spidey only appearing at the end of the adventure. Yes, a balance of the secret identity life and the costumed adventures needs to be struck but, after the mind-numbing and timeline-bending events of “Spider-Verse,” I was kind of hoping for a Spidey vs. Villain-of-the-Month run to remind us why Spider-Man is special in a universe with considerably fewer Spiders. Instead, this feels like an installment of “Spider-Man Family,” which could be fun. However, when I see Spidey and a villain like Ghost on the cover, I want to see those two fighting it out. Maybe next issue will deliver the Spider-Ghost scrum but, for now, “Amazing Spider-Man” #17 left me wanting just a bit more Spidey. This issue is alright but doesn’t quite find its way beyond that.