A more cynical comic book reader might look at an issue of “The Amazing Spider-Man” that features a new costume that looks straight out of Marvel Comics’ parent company Disney’s brand new motion picture, “Tron: Legacy,” and a reference to Bono & The Edge, who are working on the upcoming Spider-Man Broadway musical “Turn Off The Dark,” as little more than crass commercialism, most likely the result of some kind of corporate mandate (perhaps set forth by the same sinister cabal that called for the cancellation of “Thor: The Mighty Avenger”).
I guess I’m only a little bit cynical. Dan Slott provides a fairly decent reasoning for Spider-Man’s new costume (which is what, like his 17th?) but still looks indistinguishable from any of the Tron Promotional Incentive covers that have been running this month. As far as the U2 reference goes, I guess Marvel has little choice but to put a brave face on about the calamitously poisonous attention the musical is currently getting. But overall, Spider-Man has always been one of the more Of The Moment comics Marvel publishes. Peter Parker has referenced cultural trends for decades, so while his new costume is a fairly bald-faced attempt to shill for Marvel’s fiduciary backers, it’s not completely out of place in a comic where Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” is used to foil the Hobgoblin.
That being said, the overall story in which this pop cultural vortex is swirling isn’t necessarily coming together perfectly. There are aspects to it that I’ve enjoyed. Peter’s new job and new girlfriend are both welcome developments. But the new Hobgoblin, Ben Urich’s nephew in this incarnation, is an unflattering combination of silly and violently murderous. In either direction he’s just sort of unpleasant to watch, but not in a “Well, that’s what he’s supposed to do, man” kind of a way. He just seems like kind of a lame character right now.
Humberto Ramos’ art is consistent with the high standards of his previous work. I once had the good fortune to see some of his art in person and it was pretty remarkable to see all the minute detail there that so rarely shows up once it’s been printed. I do think his style is less in keeping with the look of the book in the “Brand New Day” days. Artists like Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin established a kind of almost underground comics look that suited the tone of the book perfectly. Slott is doing a fine job maintaining that tone, but Ramos’ art isn’t as perfect a fit. It’s detailed and dynamic, of course, but it lacks the organic feel that Spider-Man comics at their best often have.
Overall, despite the rampant commercialism, Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos are off to a fairly strong start in their new tenure on “Amazing Spider-Man”. At first blush, it lacks the feel of “Brand New Day” at its best, but that might just be down to its choice as a villain. Because let’s face it. The Hobgoblin will always be lame.