Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

Serving as a break from "Spider-Verse," "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #1 serves up a pair of Spider-Man tales with only one Spider-Man in each one. There are no other Spiders not named Peter Parker of any kind -- Girl, Woman or Ham - to be found in either tale, save for the lingering threat and accompanying fear established by Otto Octavius' stint as Peter Parker.

"I Can't Help Myself," written by Sean Ryan and drawn by Brandon Peterson is a stand-alone continuity-free tale of Spider-Man trying to return a lost cell phone. (Yes. A phone.) Along the way, he bumps into Hawkeye and beats up the Menagerie (the lame quartet of Hippo, White Rabbit, Panda-Mania and Skein) before finding closure in a story that makes for a fine anchor for an anthology. The situation and surroundings Ryan puts into this story give readers a good sense of Spider-Man's preference to always do the right thing, to be responsible, to a point. In following his heroic responsibilities, Spidey ignores his Parker responsibilities, giving this tale's webslinger a slacker vibe.

Brandon Peterson can draw no unpretty people. Peter Parker is a handsome man, Sajani Jaffrey is an attractive lady, the random strangers, terrorists and phone loser are all comic book-stereotypically attractive. Peterson makes everyone look good and uses some heavy photo-reference for the New York City backgrounds to make Spider-Man's hometown equally attractive. He gives readers a quick tour of Manhattan via webslinging with Spidey and makes the most of the wallcrawler's heroic moments. Colorist Antonio Fabela tones this tale with shades of a setting sun on the concrete jungle while also keeping Spider-Man the brightest figure in the panels. Travis Lanham's word balloons and sound effects round out the visuals, giving the lead-in adventure of "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #1 a fine coat of polish.

A ridiculously cute Aunt May strip fills two pages in between the pair of stories with delightfully playful illustrations. "The A-May-Zing Spider-Aunt" would be a great children's board book filled with playful introductions to Spidey, Aunt May and a cluster of Spider-Foes. If Cale Atkinson were to provide similar stories to every Marvel anthology, the world would have a whole lot more cuteness in it.

In "The Quiet Room," writer Jai Nitz brings on a legion of loser villains. That crew centers on Doctor Bong and includes Shrunken Bones, Gorilla-Man, Angar the Screamer, Chondu the Mystic and Ruby Thursday. Nitz brings the funny to this tale, giving readers plenty of silly one-liners and goofy scenarios. The visuals blend together from the combined efforts of artist Ron Salas, colorist Rico Renzi and letterer Travis Lanham. The trio put panels in sound effects, raising the impact (no pun intended) and making the oddball brigade gathered in this story more fun to read about. Renzi uses patterns and bold colors to decorate the pages while Salas sneaks in winks and nods, like a cameo from Moon Knight and a fleeting appearance from Sleepwalker.

As an anthology of Spider-Man-related stories, "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #1 is great. As an Annual, however, it falls a little short. Rather than giving readers an extra-long single story, the conclusion to an event or the kickoff to a different event, "Amazing Spider-Man Annual" #1 seems like the recipient of the Inventory Story Drawer Cleanout Award. The adventures here are fun and upbeat, but nothing in these pages is particularly memorable. It's a nice example of Spider-Man comics, but not a must-have or must-read.

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