Comic Review: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ #12

Written by:  Dan Slott / pencils by:  Giuseppe Gamuncoli / colours by:  Marte Garcia

What’s this issue about?

Power Play Part I: “The Stark Contrast” : as the threat of a new foe rises, Peter Parker must first team up with Tony Stark to grapple with an attack by Ghost…

In review

Following the high stakes and drama of recent issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, writer Dan Slott kicks off a new story arc with a fun and engaging opening chapter that gives our friendly-neighbourhood wall crawler the opportunity to let his hair down a little…just a little.

With Peter Parker’s recent guest appearance in Brian Michael Bendis’s Invincible Iron Man, it seems only fair that Tony Stark would pay a visit to New York City – with new employee Mary Jane in tow – as Peter throws a charity fundraiser for the Uncle Ben Foundation.  It’s as funny and as cringing as you would imagine and Slott makes great use of both characters in making things uneasy for Peter.  The interplay between Peter and Tony is the highlight of this issue, the latter’s ego threatening to deflate the former’s as Slott evokes all of those underdog qualities that have endeared so many to one of Marvel’s most iconic characters for so long.  Peter Parker may now be a billionaire industrialist as head of fledgling company Parker Industries but in the end he’s still the same old Peter Parker, just a little older and maybe even a little wiser.

It’s when the supervillain known as Ghost shows up that this issue’s best moments arise, with Peter and Tony ‘suiting up’ to tackle the threat only for our central heroes to reduce themselves to some high school bickering as they try to outshine one another, leaving Ghost hilariously bewildered in the process.  As the action unfolds and the pair set aside their egos, Slott leaves readers with perhaps the greatest and most memorable team-up since Marvel’s ‘All-New, All-Different’ relaunch and closes the issue with the necessary threads to be woven throughout this latest story arc as the impending threat of new foe ‘Regent’ is revealed.

Guiseppe Gamuncoli’s visuals on The Amazing Spider-Man continue to be a perfect complement to Dan Slott’s scripts, his sharp, detailed pencils and slightly cartoonish character facials (accentuated by Marte Garcia’s vivd, high-def colours) fitting the overall tone of the book.  Although Gamuncoli is not afforded as much opportunity to depict the epic blockbuster set-pieces of prior instalments (readers have been truly spoiled in recent months with Spider-Mobile action, orbital plummets and subway train fights), there’s still plenty of energy and momentum to the action that Slott facilitates in this issue.

The bottom line:  The Amazing Spider-Man takes a moment to breath, if only briefly as Dan Slott and Guiseppe Gamuncoli present a fun issue bolstered greatly by a guest appearance from Tony Stark.

The Amazing Spider-Man #12 is published by Marvel Comics and is available in print and digital formats now.

Another superlative cover by Alex Ross for another fun issue of Marvel's 'The Amazing Spider-Man'.

Another superlative cover by Alex Ross for another fun issue of Marvel’s ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’.

Was ‘Iron Man Three’ a missed opportunity?

This article contains a minor SPOILER

Tony Stark returns…

So, some weeks have passed since the release of Iron Man Three (and two other highly anticipated blockbusters have been released – Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel), getting Marvel’s ‘Cinematic Phase Two’ under way and quickly passing the $1 Billion mark, becoming the fifth highest-grossing film of all time.  Despite overall critical acclaim and general audience approval I can’t help but feel that Iron Man Three was a disappointment and a missed opportunity to deliver a truly great Iron Man film.

I’ve been a fan of Iron Man since my pre-teens in the early 1990s – long before the big screen debut of the character in 2008.  Admittedly it took a couple of viewings before I fully accepted the first Iron Man, I had misgivings initially – the light tone and quick fire one-liners I really didn’t expect considering that the comic books at the time were dark and serious, infused with post 9/11 angst and weren’t afraid to tap deep into Tony Stark’s demons.

Robert Downey Jr. won me over.  An actor whose performances I had always enjoyed, his take on Stark whilst not quite the character I quite knew from the comics was a very personal one (given RDJ’s troubled past) and I eventually got this and surrendered to this new approach.  Plus, it was Iron Man on the big screen with plenty of moments to be excited and geeky about!

Iron Man 2 came about with even more witty quips but again, many cool Iron Man moments (armour in a suitcase!) and despite its flaws I still found it to be highly enjoyable.  Avengers Assemble not only fully lived up to its promise but provided Robert Downey Jr’s best performance in the role thus far.

But, deep down I always wanted to see a more serious exploration of Tony Stark and for him to face a darker threat that would truly challenge him to be a hero.  The trailers for Iron Man Three seemed to promise all this and more – a troubled Stark, struggling to reconcile the events of Avengers Assemble, the shadowy emergence of a new threat from a powerful villain and pulse-pounding excitement all the way as Stark’s world crumbles around him.

Despite delivering some adrenalin inducing action set-pieces, when finally seeing the film, I felt cheated.  The tone remained light with the one liners coming a bit too thick and fast, Stark’s turmoil uneasily and unevenly dealt with (moments of anxiety attacks sprinkled here and there, quickly shrugged off) and most of all the unforgiveable handling of the “Mandarin”.  This is my main problem with the film, he could have been as memorable and as threatening as the Joker and Bane and as I’ve said, a real challenge to Stark – all that promise built up in the first hour of the film fizzling out once THAT twist comes, killing the possibility of us ever seeing Iron Man’s most iconic nemesis as a true, engaging threat.

I’m not saying that Iron Man Three needed to be The Dark Knight Rises but it really could have been their best film to date, delivering a slight tonal shift that wouldn’t alienate the established audience but draw on the more weightier dramatic elements teased in the film’s marketing, without sacrificing the fun we’ve come to expect from a Marvel film.

News emerged on Thursday of Marvel’s two picture deal with Robert Downey Jr. for Avengers 2 and 3.  I am looking forward to seeing Robert Downey Jr. continue as Tony Stark and honestly believe that Iron Man’s finest cinematic hours are yet to come and perhaps that will be in those two Avengers sequels.  That said the truth is that RDJ has set his portrayal of the character and sadly that truly great Iron Man film (I ponder) may require another take by another actor and an eventual (inevitable?) fourth solo Iron Man will be the perfect opportunity for this to happen.

All in all, despite some good action I maintain that Iron Man Three missed the mark considering what it could have been (and what the fanboy in me was screaming to see).  This rant aside, I’ll still buy the Blu-ray (lest there be any gaps in the collection!) and I hope that I might reappraise Iron Man Three much as I did the first one so let’s see how it holds up then.

Iron Man Three is released on Blu-ray and DVD in September (look out for my review in due course).

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark - a very personal take on the character

Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark – a very personal take on the character.

What are your thoughts on Iron Man Three and Robert Downey Jr‘s take on Tony Stark? Leave a comment below!