Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #658

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This review was first published on: May 2011.

Background...

In Fantastic Four #587, Johnny ‘the Human Torch’ Storm sacrificed himself to save Ben Grimm and the kids of the Future Foundation from Annihilus and his annihilation wave. Among Johnny’s last requests was that Peter take Johnny’s place on the Fantastic Four, which will henceforth be known as ‘the Future Foundation’. This story, which seems to take places after FF #1 but before FF #2, has Spidey going on his first mission with the team.

In Detail...

"Welcome to the Future Foundation"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #658 (Story 1)
Jun 2011 : SM Title
Writer:  Dan Slott
Artist:  Javier Pulido
Cover Art:  Marko Djurdjevic
Lettering:  Joe Caramagna
Colorist:  Javier Rodriguez (pgs 18-23), Muntsa Vicente (pgs 1-17)
Executive Producer:  Alan Fine
Publisher:  Dan Buckley
Chief Creative Officer:  Joe Quesada
Editor In Chief:  Axel Alonso
Senior Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Associate Editor:  Ellie Pyle
Assistant Editor:  Ellie Pyle
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Review

At Peter’s spiffy new Tribeca condo, Peter and Carlie have reached a milestone in their relationship: Carlie is going to spend the night, and the couple is going to have sex for the first time. The dialogue handles this very delicately, so that mature readers understand the situation even though it’s not spelled out.

Unfortunately for Peter, just as the pair are about to kiss, the FF flare signal goes up! (It’s a partial honeycomb now, rather than a 4, naturally.) Peter is torn about what to do. Luckily for him, though, Carlie gets called in to work at the same time. The two agree to postpone matters - “Tomorrow?” Carlie asks, leaving the rest unsaid - and the two leave the building and go their separate ways.

Let me interrupt the recap to say that this scene plays very strangely. Both Carlie and Peter seem to be reluctant to consummate their relationship, but Peter especially, and both seem to be relieved when their work lives (so to speak) interrupt. Peter even reflects on how lucky he is that a beautiful girl - one whom he cares for, who cares for him, and was about to have sex with him - had to leave him unexpectedly, so he can go be Spider-Man without having to explain himself.

I’m not sure if we readers are supposed to find a subtext here regarding Peter’s inclinations or true feelings towards Carlie, or if instead we’re supposed to understand that Marvel prefers not to portray its most family-friendly character as having sexual urges. Time will tell, I suppose.

Anyway, maybe Peter’s luck isn’t going as well as he seems to think, because he runs into his labmates at Horizon, who are mad at him. Grady and Sajani believe that Peter used their work in his most recent invention, and they’re not pleased. Peter, unfazed, agrees with them, and offers to share credit, which the two grudgingly accept. This resolution seems to be driven less by Peter’s determination to resolve this quickly so he can get going, and more by his acceptance that the criticism is fair. Free of distractions, Peter can now go to his own lab to grab his union suit. “Now I’ll have to come up with a new scientific breakthrough by next quarter. And you know what’s good for that? A Spidey adventure! And with the FF no less. That’s practically got science written all over it!”

Another paranthetical aside: Peter’s shaping up to be an unpopular character at work. In Amazing Spider-Man #656 he yelled at them for no good reason, and how he’s swiping their stuff and only giving credit after the fact. At this rate, Pete will soon become That Guy at Horizon, the one the rest of the staff love to hate, and his web-slinging career won’t be the cause - instead it will be his introversion and social carelessness. An interesting development! I wonder where Slott will take this.

Finally, Peter arrives at the Baxter Building, where the rest of the group is standing around, waiting for him. Not cool, Peter. “I’m an Avenger too,” grumbles the Thing, “and you don’t see me goldbrickin’.” With a flourish, Peter arrives, dressed in a new costume! A blue Fantastic-Four jumpsuit with black gloves, boots, and mask, plus a stylized spider surrounding the “4” logo.

Double not cool. Sue and Ben are annoyed with Peter’s insensitivity, and tell him that the blue and the 4 have been retired. Reed reminds him that the team is wearing new white-and-black numbers now. “You left your uniform last time,” he says, referring to FF #1, in which Peter clearly got the message about the costume change. Anyone who read that issue - someone like me, say - will be perplexed by Peter’s faux pas here.

I mean, sure, Peter’s an introvert, but all this is a bit much. Happily ditching his hot-to-trot girlfriend? Plagiarizing his colleagues’ work? Violating the FF’s dress code? Taken all together, this is disturbing. Maybe Peter relied on his spider-sense in social situations more than he knows.

Having now changed into his white-and-blacks - “I look like Anti-Venom!” he complains, but no one cares - the team jets off to close three rifts in the space-time continuum. First stop is France, where the team helps Arkon drive a bunch of unearthly dinosaurs back to Polemachus. This only takes two pages, followed by another two pages in which Peter and the team soak up some local colour, namely pastries and mimes. The pastry - drawn as an ice-cream cone, just sayin’ - stains Peter’s costume, but thanks to the magic of unstable molecules the stain just fades away. Peter isn’t impressed by this, for some reason.

We can all understand why the team doesn’t like the mime, though, as he’s entertaining the crowd by comparing the Thing to a gorilla. He gets his, though, when Sue puts him inside a shrinking invisible box. And no one gets that it’s not part of the act! Har har.

“Next stop, the Microverse,” says Reed, before adding that Peter should turn off his cell phone. “It causes interference when we shrink out of the universe.”

Cut to the Microverse, specifically, “the surface of Superego, the Living Atom”. HA! Delightful. Superego is the source of the dimensional instability because her electrons are out of alignment. Luckily, the team is able to correct the orbit of her electrons before she splits. “That should do it,” says Spidey, “[t]hough don’t even ask me why”, as Peter knows that as per quantum mechanics, electrons don’t actually behave like billiard balls. Reed helpfully explains that Superego falls into the realm of “meta-science.” “Take Galactus, for example,” he asks. “Do you think a cosmic devourer of worlds would appear as a Caucasian man in a purple helmet and boots? That’s his meta-form.”

“You’re saying that’s how we perceive it, that there’s a greater scientific truth under the surface...”

I’d love to hear this theory explicated in more depth, but the team has to jet off and take care of the third dimensional anomaly. As they go, the Psycho-Man watches from a distance. “HA HA!” he gloats. “The expansion frequency! I have it! The key which will allow me ingress into the heavens above! Soon! A whole world for the Psycho-Man to torment!”

An interesting sub-plot, though I wonder if it will be pursued in this magazine or in FF. But here’s a story seed that will be pursued in Amazing Spider-Man: back in the Baxter Building, Valeria has triangulated “the three different dimensional anomalies the team’s been tracking down”. They pinpoint to a location in the Caribbean last seen way back in Fantastic Four #5: the place where Dr. Doom sent Reed, Johnny and Ben back in time!

Speaking of time travel, at this point in the story Reed, Ben, and Peter have traveled forward in time to the year 3,141,592,653 (CE?), to the headquarters of the Future-Future Foundation, an M.C.-Escher-inspired structure floating in Earth’s orbit. It seems that the FFF - consisting of Mega-Storm, Supremo, Xandar, Yancy, and Captain Wakanda - need help with the dimensional circuits in their base, which are failing. “It’s the technology. It’s so ancient, its secrets have been lost to time.” And yet the FFF have historical records so accurate that they knew, from the FF’s files, that the FF would be coming to meet the FFF on this date. Huh.

Anyway, it ain’t no thang for our team to pinpoint the problem in the tech, which is based on “a highly advanced version of Hank Pym’s dimensional wave inducer”. Pete’s ecstatic: “just looking at this stuff is giving me all kinds of ideas for my job back home...” Reed, ever the killjoy, dials him down. “Peter, this is future technology! You cannot use it for inspiration in the present. That goes for anything you see offworld. Earth science has to progress at its own pace. Do I have your word?”

“So now none of my FF adventures can help me at work? Just what I need. Time away from the lab, and nothing to show for it!”

Oh, he’s got something to show for it. Before leaving France, he sent Carlie a message telling her that he couldn’t make their postponed date, on the grounds that Horizon had sent him on a business trip. Crack detective that she is, Carlie found that unlikely, that he’d have to go away in the middle of the night: remember that Paris is six hours ahead of New York. So Carlie tore herself away from the case she’s working on (something involving the Wraith, who strikes terror in the heart of New York’s underworld) to bake Peter a treat. She goes by the lab to drop it off, asking them to ship it to “wherever Horizon sent Pete on his business trip”. And of course they didn’t send him anywhere...

Looks like Peter’s gonna have some explaining to do!

In General...

The portions of this issue featuring Peter adventuring with the Future Foundation are great stuff. Dan Slott, the writer, does an excellent job mixing real-world science with the trippy comic-book science that are the Fantastic Four’s bread and butter. Based on this issue, and last issue’s adventure with the green nova, I submit that if Jonathan Hickman ever leaves FF that Dan Slott take it over. I’m sure he’d be (ahem) fantastic.

Unfortunately the portions of this issue dealing with Peter Parker are less worthy of praise. Peter is supposed to be in love with Carlie and fully committed to her, so much so that he’s broken off his casual affair with the Black Cat, but his attitude toward having sex with Carlie seems best described as ‘resigned’. Peter knows, as per FF #1, that he has a new Future Foundation costume and that everyone is very touchy about Johnny’s death, but he still shows up in an incorrect and insensitive costume. These developments are strange: they don’t fit in with what we know about the character and how he’s behaved in the very recent past. I think perhaps the script could have used another draft here. Maybe Steve Wacker could pay more attention to that and less to his grating letter-column commentary: hey, Wacker, just because you’re editing Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be Stan Lee.

Overall Rating...

The really good stuff in this issue - Superego the Living Atom, the Future-Future Foundation - is balanced by the less-than-good: Peter Parker’s insensitivity and unexplained asexuality. Let’s call it three webs.

Footnote...

Reed’s admonition to Peter about Earth science developing at its own pace doesn’t hold up to even ten seconds’ scrutiny, but nonetheless it’s nice to see an in-comic explanation of just why, as per TV Tropes, 'Reed Richards Is Useless'.