Then: Doctor Otto Octavius (Doctor Octopus) swapped his brain into Peter Parker's body and became The Superior Spider-Man! He set up Parker Industries, established a Spider-Island base of operations (staffed with Spider-minions), finished his PhD and fell in love with Anna Maria Marconi. After facing countless foes (killing Spider Slayer and Massacre in the process), being kicked out of The Avengers and mind-controlling the Sinister Six he faced his greatest challenge: The Green Goblin! Green Goblin had amassed an underground army and learned, from Carlie Cooper, about the brain swap! With the odds stacked against him, Otto conceded that only the one true Peter Parker could defeat The Green Goblin so he sacrificed himself and gave Peter control.
Now: Peter Parker is back... and has no idea what happened when he was gone!
Thirteen Years Ago: Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider at a science demonstration! In a split second, as its life leaves its body, the spider crawls across the floor and bites a woman on the leg!
Now: White Rabbit, Hippo and Panda-Mania flee from the auction house they have just robbed carrying a basket full of farberge eggs! Spider-Man, making jokes and delivering plenty of egg puns, appears and webs White Rabbit to the ground, catches the eggs in a web basket and avoids a car as Hippo throws it at him! The onlookers are pleased but when he finally stops moving, it turns out Spidey is wearing nothing but his mask and pair of webbed underpants!
Four Hours Earlier: Peter Parker, with Sajani Jeffrey, Aunt May and Jay Jameson, is interviewed outside the damaged Parker Industries building. He tells everyone that he is very much alive (after being presumed dead in the Goblin attack) and that he is severing his ties with Spider-Man so that his investors can rest easy. Away from the cameras, May and Jay say how pleased they are that he's making this decision. Peter himself is more than bemused and acknowledges that Ock did some good: he now owns a company and Aunt May is walking again. He wonder what other suprises there are in store...!!
Anna Maria Marconi returns to the apartment she shares with Peter Parker and calls Parker Industries to check that Peter is safe. She searches for her car keys but finds something else... an engagement ring!
A news report gives us news of Electro's attack on Conway Penitentiary (see Part 2 for more details!) and how Mayor J. Jonah Jameson has quit in light of his Spider Slayers joining the Goblin Nation and attacking the city! The television smashes from a bottle that the real JJJ throws. Sitting at home, he thinks he is finished... until he realises that he belongs at The Bugle! He suits up and steps out on to a copy of The Bugle on his doormat. It reads: Mayor No More. JJJ vows that The Bugle staff are dead to him!
At Parker Industries, Peter is reviewing the big project he and Sajani have been working on: Nano-tech Cybernetic Robots. He has no idea what he is looking at as it was Ock that developed them, but is sure he'll be able to figure out the problem they're having. He asks his staff to print out all the specs and they cower away from him to get it done! Peter and Sajani enter his lab to find The Living Brain, Peter's new doctorate and all of the Spider-Man tech. Sajani leaves Peter to dispose of it, as he promised. Instead....
...The Amazing Spider-Man swings across the city on patrol, determined never to take his life as a superhero for granted ever again! He hears a timely alarm ring out and swings down into action! Watching from a rooftop, is a shadowy woman. (See Part T3 for more details on who this is!)
The Menagerie (White Rabbit, Hippo, Panda-Mania and Gypsy Moth/Skein) flee from the auction house! Spider-Man swings in and Gypsy Moth uses her powers on him! She control and unweaves all the threads on his costume, but he manages to punch her out before she gets to the mask! He looks down and quickly webs himself some underpants as dozens of people snap photos! These are quickly shared across the world. In Avengers Tower, Spider-Woman is sure that he back to normal as nothing like this would happen to anyone else. Johnny Storm laughs his face of. Mary Jane Watson sees the news feed on her laptop and simply calls him an idiot.
Back to now and Spidey takes down Hippo and Panda-Mania with ease. He swings off, leaving the crowd a little shocked by his nakedness!
He swings back to his apartment, again considering what Ock has given him: a new apartment, a doctorate and a company with new responsibilities. He gets changed and walks into the lounge to find Anna Maria waiting. Peter didn't realise that they live together, but is more surprised when she asks him why he didn't tell her that he was Spider-Man! He tries to talk his way out but she recognises some freckles on his body from the naked Spider-Man pictures, ones that she has clearly seen when they've been together! Um.....!
Dan Slott brings Peter Parker back in a strong story that picks up right where we left off. And this story is delightfully "Peter Parker"! It is funny, cheesy, charming and once again, he is in way over his head. One of the most interesting things is Peter's acknowledgment of Otto's achievements as Peter Parker. Otto's tenure as Spider-Man is going to bite him on the ass, but, looking back on it, Otto was most successful as Peter and not Spidey.
I'm pleased that there's not too much explanation either. Slott romp through the supporting cast and their current scenarios and he writes Peter's thoughts accurately enough for there to be no lengthy flashback pages.
As Spider-Man 2099 did in Superior Spider-Man #31, people are accepting of Spidey's return to old ways and notice the difference as we do. Slott's use of the NYC masses, the Avengers and the closer supporting cast (a nice MJ moment) emphasise that this funny side is back and the light-hearted focus is a reminder of what we've missed. The Menagerie is another example of this and I appreciate that Slott didn't want to blast straight into a big super villain arc and allow the focus to be on Peter. I'm slightly perturbed by Slott's decision to keep Spidey naked for most of the issue, but I can see why he's done it and the disassociation from the Superior Spider-Man couldn't be clearer.
The cliff hanger is a great one. It is intimate, subtly delivered artistically and a big surprise (given the engagement ring discovery). "Um..." indeed!
Speaking of art, Humberto Ramos delivers typically energetic, fun and detailed pages. I'm a big Ramos fan, I always have been and I can categorically say that this is some of his best work. He draws a fantastic Spider-Man anyway, but this issue he tones down the angular faces and delivers characters who are less sharp. Compare his Peter from thee years ago to now and there is a difference in that he looks less exaggerated and more acceptable to the masses. The drawings of the city, the expressions and flow of the story are amazing, as is the prelude sequence which delivers a style of his work I always enjoy.
Where Ramos always comes a little undone is in busy action shots. The sequencing of Spidey's showdown with The Menagerie is great, but the panels filled with people get a little too squished and it is unclear on where your focus should be. This is the same for the Electro panel where there is clearly a big explosion but there's no direction for the bolts of electricity nor rubble flying everywhere. I'm interested to see if he gives Electro's energy clarity in the upcoming issues.
However, this story is as formulaic as I thought it would be and that's the main reason behind my rating. We all knew old Peter would be back, we all knew he'd be struggling to find his way in the world and deal with the changes, we all new that there would be some villains on the block utterly gunning for him because of Otto's treatment of them, we all knew that things would be difficult with Anna Maria. Granted, the twist at the end is a good one, and one which immediately rockets Anna Maria into being far more important and interesting as she was during Superior, but there's not enough of the unexpected here for me.
I'm also a little disappointed that this story doesn't feel as grand as the start of Big Time did. Yes, the issue itself is grand, but this story doesn't have the scope nor level of character interaction/set-up that Amazing Spider-Man 648 did. I firmly believe that if the Electro and Black Cat subplots had been explored within this story, they'd be better and more meaningful and would have perhaps added the weight of threat to this story that The Menagerie do not deliver.
Based on the main story alone, I remain excited about what Slott can do and where he's going to go next.
If I had to give the whole issue a rating it would be 3 webs as I feel there is a missed opportunity to have the Black Cat and Electro stories weaved in with the main story so that there is one big, crucial story like there was in Amazing Spider-Man #648.
Below are what my fellow reviewers have to say on our new #1:
Dan Slott, although I was disappointed by his ending to Superior, has redeemed himself in my opinion with this issue. While little happens in retrospect, it sets the tone for the third era of Slott's independent Spider-Man run. It's great to see Peter Parker and his joyous banter return. The script carries a freshness that would make any fan reconsider their opinion if they're bitter over Peter's return. My only problems are the unnecessary backstories, the forced inclusion of Electro, and the high price tag. (Every week, Marvel seems to have a double-sized, triple-priced issue.) Plus, Ramos' art (excluding his cover) is dynamic and vibrant. (Cody Wilson)
Honestly, I was disappointed. I was looking forward to Peter's return. But it all felt forced. I really wanted to see more of the consequences, but I guess Slott doesn't want to go too fast and then we have nothing.
I felt like the humour in this issue was a little weak. Out of all the Brand New Day writers, I always felt like Slott had the best handle on Spidey's humour and overall tone of Spider-Man. The jokes here all felt lame. But I was entertained that everyone knew it was Peter based on his luck and jokes. I'm still definitely looking forward to seeing Peter's continuing adventures, and the return of the character I love, I feel like this issue wasn't the strongest start for an issue #1. (Michael Miller)