Dan Slott and Ramon Perez's re-imagining of the early days of Spider-Man comes to a close with this, the fifth issue of Learning to Crawl. The first four issues of this mini-series introduced Clash, a high school aged whiz kid turned villain. Last issue, Clash defeated Spider-Man in the offices of the Daily Bugle. That wasn't the worst part for our hero though. Once the entire school discovered that Peter stole from the AV Club, all of his friends and mentors disowned him. It seems that Peter Parker has hit rock bottom.
Clayton Cole's defeat of Spider-Man last issue has definitely gone to his head. Clash is now crashing wrestling matches, his picture is on the front page of the paper and he even has groupies. He's finally built up the courage to ask his crush, Polly McKenna, out on a date. Meanwhile Peter Parker is as much of an outcast as he's ever been. His new found friends want nothing to do with him since he was caught stealing from the AV Club and his counselor Mr. Flannagan calls him a lost cause.
In his lowest moment, Peter is visited by his Aunt May who does her best to cheer up her favorite nephew. She explains that first and foremost Uncle Ben was all about having fun and that he loved nothing more than hearing Peter laugh. In that moment, a light bulb goes off and the gloomy Peter dons his Spider-Man costume with a new swagger.
Back at Mid-Town high, Clayton gets cold feet before meeting Polly. Right before he reaches the school he decides to put on his Clash costume to try and impress his crush. Spidey has had enough of Clash's antics though. Using his soon-to-be trademark humor, Spider-Man taunts Clash which makes the introverted villain more and more angry. As the school kids roar with laughter at Spidey's one-liners, Clash become reckless and allows the wall-crawler to clobber him and web him to a wall. After unmasking his adversary, Spidey swings away to the cheers and adoration of his classmates.
Reflecting on his victory, Pete give all the credit to his late Uncle Ben. "You were more than a father to me, Ben Parker. More than a role model," says Peter "You were my hero."
In a stunning recreation of the most memorable events in the history of Spider-Man, Ramon Perez and Dan Slott end their ambitious mini-series with Pete shouting that his future is "going to be Amazing!"
Clash is defeated, Spider-Man is funny and Peter Parker's life is about to get a whole lot more interesting. I've voiced my displeasure with this series as it's worn on and for good reason. The newly created characters were not very interesting, the plot itself moved much too slowly for its own good and it certainly felt leading up to this issue that the entire mini-series was just an excuse for Slott to dabble in the affairs of a classic period in comic book history. This issue is a rather nice way to end this otherwise forgettable tale though.
With the help of Aunt May, who has been a pivotal character in this series, Pete both embraces his new role as Spider-Man and copes with the death of his uncle. Tying in Ben's sense of humor with Spider-Man's trademark verbal jabs is a concept that is entirely new and yet at the same time believable. Sure five issues were way too many for a series that offered far too few interesting moments, but I wouldn't say that Learning to Crawl was a complete waste of time.
As I've noted in every review of the series thus far, the real star of this series was Ramon Perez and Ian Herring. The art feels as if it were ripped straight from the pages of the Silver Age stories that inspired it. The final two page spread that ended the book is eye popping. Such memorable scenes as Gwen's death, the Final Chapter, Pete digging himself from the grave and Mary Jane's first appearance are all present in the background while Perez's wonderfully drawn Spider-Man leaps into the air in the foreground. This is not a shot against Dan Slott, but in both the Amazing Spider-Man book, the Silver Surfer book and this mini-series, the art has been consistently better than the storytelling.
Though the artwork was solid from start to finish, the plot meandered about more than it should have before sticking a shaky but overall satisfactory landing.
This isn't the last we would see of Clayton Cole. He turns up as a (now adult) henchman of Dr. Minerva just a couple of months after this issue was released in Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 3) #8. Peter gives him a chance to go straight when he offers him a job at Parker Industries. It seems as if Clayton's role in the world of Spider-Man is far from over.