50 years ago, in August 1962, Spider-Man first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15. This is his 50th Anniversary issue and poses a question not truly answered in Spidey’s career before… what it Spider-Man had a sidekick?
|Executive Producer:||Alan Fine|
|Chief Creative Officer:||Joe Quesada|
|Editor In Chief:||Axel Alonso|
|Assistant Editor:||Ellie Pyle|
|Cover Art:||Humberto Ramos|
|Lettering:||VC's Chris Eliopoulos|
|Reprinted In:||Alpha: Big Time #0.1|
Andy Maguire goes to Midtown High. His mother and father don’t really care about him, his teachers struggle to motivate him and he doesn’t stand out. Mediocrity is fine with Andy. He’s happy just being… there.
On the morning of a field trip to Horizon Labs, Andy fakes his father’s signature on the permission slip (as he’s neglected to do it) and sets off. Upon arrival he’s accidentally knocked to the floor by the resident jock, Mark Hunsacker, but is picked up by none other than Peter Parker. Peter takes the group inside and introduces them to Horizon and his newest discovery: a machine that creates Parker Particles, a new hyper-kinetic form of limitless energy! Max Modell and Tiberius Stone assist him, but when Tiberius learns that Max only might consider him to replace Michael Morbius on the Think Tank, he discreetly disengages the safety on Peter’s experiment! The machine begins to overload, shooting energy out towards the group of students! Peter uses his spider-agility to get most of them out the way, furious that he has put them all at risk by showing off! Andy dives to save the girl he likes (Chrissy) and is struck by a bolt of energy! Andy stirs as the machine begins to fall on top of him and Chrissy! He shoots out a bolt of energy from his hand and stands up empowered!
Hours later, Andy’s parents, and their lawyer, are tearing into Peter, Max and Horizon’s lawyer, Hector Baez. Max explains that they need to remains calm until the top superhero scientists have evaluated Andy’s condition. Dr. Hank McCoy (Beast), Prof. Reed Richards (Mr Fantastic), Tony Stark (Iron Man) and Dr. Henry Pym (Giant-Man) observe, test and evaluate Andy and discover that he can project energy blasts and has strength, speed, force field and flight abilities. He can only use one of these at a time and his power will grow without limit: he is the first Alpha-level threat, greater than The Sentry or The Hulk! Reed decides that Andy needs one-to-one guidance and that Peter is the man!
Hector offers Andy’s parents and lawyer a deal. Andy will be under Horizon’s supervision and will act as their spokes-superhero and will be paid well to be so. Max explains that Reed has handily suggested that Peter oversee the “Alpha” project and work with Andy just as he does for Spider-Man.
Andy’s first task, donning a green and black costume as Alpha, is to advertise a new aPhone from Horizon and he is an immediate media success!
The following Monday he visits his old school to great adoration! Chrissy is now his biggest fan, a fact Alpha revels in. Alpha “accidentally” bumps into Hunsacker, as he did to him, and sends him flying. Spider-Man watches from a rooftop.
That evening, Peter shares a meal with Mary-Jane Watson and the visiting Aunt May and Jay Jameson. He is distracted by Alpha’s exploits but listens when Jay pulls him to one side and says that May is worried about him, particularly after Peter failed to call during Ends Of The Earth. He tells Peter to find the time and be responsible. May and Jay leave and Peter explains to MJ that Alpha is a jerk and is bothering him!
Andy makes out with Chrissy! She shows him a new website she’s made for him but the forums are full of undermining comment threads about him! He decides to prove them wrong and flies out the window to go on patrol. Soon after, he is met by Spider-Man who invites him to join the “sidekick program” and be trained so that he can control his growing powers. Spidey is determined to teach Alpha the ethos of power and responsibility but he has to follow his rules. Alpha is geeked out and takes him up on his offer.
They learn about saving lives, punching crooks softly and punching super-villains harder! A Spidey then gets a call from The Fantastic Four and leaves Alpha, explaining that the situation is too big for him…
Spidey arrives to find The Fantastic Four battling the monstrous Giganto, who is rampaging to find a mate! Alpha suddenly arrives and, yelling “It’s clobbering time!”, punches Giganto and knocks him out! Alpha stands atop Giganto and announces to the gathering media that he is the most powerful superhero of all time and that he’s in the “sidekick program” with Spider-Man as his sidekick! Thing is livid that he’s stolen his line and Reed is astounded with Spider-Man for telling Alpha the truth about his power! Spidey realises he’s created a monster…!
Elsewhere, the news of Alpha reaches ears very interested in Spider-Man and Peter Parker. The Jackal, who has created five small spider-girls from The Queen’s DNA, wants a piece of Parker Particles and Alpha energy!
As ever, Dan Slott excels in a well-conceived, well-explained plot that takes our favourite character in a new direction. I believe in the science behind Alpha’s origin (as much as I believe in a radioactive spider anyway) and the idea of Alpha, a comparative Peter without the lesson of “With great power comes great responsibility” already engrained in him. Slott has always liked developing and using characters who share similarities with Peter Parker. He did it with Phil Urich and Doctor Octopus and here we’re again treading on ground which allows sides of Peter’s character to be explored through others. The idea of Spider-Man having an out-and-out sidekick is new but there’s a “but”.
For a monumental 50th Anniversary, there simply isn’t enough bulk of a story and there seems to be a considerably lack of depth because of this. I expected this story to be on the page count and level of a double-sized issue, but there’s little time for the relationship between Spidey and Alpha to develop into something we can believe in. Slott’s use of a double page montage is displayed perfectly by Humberto Ramos, but there’s little indication of over how long this takes or really enough interaction between the two. This means that the finale lacks enormity.
And, for someone who’s a fan of Peter Parker parallels, there doesn’t seem to be enough nods to the past in Alpha’s story. Again another let down for this hyped special story. Here’s hoping Slott sends the plot for a loop too, as this is shaping up to be a predictable powerful-kid-fall-from-grace-turn-into-villain-then-realise-error-of-ways story. Which I suppose is almost Amazing Fantasy #15 in a way…
The telling of the story, for its faults, is outstanding. I’m a fan of Slott’s detail and Ramos’ angular work and think they work well together. Ramos works particularly hard here to capture the youthful side of Alpha and his friends, as well as packing a kinetic punch with the final sequence. He seems to have reached a consistency of character now and, asides from the fact that if you don’t like his style you don’t like his style, there isn’t a panel that sticks out as jarringly out of synch or lacking in quality.
Finally a word on subplots. I can count one subplot in this issue and that is the exploits of Tiberius Stone. The Jackal appears from nowhere and a recent glimpse of him would have been a great lead in to this. As a man who lives for teasers, details, build-up and threads that arc back a long way, I can’t help but think that Slott’s dropped the ball on not sowing seeds for #700 in each and every issue. Maybe I’m being picky but subplots can be how epics are created!
This is far from epic, as an anniversary story should have been, and doesn't contain as many parellels with Spider-Man's origin as i might have expected, but there are some strong ideas and artwork. I'm hoping that Alpha doesn't end up as a telegraphed tragic lesson for Peter and Slott has something more up his sleeve.