Since Zeb Wells took over writing duties on Amazing Spider-Man, there has been some tension between Peter and Mary Jane. As a reader, we had no idea what happened. Picking up the first issue felt like you missed out on a key story element. Here we are, 21 issues later, and Wells is finally giving us the story arc of what Peter did. Joining Wells on this issue are John Romita Jr. on pencils, Scott Hanna on inks, Marcio Menyz on colors, and Joe Caramagna on letters.
This is an important story arc for Wells’ run, because a lot of what he’s doing hinges on whether or not this is a believable plot. Readers have been wondering how Peter ruined everything and screwed up all his relationships; this is Wells chance to show what he can do. This is an issue that jumps between the present and the past, one year ago specifically. Wells uses his time in the present to show us how the lives of Peter and Mary Jane are going. Peter is running late as usual and has to multitask to attempt to get to work on time. Mary Jane is moving on and living her new life with her husband Paul and their kids (part of the mystery that Wells has set up). All of this stops for Peter and Mary Jane when the Tattered Man reappears. Wells uses that moment to take us back in time one year. The last half of the issue is devoted to showing the reader how the Tattered Man escaped from Ryker’s Island and what his connection is to Peter and Mary Jane. Wells will definitely pique your interest with this issue. As it ended, I wanted to read more and see what would happen next. The use of the Tattered Man is an interesting choice too. We don’t know much about him or what his powers can do, but he is definitely a powerful threat. As the first issue wraps, Spider fans should be pleased with where this story is going. Wells is successful in getting fans excited and invested in this book — he gives just enough answers but raises more questions to keep you reading. I can’t wait to see what the next issue brings.
John Romita Jr. does the pencils for this issue under Hanna’s inks, and it’s some of his best modern work. Romita Jr. can sometimes be a bit boxy with his art, especially with heads, but this issue doesn’t look like that at all. As Mary Jane talks to her and Paul’s children, their heads and body are shaped well and don’t have that boxiness that we sometimes see with his art. In a panel where Mary Jane is disappointed that it’s taking the kids too long to get dressed, Romita Jr. draws her wonderfully, and the look on her face is picture perfect. There is also something eerie to how he draws this rendition of the Tattered Man. Romita Jr. gives him a look and design that allows the reader to see that this is a character that is not playing games. The deadness of his eyes and unkempt hair lets us know this is a man with nothing to lose.
Menyz’s colors in this issue generate a lot of warmth. The reds as the Tattered Man slices a fellow inmate speak volumes, as does the vibrant yellow glow as the villain floats through the street. These can both signify danger for our hero, as warm colors can often be equated with trouble. There is a great page where Spider-Man is fighting the Tattered Man outside. The contrast in colors Menyz uses between the power coming off of the Tattered Man and the gorgeous blue sky is truly eye catching.
The letters by Joe Caramagna are excellent here. This is an issue that uses a lot of sound effects and yelling, so Caramagna had a lot of work to do. We get started right on the first page as Peter forgets what day of the week it is. Caramagna uses a large “FRIDAY” to emphasis Peter yelling. Later, as the battle between Spider-Man and the Tattered Man ensues, Peter hits him with a chunk of drywall and Caramagna lays down a nice “THUNK” right next to the Tattered Man’s head. This is an emotional issue, so the yells and loud voices are littered throughout the issue. When the Tattered Man reappears, Mary Jane yells “HE CAME BACK” — Caramagna uses a quarter of the panel for his letters to emphasize the fear in her voice.
Amazing Spider-Man #21 is a very good start for this story arc. Zeb Wells writes an interesting introductory issue that finally gives us the back story we’ve been waiting for. John Romita Jr. turns in some of his best pencils in recent memory and reminds everyone he is an A-list talent. Amazing Spider-Man #21 is available at a comic shop near you!