The “Back to Basics” arc continues in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4. Needless to say, writer Nick Spencer has created one of the most uniquely peculiar Spidey stories we’ve seen in a while. Odd as the story may be, it has, in some ways, made us reevaluate a lot of what makes Spider-Man who he is.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 takes an almost gritty turn. It’s almost on par with Captain America saying “Hail Hydra.” Although, this whole fuss with Spidey will probably be more easily rectified. Spidey isn’t completely himself at the moment, after all.

Spencer, overall, keeps up with telling a compelling story that, despite its uncanny nature, still manages to grip my attention. And, once again, I’m in awe of Ryan Ottley’s artwork. He and the rest of the artistic team continue to impress.

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AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 Raises the Stakes

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 opens with a reveal of who was behind the Tri-Sentinel attack. Mendel Stromm, aka the Robot Master, is back at it again. This guy’s always sort of been a ridiculous villain, but in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4, he’s got some serious delusions of grandeur. He speaks very haughtily, boasting and proclaiming to be one of Spider-Man’s greatest archenemies.

In any case, the Spider-Man half of Peter Parker is off on a tirade of senseless crimefighting, parading around in his own Spider-Sentinel. He’s pretty much taking to living a boisterous life in the spotlight, doing any number of seemingly irresponsible things, like selling out for advertisements and appearing on talk shows. Yeah, Spider-Man without his sense of right or wrong is a dangerous thing. Nick Spencer has done an apt job of proving that.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 page 7. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

In the meantime, Peter Parker is being overly responsible, helping out just about anyone and everyone. He even tries to help people in instances he’s not really fit to handle. Not having his strength or smarts makes his life more of a hassle than it needs to be. And, following a pep talk from Aunt May, a haunting conversation with his other half, and a check-in with Dr. Connors, Peter finally realizes just how imperative it is that he and Spider-Man reunite.

The ending of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 promises something dangerous involving Stromm and even more Tri-Sentinels. Apparently, that mysterious new bug-themed villain who appeared at the end of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 has his sights set on helping Stromm as well. At least, that’s who I assume is chatting at the end. We never actually see him, but the text bubbles suggest it’s him. We’ll just have to wait and see.

All the Power, Zero Responsibility

The idea of a Spider-Man who acts on a whim and without a care for the consequences has been around for ages. And yet, it’s an idea so rarely explored or acted on. Whether it’s too frightening for writers to engage in, or it’s just never felt appropriate, this is a concept that hasn’t gotten a lot of genuine attention.

Well, leave it to Nick Spencer to go against the grain. He’s brought this idea to life in an undeniably creative way. It may feel a bit contrived at times, but it’s nonetheless fun and intriguing. But, after AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4, I’ve got to say, this whole “Spidey without a conscience” thing genuinely scares me.

Without his sense of responsibility, Spider-Man is a dangerously spontaneous individual. With the Tri-Sentinel at his command, he’s been fighting crime fairly well, but he’s been causing an insane amount of chaos, as well. What’s worse is that when Peter mentions Uncle Ben to Spidey, the hero doesn’t even remember him.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 page 16. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

I never thought this idea could actually be this disconcerting. I’m not worried about the precedent this sets; I don’t see this as Spencer meaning to discredit the character, or sincerely mock him. It’s an exploration of a unique storyline; it’s an experiment of sorts. Surely, this won’t be permanent. There’ll probably be consequences, but those come with any arc.

Frankly, it’s just a real shock to see Spider-Man this way. It’s refreshing, really. After all these years, hearing him say he doesn’t really care about the consequences again is a real kick in the teeth. I’m inclined to say this is the kind of jolt the series has needed for a while.

I just hope it all ends well for Pete.

The Art That Keeps on Giving

I hope I’m not the only one who’s seriously loving Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, and Laura Martin’s artwork. I mean, come on, how can you not love these pages? They’re pitch-perfect for Spider-Man. There isn’t a beat missed by this team. I really have nothing more to say to their talent; I’ve already said it all in my past three reviews for this new run on Spidey.

Let’s get a bit more specific, then.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 boasts more than a large handful of wonderful panels and pages. The image of the Spider-themed Tri-Sentinel immediately floored me in a great way. That got a good laugh out of me. Not to mention, the image is delivered with an Iron Giant reference, so of course, that’s my favorite page from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 page 12. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

During the montage showing off the lives both Peter and Spidey are leading, there’s a great contrast in the color and tone of those pages. Peter’s pages are more mellow and heartfelt, while Spidey’s are brighter and louder. The image of Spider-Man with a bunch of product ads on him is odd, yet undoubtedly funny. It all clashes so poorly, but he wears it with pride. What a guy.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 is yet another great issue to look at. Ottley, Rathburn, and Martin all complement each other perfectly. Their combined style stands out from the long list of other artists and artistic teams to have drawn the web-slinger. It’s unique and refreshing, as much of this new run on Spidey has already been.

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Hope for the Best

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 ends on a dour note. Not only does the threat of death loom for Peter and Spider-Man, but Stromm seems to have a vile plan in the works. Hopefully, Peter and Spidey can get it together before the Robot Master’s plan comes to fruition.

Nick Spencer continues to be an outrageously unique storyteller. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 proves that he’s willing to take Peter Parker in new directions. While that certainly won’t please all fans, it’s something I’m eager to see for Spider-Man. Exploring new ideas is what storytelling is all about, so the fresher the ideas, the better, I say. And Ryan Ottley and co. continue to impress on the artistic front. Their art is a gift that keeps on giving.

Whatever comes next for Pete and Spidey, here’s hoping it’s something good.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, and Laura Martin
Art
Characterization
Plot
Summary
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #4 really drives home the point of how dangerous it is to have a Spider-Man without his sense of responsibility. Spencer does a great job writing this, and Ottley and the artistic team do a stellar job of presenting it.
88 %
A Disconcerting Tale

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