Writer Nick Spencer’s inaugural Spider-Man arc has proven to be equal parts entertaining and controversial. Not controversial in the sense that it’s kicking up some huge internet debate. Rather, it’s a very “out there” Spider-Man story. As the “Back to Basics” arc concludes in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5, however, I think it’s safe to say the story has completely paid off.

I was worried Spencer might try to throw too large a monkey wrench into Spidey’s life. Surprisingly, though, this arc has grown on me, to the point that it almost feels appropriate for the character. “Back to Basics” has proven to be a strong, brief reevaluation of Spider-Man. It’s also provided a perfect Marvel debut for artist Ryan Ottley. His pages have been consistent, energetic, and completely captured the essence of a good Spider-Man story.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 is not only a great way to end an arc but also finally made me realize exactly what the story has been all about. We’ll get to more of that later. It’s also making me freak out over what’s coming next because there’s not just one, but two lethal individuals who are gunning for Spider-Man.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 Fixes Spider-Man/Peter Parker

So, unless you’re just tuning in, the whole catch of the “Back to Basics” arc has been that Peter Parker and Spider-Man are separate people. The machine that, in part, originally turned Peter Parker into Spider-Man split the two apart. While the Spider-Man half has been off having fun and nonchalantly doing as he pleases, Pete’s been looking more into the “terms” of the separation. He learned if he and his counterpart are split for too long, they’ll both die.

Pete slyly coerces his new roommate, the villain Boomerang, into stealing the device for him (it’s sort of complicated, sort of not). Pete tries to argue with Spidey about merging together, but before they can, the city is attacked by an army of Tri-Sentinels. During this attack, Peter is nearly killed as he saves Spider-Man from some falling debris.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 page 8. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

This leads the two of them to have something of a heart-to-heart chat. It’s in this moment where the kick of the arc actually comes in, and where the story really succeeds (again, more on that later). Pete manages to tag the device with a web, pulling it in so he and Spider-Man can become one again. With the two reunited, Spidey stops the Tri-Sentinel attack with the help of his Spider-Bot.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 ends on a happy, yet also ominous note. The bug-themed villain from before is hinted at again, as well as a more recognizable and possibly more grievous threat. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil that part for you.

Spencer Reminds Us That Spider-Man is a Fun Character

So, what is it about AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 that’s injected this arc with such a sudden and powerful thematic flair? It’s the fact that Nick Spencer dared to call out the trope of how heavily Spider-Man’s guilt always plays into the story and the character.

Spider-Man loyalists will say the character is nothing without his sense of responsibility. They might also say how vitally important Uncle Ben’s death is to the story. Characters such as MJ and Aunt May have always been important, too. There’s the common point of Spidey always pushing himself because of his guilt.

It’s true that Spidey is largely defined by all of the above. But, frankly, there does have to be a point where the character undergoes some legitimate change. Or, at least, he could really stand to just have more fun.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 page 14. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

In recent years, I feel like we’ve had more “great power, great responsibility” shoved down our throats than necessary. Yes, it’s important to remember this factor as a part of who Spider-Man is, but we can’t forget just how fun the character is, too. That’s what this arc has largely been about; keeping the fun in the character, while not entirely sacrificing his core.

Nick Spencer has done a great job of showing off how well this kind of character arc works for Peter Parker. He took a big chance with this story, but with its conclusion in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5, it’s safe to say it succeeded. It challenged the character of Peter Parker and stripped down his identity as Spider-Man, revealing so much potential for the future.

Ottley’s Still Got It

Yeah, at this point, I’m not waste time going to go off about how awesome the team of Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, and Laura Martin are. I’ve done plenty of that in my previous Spidey reviews. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 is another straight-up success for these guys. Not much else to say in that regard.

Looking at specific pages, there’s more than a handful that stands out. The pages featuring MJ stand out for me. They artfully contrast the rest of the issue, which features tons of high-scale action. Speaking of which, the shot featuring the Tri-Sentinel army is absolutely wonderful. It’s cool, because you see all the robots, yet ominous, because, for some of them, you only see their pinpoint red eyes.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 page 15. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

The moments featuring Spidey’s return are appropriately epic. Not the most epic you’ll ever find in a comic, but appropriately epic for the scale of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5.

It’s hard to hype up this artistic team even more than I already have. All I can say is Ottley and co. have succeeded yet again. I’ll be sad to see them gone for the next few issues of Spidey. But, then again, it’ll make it that much better when they return down the line.

This Was A Story Worth Telling

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 brings the “Back to Basics” arc full-circle in a very powerful and revealing way. I applaud Spencer for taking the risk to play with this arc. Obviously, it’s a story that not all fans are going to like. But, really, how beholden can an author really be to the demands of the fans? There’s got to be a point where that doesn’t matter, and the author just tells a story worth telling. “Back to Basics” is definitely one of those stories.

This arc will probably read better on a second readthrough. Reading these issues one after the other without the wait time would probably make the arc feel a lot better and more palatable. As it stands, though, “Back to Basics” is still a great first arc for Nick Spencer.

It’s also a great first arc for Ryan Ottley. He and the artistic team have completely blown away my expectations. I knew he was good from the work I saw in INVINCIBLE, but Ottley’s style couldn’t be more fitting for Spider-Man. I hope to see more of him in the future at Marvel.

Like I mentioned before, I won’t spoil the ending of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5. All I can say is it doesn’t bode well at all for Spidey moving forward. Needless to say, I’m excited. Here’s hoping Spencer’s work just keeps getting better.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 by Nick Spencer, Ryan Ottley, Cliff Rathburn, and Laura Martin
Nick Spencer took some worthwhile chances with this arc. It's turned out to be a very needed reevaluation of Spider-Man, as well as a perfect way to debut artist Ryan Ottley at Marvel.
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A Potent Conclusion

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