Writer: Dan Slott
Penciller: Humberto Ramos
Inker: Victor Olazaba
Colourist: Edgar Delgado
Letterer: Virtual Calligraphy’s Chris Eliopoulos
Previously, in Amazing Spider-Man: At a demonstration of Peter Parker’s new Parker Particles discovery, teenager Andy Maguire was struck by an errant energy beam and transformed into a superhuman with multiple powers, including flight, energy projection, super speed, and many more. However Andy can only use one power at a time, and has taken the superhero identity of Alpha.
Horizon Labs agreed to allow Alpha to be their spokes-hero in order to prevent his family from suing them, and the Avengers teamed Alpha with Spider-Man in order to teach him the meaning of great power and great responsibility. Watching from the shadows, the cloning genius the Jackal realises that Parker Particles are something that he could use in his own twisted experiments, and decides to return to menace Spider-Man once again.
It’s taken two issues, but I think I’ve pinned down the reason that Alpha as a storyline doesn’t seem to be sitting right with me—a lot of the plot progression is hinging on some very strange decisions that Peter Parker (and Spider-Man) is making in order to drive everything forward. Peter alternates between crippling self-doubt of himself, and obsessive controlling of Alpha’s life, and as a result, it makes Peter come across as a very inconsistent character, which is something that Slott has never portrayed him as before. Whilst it’s very clear that this will all lead to Peter realising his mistakes in order to make the right decision at the end, making all the wrong decisions almost on purpose makes for heavy handed storytelling.
There’s also the fact that Alpha, as a character, is extremely difficult to like. I’m sure again that this is deliberate on Slott’s part, since Alpha’s personality drives his choices to be the opposite of what Peter Parker did in the same situations, but it’s still hard to care about his journey into a hero (if that is in fact what his ultimate character arc will be) when he’s a rude, headstrong, under-appreciating brat. With most of the story hinging around him, it tars the storyline as a whole.
However, whilst the devices used to manoeuvre the characters around into different set pieces can be difficult to enjoy, the other parts of the story are quite good fun. The appearance of the Jackal in this issue has the character at his cackling best, with numerous clones and crazy plans that will keep readers entertained, and Slott does draw some clever parallels between previous Spider-Man storylines and what Alpha is going through right now. The dialogue between characters is as usual spot on and hilarious, even if the decision making processes are a little flawed as stated earlier. Having Spidey and the Fantastic Four (especially Johnny Storm) in the same issue is always a recipe for fun.
There’s also a lot done in this issue; the plot moving at breakneck speed. There are scenes at Mary Jane’s nightclub, Horizon Labs, two battle scenes, time to check in on the Kingpin and Hobgoblin, and the entire book feels chunky and takes a long time to read, as usual. Slott piles in detail and masses of dialogue without making the book feel over-wrought, and manages to accomplish a lot in a short space of time, with nothing feeling like padding or unnecessary. It’s no wonder that he prefers writing three or four issue story arcs when he gets this much mileage per issue.
Alpha still has a concluding issue to go, and hopefully Slott will rectify the little flaws that have been marring this arc. There are still moments of greatness in this issue, and most of it is just as good as you’d hope, but there are those niggling little doubts that will spoil this arc and drag it down in quality. This is by no means a bad comic book, but it’s nowhere near as good as Slott’s best.
GO Rating: 3/5