AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14

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Old foes are going to present new challenges, a new threat and an opportunity for Spider-Man in this issue.



Peter and Mary Jane have dinner with Lizard and his family and witness some of the personal difficulties Curt Conners faces as a former villain and father. His struggles come into focus as he deals with not only his own past, but the burden his life has put on his family, especially his son.

May gets more devastating news during her dinner with her late husband’s attorney. Trying to stay positive, May rescues a homeless man and decides to get him something to eat. When Rhino bursts through the place with Taskmaster and Black Ant in hot pursuit, Spidey needs to step in to help May and the rest of the patrons by teaming up with Rhino to stop the mercenaries.

At the same time, an old foe of Spider-Man enlists the help of a cash strapped Arcade to build something brand new.

One of best gifts Nick Spencer has given readers with his run on Amazing Spider-Man is a series that showcases the man himself. With all his problems, both personally and professionally, Spencer allows Peter to remain optimistic and even hopeful that things can and will get better. It adds to the drama when that optimism is tested by the world around him. Amazing Spider-Man affirms that there is a redemptive joy in Peter’s struggles and Spencer brings that out in the small moments between Peter and the people in his life.

This issue has some amazingly resonant and quiet character moments that help to shape the issue into something special. Aunt May, Curt Conners and even Rhino are given moments to shine that will ultimately affect Peter and Spider-Man for good or ill.

Chris Bachalo’s stunning art is a brilliant complement to the tone, plot and dialogue of this issue.
 
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himself some downtime. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 takes some time away from the more hectic aspects of Spidey’s life to focus on what really matters: family. Is that one too on the nose?

At face value, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 is an obligatory filler issue. However, that doesn’t stop writer Nick Spencer from having some fun with it. There are a few wacky surprises in this issue, as well as some interesting and funny character interactions. Most importantly, this issue manages to deliver a subtle amount of character development.






Another big surprise for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 is the guest artist. I can’t remember the last time Chris Bachalo worked on a proper Spidey book (I’m not counting SPIDER-MAN/DEADPOOL), so I’m really glad he’s back! Granted, his style can be very hit or miss, but typically, I get a huge kick out of looking at his pages. They’re so intensely weird that you can’t help but be completely engaged from page one.

The Many Moving Pieces of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14
First and foremost, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 picks up a few of the breadcrumbs left over from the “Lifetime Achievement” arc. Primarily, we see where Arcade wound up. Presently, he’s being recruited by Kraven the Hunter to build something for him, something that’ll surely be problematic for Spidey and co. down the line.

Following that, we’re reminded that Curt Connors definitely still lives in the sewers with his lizard family post-CLONE CONSPIRACY. Oddly enough, Peter and MJ join the Connors for a small dinner. The meal turns sour, though, when Curt and his son, Billy, get into a fight about having to hide below ground. Billy isn’t adjusting very well. Of course, Peter and MJ show their support for Curt’s situation.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 page 6. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.
As Pete recounts how lucky he is to have Aunt May, the scene cuts to May at a dinner with Brett Alstettler, the attorney of her late second husband, Jay Jameson. Brett inappropriately tries to make a sleazy move on May, so she storms out of the restaurant. On her way home, though, she encounters and saves a homeless man from some muggers. Whoever this character is seems to have a hidden backstory, one that we’ll hopefully learn more about in future issues.

May takes this man back into the same restaurant as before. From there, things get crazy. The Rhino bursts into the place, making a mess as per the norm. He’s apparently being pursued by Taskmaster and Black Ant, like many other animal-themed villains these days. Spidey arrives on the scene and agrees to help Rhino fight against the mercenaries.


The fight is brief, but it helps AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 end on a decent cliffhanger.

Subtle Character Building
Initially, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 didn’t strike me as a particularly interesting issue. It’s one of Spencer’s more mellow issues if anything. But upon further analyzation, I realized there are some worthwhile details to note.

For starters, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 does a good job working with Aunt May. It builds off the startling revelations about her from FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOOD SPIDER-MAN #1, and even adds on to that. It’s good to see Spencer actually address her losses as of late; I feel like Dan Slott didn’t do too much of that. It’s also nice to see her actually having some fun here and there.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 page 20. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.
I’ve also got to give a shout-out to Spencer for his handling of the Rhino. I’ve always thought the Rhino is one of Marvel’s most underrated villains. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 kind of goes along with that. He’s not actually around except for about 4 or 5 pages towards the end, but that’s just enough time for Spencer to show off Rhino’s odd disposition. I mean, Rhino’s sort of back and forth between going straight and being evil nowadays. I like that Spencer is keeping in line with that arc for the character.

Far less subtle is how okay Pete and MJ are that Dr. Connors and his lizard family are living in the sewers. I kind of suspected that whole thing was going to come back in a very bad way. I’m glad to see that Spencer took a lighter route, though. The Lizard could use a bit of a break, after all, considering his mostly tragic story.


Overall, Spencer’s character work in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 isn’t vast, but there’s enough subtle growth that I’m mostly satisfied.

Crazy Art for a Less-Than Crazy Issue
Typically, when I see Chris Bachalo’s art, I find it in comics with boisterous flair and insane happenings. Ever read Jason Aaron’s DOCTOR STRANGE? The first half was all drawn by Bachalo, and it looks nuts! So unless it’s a particularly crazy issue, I don’t normally associate Bachalo’s style with Spider-Man.

Much as I love Bachalo’s artwork, I can’t entirely say for sure if his style fits AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14. His pages look great, to be certain, but nothing particularly insane happens here that it feels appropriate. Not to mention, his style may seem a bit off-putting when the previous issues were drawn by Ryan Ottley, who has a drastically different style than Bachalo.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 page 23. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.
Now, all that being said, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 still looks great. The past few times I’ve seen Bachalo’s art in Spidey books was for stories like “Shed” and parts of “Brand New Day,” and those stories had some fantastic pages. I’m a big fan of how animalistic the Lizard looks in Bachalo’s style. Rhino and Taskmaster also look pretty damn fearsome and deadly, respectively. There are a few odd character shots, but those can be forgiven.

So, though I’m not entirely sure he was the right guy for the job, I appreciate Bachalo’s work on AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14.

What’s Next?
As I mentioned earlier, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 leaves off on a decent cliffhanger. It’s probably kind of obvious what the outcome will be, but it’s something that’ll keep us eagerly waiting for #15. I have to figure out the homeless guy’s backstory! It’s going to kill me if that gets left unresolved!


Other than that, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 comes out strong for what basically feels like an issue of filler. Spencer fits in just enough noticeable character work to make this issue more palatable.


And though Chris Bachalo’s artwork may or may not have been the right fit for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14, his pages are nonetheless awesome to look at. Bachalo’s pages work to elevate this issue above the typical filler pieces.

I have high hopes that AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #15 will be even stronger than #14, as there’s now an established plot to work off of. That, and I’m pretty sure we’re getting more Bachalo artwork, which I’m choosing to view as a plus.
 
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enjoyed the just finished mini-arc with Spider-Man hanging out with J. Jonah, but I am really looking forward to Nick Spencer getting this book a bit more in focus going forward. Sure, jumping around between different stories keeps things from getting boring, but it also keeps me from really getting invested in the book. I am at the point where I actually mutter to myself, “Alright, what the hell are we dealing with in this issue” as I open it up. I’m usually surprised, but oftentimes it hasn’t been pleasantly. So, what the hell are we dealing with in this issue? Let’s find out…


First off, there is a little tiny editors note on the credits page that says this issue happens after the upcoming Miles Morales #3. While I usually would hate that, it doesn’t matter that much, and only seems to be included because Rhino is in the house!

Before that, however, we get another Kraven sighting (with goofy as hell, Arcade), see Pete and MJ suffer through an awkward situation eating dinner with Professor Conners and his scaly family and Aunt May being a bad-ass!

Nick Spencer gives us a load of recap at the beginning and while some were very welcome, some of it felt like a little too much. The whole issue still moves at a brisk pace as we see the pieces of a disaster puzzle start fitting into place.

When the Rhino does eventually show, followed by Taskmaster and Black Ant, it didn’t feel weird because of the Miles book, but just felt overly forced to get to the big cliffhanger. It is pretty big…if you happen to believe that major characters can get killed in such a throwaway way. If you do, I may have some Florida swampland to sell you.


This issue was a very quick read and is setting up the new story arc, but after not getting much of a story for months in this book, it’s getting frustrating. The stop and start nature of Nick Spencer’s narrative is making it hard for me to fully get behind this book and this is no exception to that rule. I am still hopefull all the loose threads come together to make a kickass sweater, but until then, I feel like I am just looking at a pile of tangled up yarn.

Chris Bachalo’s art is a style thing…it is okay but doesn’t fit the style I am used to in this book. Of course, it’s hard to top when that style belongs to Ryan Ottley, but I likes what I likes. I’m sure I could get used to it over time, but it was a bit of a jarring transition into it this issue.

Final Thoughts:

This book has an identity problem and the back and forth nature of Nick Spencer’s narrative is starting to get to me. I do like that it is rarely boring, but it’s also rarely must-read material either. The art might take regular readers a bit to get used to as well and in the end, this is just another okay issue in an overall okay run.
 
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