Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42 Review: 'The Room' of Spider-Man Comics

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Betty Brant brings Peter Parker, aka the Amazing Spider-Man, along to see a mystic in the hopes of getting in touch with her deceased fiancé, reporter Ned Leeds. Betty had been contacted by Ned during the Clone Conspiracy when he was resurrected by the Jackal. He was able to get two words out to her before being ambushed by the Enforcers: Blood Creek.

Betty and Peter begin an investigation into Blood Creek. Little do they know that a mysterious figure has sent the Enforcers after Brant to keep her from uncovering the mystery.

In a followup story, we learn more about how Spider-Man's eponymous Spider-Sense functions.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42 cover by Alex Ross
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42 cover by Alex Ross

Could I have had one more week before returning to Amazing Spider-Man? My spider-callouses haven't regrown yet. Plus, if I wanted to cover a weekly, I'd be reading the Avengers Over-Blown Money-Hungry Weekly Spectacular.

This is another fundamentally broken issue of ASM. The plotting is atrocious, with terrible ideas being wrapped in even worse ideas. It's an Annual that delivers a plot too thin for a normal-sized issue and definitely doesn't provide the feeling excitement and occasion that should be standard for an Annual. It tries, but its version of the idea is so contrived that you're just left slack-jawed at what the book thinks makes for a good premise for a mystery.

The opening scene with the mystic goes exactly how you'd think it would go. Betty Brant is desperately searching for a means of reaching out to her fiancée, whom she thought was long-deceased. Peter is an insensitive ass about it, going on about how fake this all is and ignoring the fact that Betty is clearly in pain. He also ignores the fact that the likes of Doctor Strange, Doctor Voodoo, and the Scarlet Witch and Peter has personally seen countless people come back from the dead. exist in this universe. Hell, Betty even points this out, but it doesn't change his attitude. In other words, this sequence is pointless, confusing, and overlong.

From here on out, we will be talking spoilers, so be warned.

With this review, I'm going to be primarily talking specific plot points, because that will best show how silly this mystery plot gets. Seeing is believing, after all.

So, Blood Creek is a Revolutionary War battle with a commemorative statue right outside city hall. Well, actually, it isn't, and the battle, the statue, and all documentation of the event is completely falsified. It's all created to justify the statue, which cost millions of dollars and is made from Tritium. That makes it — and I looked this up — effectively an H-bomb.

ASM Annual #42 art by Marcus To and Ian Herring
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42 art by Marcus To and Ian Herring

Oh, and there's this subplot that wants to double-down on the ghost idea that was barely established by the opening with a mysterious figure stalking Betty and Peter. It turns out to be a heretofore undiscovered secret tunnel system under New York. Yes, as a matter of fact, Spider-Man does make numerous jokes about how many secret tunnel systems exist under New York as a means of compensating for how dumb and unnecessary that is as a plot point. You're very astute, and may I say you're looking very handsome today too.

It was placed there by a Karnelli from the "shadow arm" of the Maggia, the Undermob. It's intended to be a failsafe should city hall and the criminal courts ever be closing in on the Maggia. Since it's been discovered, he thinks he may as well nuke the shit out of NYC just to be careful.

Now, if you've been playing along at home, you've probably been muttering "What?" to yourself repeatedly. If not, let's just break down every part of this bizarre disaster what shows how indispensable an editor really is.

We'll get back to the question of how Leeds figured out about all this and start with why one would falsify a Revolutionary War battle, a conflict in American history that was decently documented and meticulously researched by historians since the founding of the United States all those years ago. There were numerous actual Revolutionary War battles that took place in New York state which you could use to justify your statue. That's ignoring other historical events, politicians, musicians, actors — seriously, it's New York, one of the most historically and culturally active places in the world. You had to make up your own shitting event to justify your statue despite that.

The Maggia bloke deciding to nuke Manhattan island is one of the most hilarious overreactions not in a recent Flash comic. There's literally nothing tying him directly to this. Worst case for him is the statue would be taken apart and destroyed. Well, this would be the case if he didn't model the damn thing after himself.

ASM Annual #42 art by Cory Smith, Terry Pallot, and Brian Reber
Amazing Spider-Man Annual #42 art by Cory Smith, Terry Pallot, and Brian Reber

You see, the question isn't really how Ned Leeds figured out about all of this. The question is how everyone didn't figure out about this metric pants-shitting of a plot. This is one of the most convoluted yet fundamentally flawed master plans in the history of comics, and we're supposed to take it largely very seriously. However, it's so dumb that Deadpool wouldn't touch it for being too ridiculous a satire of superhero comics.

Oh, and Ned Leeds is still alive, by the way. There is a random homeless guy that gets a single line of dialogue in the background behind Peter and Betty. You know then that it's Ned Leeds, but you hope the comic isn't that clumsy with their hint-dropping. It is. Betty evacuates this person towards the end, not seeming to understand the fact that a couple of blocks won't matter with a nuke. Leeds reveals himself for the audience at the end with a grin.

The followup story about the Spider-Sense is pretty dumb, too. I won't go into it, as I've spent too long on this misfire as it is. Read Rich's article about this comic and the Spider-Sense. The backup story actually contradicts what the opening of the comic says about Peter's precognition, so that's pretty funny.

Cory Smith, Terry Pallot, and Brian Reber contribute the art to the main story. Marcus To and Ian Herring do the backup story's art. All of these artists do a way better job than the comic deserves.

Don't buy this book. It is hilariously bad, but it still doesn't deserve your five bucks. This is probably the worst comic I've read since Suicide Squad #33, even if this one is better for at least giving me some joy, if by accident. Give it a hard pass.

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About Joshua Davison

Josh is a longtime super hero comic fan and an aspiring comic book and fiction writer himself. He also trades in videogames, Star Wars, and Magic: The Gathering, and he is also a budding film buff. He's always been a huge nerd, and he hopes to contribute something of worth to the wider geek culture conversation. He is also happy to announce that he is the new Reviews Editor for Bleeding Cool. Follow on Twitter @joshdavisonbolt.
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