Image Courtesy of Marvel.com
Spoilers: Keep in mind that my method of reviewing involves spoilers for purposes of analysis. If you care about being spoiled and have not read Amazing Spider-Man #16.1 yet, please avoid this review until you do!!
This comic exists as sort of a side-plot to the main plot? I guess? I don’t really know what we are supposed to take from the 16.1 numbering. Regardless, how it comes across upon reading it is that it’s a way to have Peter deal, in some small way, with the mental fallout from Spider-Verse, and do an update on some of the threads that were happening pre-spider-verse (and some that existed WAY back in the earlier ASM runs) without interrupting the trajectory of the main plot to do so. The issue is written by Gerry Conway, not Dan Slott who has been writing most of the recent issues. Conway is best known as the writer for Amazing Spider-Man during the run that featured the two-issue gut punch epic of ASM #121-122 that killed Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn (or, you know, so we thought). Bringing him back on for this is intriguing, to say the least. He does a fine job, and this book is actually a lot more emotionally and psychologically driven than most ASM issues have been of late, which makes him an even stronger choice as a writer.
Really, though, this is barely a Spider-Man comic. This is a Wraith comic. Wraith, for those of you who don’t know, is the super hero alter-ego of police captain Yuri Watanabe. She spends the first half of the comic trying to do things the “right” way as a cop, but when that fails, she jumps into the purple spandex and does a good ol’ fashioned superhero team-up with Spider-Man. The reveal (or re-reveal) of her costume in this issue looks great and is strengthened by ASM’s artwork, which continues to be some of the smoothest in Marvel. Watanabe’s struggle with what is the “right thing” to do as a cop who is also a superhero is really where the main tension of this issue lies. Tombstone is just a target for her to work through those issues on, culminating in her snapping at Spider-Man, “You DON’T SEE. Watanabe is the cop. I’m the wraith,” which creates a juxtaposition with Spider-Man, because while we have been seeing Peter and Spider-Man working towards the same goals—just as Watanabe/Wraith is doing here—we also see them sharing the same values. Peter doesn’t make a distinction between his values as Peter Parker and his values as Spider-Man. Watanabe is a harsh contrast: she’s a good person who creates another persona to do morally ambiguous but necessary things. The fact that this whole plot is sandwiched between two monologues where Peter talks about divergent fates and the importance of choice further highlights that contrast. How these two heroes choose to deal with their dual identities is a choice, and it is a drastically different one. Additionally, it makes the choice of Gerry Conway as a writer apropos, since Gwen Stacy’s death is tied to a choice that Peter spent a long time regretting and, in fact, a choice that did not exist in one of the most notable divergent timelines he encountered in Spider-Verse.
All-in-all, this issue was not terribly memorable. It was cool to see Conway writing again, and I am curious to see what he will do, if anything, with this title in the future. I wonder, too, if he decided to come back to Spidey precisely because Spider-Gwen had gotten so popular. This is labeled as “Spiral Part 1,” so, while it may not seem very impactful at the moment, I assume it will gain more significance in the coming months. It also brings Mr. Negative back into the plot, which is good. I was beginning to wonder what happened to him, and I’m sure he’ll be important in future issues, as well. Additionally, I do like Watanabe as a character. She has some cool moments as the Wraith, and it’s always fun to read a team-up issue, even if the team-up is very brief, as it is here. So it is an intriguing read, if not very memorable, at least yet. It certainly has the potential to set up some cool things. We will have to wait for part 2 to see if It does that.