It can be hard to keep track of all the various Spider-Man titles Marvel is currently flooding the market with during the debut of the All-New All-Different Marvel universe. Perhaps the least discussed book of the bunch is the new Amazing Spider-Man #1.1, the beginning of a six-part mini-series featuring a Spider-Man holiday story. The big marketing pitch for this book suggests that this is the dramatic return of the Santerians, a proposition that likely left more readers scratching their heads wondering, “Who are the Santerians?” than created excitement for the title.
The Santerians appeared in the controversial Daredevil: Father story, written and illustrated by Joe Quesada, that revealed a darker relationship between Matt Murdock and his father and delved into the identity of the stranger that Daredevil saved as a child. The Santerians were a latino superhero group founded by Nestor Rodriguez, a disciple of the Santerian religion, a unique blending of Catholicism and African Yoruba beliefs. The group patrolled the Puerto Rican neighborhoods of New York City and even battled Daredevil when his actions forced a serial killer to operate in their territory.
Even in Daredevil: Father, the only story to feature the Santerians, the religious, rite-fueled super team felt unnecessary and tacked on to the main story. So, when this new Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 series was announced, I wondered exactly who the audience for this new book was, how it related to the dramatic relaunch of Amazing Spider-Man proper, and whether or not this new story was just another inventory tale being dusted off to make some additional money on the back of the All-New All-Different relaunch window. So what exactly is Amazing Spider-Man #1.1?
In many ways, Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 is a back to basics Spider-Man tale that sees the costumed hero swinging around New York City looking for a reason to get involved with something that has nothing to do with him. It’s a perspective that’s been repeated time and time again throughout the history of Spider-Man titles, but it is refreshing here purely for its novelty amongst recent Spider-Man history in the same way that Gerry Conway’s “Spiral” miniseries was. Here, Peter stumbles onto a funeral only to learn a day later that the buried man has risen from the dead and is refusing to talk to the press (resurrected men have rights too!).
So, in typical Spider-Man fashion it is up to him to hit the pavement (or whatever is above the pavement) and figure out what is behind this rather bizarre incident. Except… as the CEO of an international company like Parker Industries, I’m not especially sure what is enticing Peter to investigate this occurrence. In the past, Parker’s role as a photographer and crime fighter made sense, one job was fueling the other and allowing him to get a closer look at the goings-on in New York City. Here, Peter is using his CEO status to lobby the mayor to change the rules regarding the sale of Christmas themed items and a minute later he’s investigating the reappearance of a man thought dead, who seems to pose no immediate threat.
Readers of the All-New All-Different Amazing Spider-Man title have likely experienced this strange disconnect in the main title, specifically that Peter Parker is acting about the same as ever, despite the radical shift in status quo, and the same is true here. What hampers this debut issue is that while the mystery surrounding the resurrected man is certainly intriguing I just can’t put my finger on why Peter feels the need to get involved, other than latent curiosity.
Still, if you can look past the awkward new status quo and the desire that this debut issue have more of a hook than the reappearance of the Santerians, who appear on the final page in a beautiful double-page spread, there’s a lot of old-school Spider-Man goodness to be found here. This specifically comes through in writer Jose Molina’s inner-monologues for Peter — a welcome return after their absence in the main title — that depict Peter as a warm-hearted, likeable, and introspective do-gooder.
Sure, this Spider-Man is a bit casually jokier than I would like, but the characterization is in line with Peter’s recent depiction and is hard to find offense with when it is so charming. It is the quieter scenes that reveal the heart to this story; specifically a lengthy sequence that has Spider-Man sharing some shaved ice with a young girl he’s saved in Central Park. In this role, Spider-Man comes across as a paternalistic and emotionally supportive figure and signals more development as a character than any accumulation of buildings could signal.
Simone Bianchi’s fine inks, bold ink washes, and watercolor halftones provide the story and its characters a beautiful depth, particularly in Spider-Man’s new armored outfit. In many ways, Bianchi’s artwork is a great fit for reintroducing the Santerians, as his facial work tends to be bold and cartoony like Quesada’s, with pronounced jawlines and hyper-attention to skin detail. The only downside to such meticulous artwork is that in smaller panels Bianchi’s art tends to get cramped, bunching his tight lines together. However, his wide, cleanly laid out images make it clear that one would be hard-pressed to find a more detailed artist working in comics today.
Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 is a beautifully produced comic with a classic Spider-Man feel that is tripped up by its adherence to the new status quo and the lack of a solid hook to its first issue. Just as things begin to get interesting readers get the tease for the next issue, promising a talk and fight with the Santerians – though, knowing Spider-Man it will likely be a fight. Here’s hoping the next issue gives readers a reason to invest themselves in the story and Peter a motivation to right whatever wrongs have occurred.
Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 is as promising start to a series, with beautiful artwork and honest character writing, but it is lacking an emotional hook to pull in readers and propel its titular character to action.