If the cover, featuring Spider-Man turning his back on Parker Industries, wasn’t evidence enough, after Amazing Spider-Man #18, Parker Industries is “no more.” Perhaps the destruction of Parker’s relatively short-lived company will be the spark that is needed to turn Marvel’s flagship title around, allowing the writers to put Peter in a brand-new working environment or back in the unemployment line. Either way, Amazing Spider-Man #18 is mostly successful at course-correcting a number of stagnant or mishandled stories while also providing a fitting conclusion to Dan Slott and Christos Gage’s short “The Graveyard Shift” story arc.
For the most part, “The Graveyard Shift” has felt like a filler story passed off to Gage to handle until “Secret Wars” begins while Slott preps “Renew Your Vows.” Amazing Spider-Man #16 had some solid characterization but was severely lacking in plot progression while #17 totally sidelined Peter. I’m glad to say that Amazing Spider-Man #18 offers satisfying plot developments and payoffs to a number of ongoing storylines while keeping its focus on Peter Parker and his struggles to balance his life as a CEO and superhero.
While the Ghost remains forgettable as a villain, even his fight with Spider-Man is a retread of Hobgoblin’s attack on Horizon Industries, how his actions spur Peter and his coworkers to combat him proves to be memorable. Clayton Cole gets a smartly crafted moment where he is forced to break his parole by donning Spider-Man’s stealth suit, a tool he should be familiar with from his time as Clash. I’ve complained about how Anna Maria continues to save Peter from situations he should be able to handle himself, and the same is true in this book. While there is still less hemming and hawing about how wonderful she is, she continues to make Peter seem like a disorganized amateur that he isn’t.
If I had one major complaint about Amazing Spider-Man #18, as I have with previous issues, it’s that Peter hasn’t had a single proactive action in this series that has come to a positive conclusion. I think Slott and Gage made a smart decision to have Peter’s coworkers mistrust him after discovering that he was still providing Spider-Man tech, even though Anna Maria said that no one would care just last issue. This idea works because it is in keeping with Peter’s long history of his lies costing him dearly, in this case it costs him his company. Nevertheless, if readers are to invest themselves in Peter’s story I think it is important for him to have one moment where he seems ahead of the disaster that is looming over him or manages at least one little victory that he’s actually earned. By this issue’s end, Peter’s whole world has crumbled down around him and yet we are told to believe that this is the guy who defeated the cunning and resourceful Otto Octavius just last year?
Amazing Spider-Man #18 also provides the conclusion to the three-part backup stories detailing Felicia Hardy’s descent into super-villainy. While this story continues to feel like a tacked-on side-story meant to correct previous, poor characterizations of Felicia, I have to admit that this particular episode actually delivered on that promise. For once, Peter as Spider-Man actually addresses the issue that we’ve all had with the character this past several months and suggests that perhaps Felicia’s bad luck powers have influenced her in ways we’ve never seen before. The interaction isn’t groundbreaking, except that the ground literally gives way, but honest dialogue and interaction between these characters has been a long time coming and I think it is worth pointing out when a writer does actually attempt to address the complaints from readers.
However, the real stars of Amazing Spider-Man continue to be artist team Humberto Ramos (pencils), Victor Olazaba (inks), and Edgar Delgado (colors). Amazing Spider-Man #18 is one of their best creations yet, with incredibly rich inks that enhance Ramos’ already stunning line-work. Ramos’ pencils are so smooth, with just the right width or scratchiness to deliver the right emotional needs, whether it be a dynamic full-page spread or a small cut-away image. Particularly stunning is a page of, you guessed it, Spider-Man lifting rubble over his head to clear his way out of the destroyed Parker Industries. Even with my complaints about how this book has been written over the past year, there are few artistic teams that come close to measuring up to Ramos, Olazaba, and Delgado when they are delivering material like this.
Amazing Spider-Man #18 is a stunner when it comes to art. Ramos, Olazaba, and Delgado are at the top of their game here with two one-page spreads that are on fire. Slott and Gage conclude their story in a somewhat satisfying way while still not providing Peter room to shine in his own book.