There’s a scene in the very beginning of the Civil War II: The Amazing Spider-Man #3 where Harry Lyman attempts to assuage Peter Parker’s guilt for Clayton Cole going rogue and becoming the costumed villain known as Clash again. He tells Peter that, being in “the suit” is like a drug and is a hard habit for someone to ever fully kick.
Given his own background, as both a costumed villain and an individual who had an addiction to drugs, it’s an easy comparison for Harry to make. But beyond the analogies and similarities between Harry and Clash, writer Christos Gage and artist Travel Foreman use the scene as a way to illuminate what has emerged as a thematic throughline for this surprisingly excellent miniseries.
Peter, Clayton and even the book’s villain, Mendel Stromm, aka, the Robot Master, are all suffering from cyclical bad habits that resemble addictions. And as a result, all three of the book’s main players are making bad decisions.
Peter’s perpetual guilt over using his great power responsibly has led him to arguably overcompensate when dealing with his subordinate Clayton. Rather than consider the fact that a man who has demonstrated a lack of discipline in the past has rushed off and assumed the identity of a super-powered bad guy again, Peter keeps looking for ways to give Clayton the benefit of the doubt. Even new readers of the Spider-Man mythos are aware of the fact that Peter’s one moment of irresponsibility irreparably changed his life forever, but Cole has received numerous chances to prove he can be responsible. And each time he has had that opportunity, Cole has blown it.
Clayton meanwhile cannot come to grips with the fact that the one power he has that he believes makes him special, is the one thing he’s no longer physically able to do. Even after multiple violations of his parole, Clayton sees the terms and conditions that Peter attaches to his abilities to physically develop new sonic technology as a “leash.” When Peter points out that guys like Tony Stark are forced to acknowledge their demons by giving up things like alcohol, Clayton refuses to see the comparison based on his own need to feel empowered by his own actions.
Even Stromm, a relic from Spider-Man’s past who uses an army of robots as if he’s still stuck in the Silver Age, has that one fatal flaw that ultimately leads to his undoing: his bitter obsession with Norman Osborn. Stromm only forges an uneasy alliance with Clayton under the impression that he might be able to frame Harry for a crime. And yet the villain acknowledges that Norman and Harry don’t even communicate any more. Still, by allowing Clayton into his circle, Clash is more easily able to betray Stromm, leading to the Robot Master’s ultimate defeat.
The fact that this action-packed, yet character-driven story is all told within the confines of an event tie-in book (that doesn’t even really acknowledge the events of Civil War II), is an even more amazing feat from Gage and Foreman. After three installments, several plot points have been aligned in a way that equal one of the better new Spider-Man stories that has been churned out the past few years. The series has featured some fantastic and fun battle sequences rendered by Foreman. And for the first time since his introduction in The Amazing Spider-Man: Learning to Crawl, Clayton reads as a fully formed character, with realistic flaws and struggles.
With some big things currently percolating in The Amazing Spider-Man series, it remains to be seen how much from this miniseries will go on to impact the overall status quo. But even if the bulk of this narrative gets relegated only to the borders of this book, Gage and Foreman will have accomplished a ton of good for the world of Spider-Man and the characterization of its supporting cast.
Civil War II: The Amazing Spider-Man #3 is both action-packed and wonderfully character-driven. That stakes are high and the drama is percolating for next month's’ final chapter.