So Dan Slott has done a lot for the Spider-Man mythos over the last couple of years. One could say more than many other Spider-Man writers over the last number of years. He’s made the character interesting again and put some new twists, which is sometimes hard to do after being around for 50 years (wow, it’s really been that long…). He also managed to do to a single character what other publishers needed to do to their whole line-up – a relaunch of a character, have it be the same character, but then… NOT be the same character. Yes, I’m talking about the Superior Spider-Man here. But, before Slott revealed his plan to make Spidey Superior, he also did something notorious that made fans groan: he gave Spider-Man a sidekick. Enter: Alpha.
Now, Alpha was only in a few issues of Amazing Spider-Man before he became de-powered. As such, we got to know our hero briefly before his sojourn into his solo series. But here… Here, we see the return of the sidekick who let it all get to his head. First he got his powers back thanks to Peter Parker (yes, the new one) and then ended up in a little bit of trouble at the end of his first issue. Which brings us to Alpha: Big Time #2.
I’m notorious for going spoilerific in my reviews, but I’m trying not to do that anymore. Now, you did get some information above as to what happened with the character in the past, but those stories happened last year. Instead, I’m going to give you my impressions of the book and only talk a plot point where needed, and there will only be one thing which I explicitly mention from this book. You have been warned.
I’ll start with the artwork… It’s not my cup of tea. Nuno Plati is hit or miss on his work in this book, and that’s a problem. Some panels have a simplistic style which I love, and reminds me of Aja’s work in Hawkeye. The lines are smooth, the detail is not overwhelming (and intentionally so), and he also gets the coloring on some of the pages done just right. (Plati is the full artist on this book – pencils, inks, and colors.) Where I have some issue is that although he can draw a person’s body quite well, the angles in which the heads sit on the necks is something to be desired. Sometimes it looks like the head is on right, and in other cases it almost seems quite… bobblehead. Now, this point I cannot critique Plati for as he just continued what was originally done, but really… Why the hell does Alpha have eyebrows that are twice the size of his eyes? Really. This is how he was drawn by Humberto Ramos in Amazing Spider-Man and Plati continued that here. (Speaking of Ramos, I do love the cover of this issue. I think the Spider-Man mask in the background was too much, though. There’s no need to force down our throats that this is a spinoff of a Spider-Man book.)
The story was written by Joshua Hale Fialkov. He has managed to create a few supporting characters of this title that seem to be multi-dimensional… and then at times not. I get the feeling that when all is said and done these characters will be tossed away for when Alpha returns to the Big Apple. If that’s the case, then the use of the characters and trying to make you care about them is a pointless endeavor. Alpha is as cocky as he was…. but toned down. Fialkov has definitely gotten that component of Alpha’s personality down well, as he is learning from his mistakes before. We see he is still a teenager – frustrated that no one likes him, and is easily jumping to conclusions. We see him starting to come to terms with things, and Alpha is becoming likable. For that reason, Fialkov did something I didn’t think possible.
A single quote did hit me hard with this issue, which made me question whether the writer and editors had followed Marvel Comics over the last few years:[quote]Are the rest of the New Warriors on the way, Speedball?[/quote]
Sorry, Alpha is not Speedball. Speedball never flew; he bounced and was surrounded by balls of kinetic energy. He was part of the New Warriors team that kicked off Civil War, a somewhat mild skirmish where heroes battled heroes and Captain America was killed. Speedball took on the name of Penance and joined the Thunderbolts, and was not part of any subsequent New Warriors team. Now, the issue I have here is that Marvel went to immense lengths to ensure that Speedball was well-known by the populace at large in the Marvel U and the survivors of Stamford, CT from Civil War also made sure that this was known. All the effort surrounding this in Marvel for some time… And this couldn’t be properly referenced by the creative team here? Come on. (At least if Plati had drawn some bubbles around him, OK, and maybe since his energy signature is now rather blue, but how would the public know that?)
But I digress. Yes, this upset me as Marvel has a rather fond knack for saying “<EXPLETIVE> you, continuity”, especially over the last few years. Some writers care; some don’t. But us longtime readers do.
Alpha has yet to win me over, as a title or as a character, but I think that Fialkov may have a chance. I am at least going to finish this miniseries and see where it ends up. I hope they take some more care in ensuring that the entirety of the Marvel U history is acknowledged (I know that Alpha meets Thor soon, but maybe he should meet Venom who now lives nearby…) Some characters you like right away; others you hate. Alpha has potential to go either way. It will be up to Fialkov and team to choose which way that goes.