Pipedream Pull List: Amazing Spider-man: Who Am I? #1-4 (Marvel Comics)

With Peter Parker back in the spider-suit it is time for him to have his first Infinite adventure, and it all starts off with him losing his memory. Can the webbed wonder make sense of this new digital world in Amazing Spider-Man: Who Am I? #1-4 the new Infinite digital comic from Marvel Comics.

ASMWAMI2014001_DC11Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writers: Dan Slott & Joshua Hale Fialkov
Artists: Juan Bobillo, Mast & Geoffo
Price: £1.99/$2.99 per episode from ComiXology/Marvel Comics app

Just as we get used to a post-Superior Spider-Man world and we settle back into the idea of Peter Parker as Spidey once again, Dan Slott and Josh Fialkov throw us a curve ball with a new Infinite digital series Amazing Spider-Man: Who Am I? It all starts with Spidey coming too in the middle of a bank raid having no idea who he is or what he is doing? Is he a hero or is he a villain? Cue slapstick hilarity as he learns his new powers and has an existential argument about his  predicament while helping (or hindering) his bank robbing buddies.

After the dark stories and epic scale of recent events in the Spidey-verse, this is a refreshing return to the small-scale norm with a wise-cracking Peter fighting crime and doing his Spidey thing. (Or is he?) The main crux of the first 4 issues of this new series is Peter trying to get to the bottom of where his memories have gone while going off on jobs with his new bank robbing allies. As he manages to piece things back together again, he’s left wondering are they his real memories or false memories implanted by the mysterious Profit – the villain of the piece who looks like a combination of the mummy and a middle eastern fortune teller – and why is he getting garbled messages from S.H.I.E.L.D’s Maria Hill too?

Slott and Fialkov play with Parker’s memories brilliantly, tormenting him along the way with just enough information to start piecing things together only for them to get completely shredded again – and it’s the same for us the readers. By the time you reach the end of this 4 issue run that sees him rob a bank (or does he), save a woman who looks uncannily like Gwen Stacey (or does he?) and then break into Stark Industries and beat up Iron Man (or does he… you get the picture!) you are left as bewildered as poor old Pete. In the hands of lesser writers this could be a garbled mess, but Fialkov and Slott know how to handle a complex story like this and you have to trust their long term vision for the story. It’s certainly a smartly conceived and intriguingly played out side-step for your friendly neighbourhood Spider-man and makes it feel like a very fresh and exciting story, which is what a new format like this needs to make it stand out.

Another major reason for the sense of freshness and excitement with ASM: Who Am I? is the unique artwork of Juan Bobillo and layout artists Geoffo and Mast. Bobillo’s art style mixes the cartoonish extremes of regular Amazing Spider-man artist Humberto Ramos with a scratchy indie feel that makes the whole series feel really unusual. Spidey’s anatomy is stretched and contorted into even more bizarre shapes than usual and Bobilo’s use of odd angles and forced perspective makes the book feel very disjointed and peculiar – but in a  good way. Purists will no doubt get wound up by much of this, especially Bobillo’s unconventional rendering of Spidey’s costume with the eyeholes of the mask shrinking in size to be smaller even than Ditko’s and the webbing details on his body being sometimes missed out completely. But it is this shift in look and feel that makes ASM: Who Am I? feel brave and different and that is what you want as a reader of digital comics. If it was just another artist doing a John Romita or Gil Kane impression then it wouldn’t work – especially in digital – and this story requires something special and unique to make it work.

Augmenting Bobillo’s unconventional work is the layout artistry of Geoffo and Mast (who we interviewed about their role in the series last week) and who help to really push the boundaries of the medium. Between these two and Bobillo, they have really gone to town with the layout and structure of the book making the most of the potential for Guided View story telling in a way we’ve not really seen before in a mainstream book. As well as giving the book a very slapstick feel with lots of reveals and hidden jokey elements within the page, they have also thrown out the traditional panel approach and used brilliant combinations of circles and non-linear page elements to make the whole screen come alive. (It’s one of things we often celebrate in books from indie publishers like Madefire and so is fantastic to see in a Marvel title!)Whether it is images layering on top of each other while the background fades to grey, or elements appearing in screen as if moving in from the side (as happens in a scene in the opening episode where police cars arrive at the scene of the bank robbery) this is one of the most sophisticated Infinite books to date and really benefits from an art team being given the freedom to do what they like and truly push the boundaries.

Although it has a confusing story and art that will annoy the purists, Amazing Spider-man: Who Am I? #1 manages to bring a sense of excitement and originality to digital comics which makes the medium something truly special.  By mixing traditional comic action with lots of humour it feels very similar to the recent Deadpool series The Deadly Gauntlet which really made the most of it’s unconventional lead character. Just as Wade Wilson and his wise-cracking 4th wall breaking ways suited the Infinite formula the same is true for Peter as the Amazing Spider-Man and the the team behind Show Am I? have done an amazing job creating one of the most fun and exciting (albeit confusing and not always drawn ‘correctly’) digital comics of the year.

pd_review4half“A brilliant and brave piece of digital story-telling that isn’t afraid to throw out the traditional comics rule book and create a series that feels totally fresh and unique. It’s confusing story and unconventional art may put off some ‘Spidey purists’ but that is no bad thing as Amazing Spider-Man Who Am I? is the kind of exciting and dynamic series that makes this new digital medium so damn enjoyable!”