The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: VC’s Joe Carmagna
Cover Artists: ACO & Marcelo Maiolo
Variant Cover Artists: Gabriele Dell’Otto and Dennis Chan
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual is written by Saladin Ahmed, with art from Garry Brown, and explores events earlier in the career of the web-slinger.
Taking place during the events of Amazing Spider-Man #253-258, we find Peter struggling with the aftermath of the original Secret Wars. Even though he has a new and advanced black Spidey suit, he finds himself growing weary and tired, unable to get his life together or be honest with the people he loves. Unknown to him, his new suit is alive, with a will and mind of its own, and it will go to any lengths to take the weight off of Peter’s shoulders. It begins to possess his body at night, going out on patrol, and becoming a far deadlier Spider-Man in Peter’s stead. Just how far will the suit go during these dangerous patrols? And how long until Peter discovers what the true nature of his new “friend” is?
This issue is just oozing with atmosphere, fully embracing the darker 80’s theme tied to the original storyline. With the ongoing narration from the symbiote’s perspective, along with the gorgeous and grim art done by Garry Brown, Saladin Ahmed manages to create a story that is somewhat of a return to form for this idea. He manages to once again make the symbiote something utterly unnerving and skin-crawling, like an obsessed lover who can (and will) take total control over you. The inner dialogue it has throughout the issue, while meaning well, is very much creepy, as it fantasizes about fully bonding with Peter forever. Even though I know how the story goes from here, the final lines of narration the symbiote had surprisingly made me feel both sympathetic for and terrified of it. In my book, any writer who can manage to do that to me gets all the gold stars imaginable.
The only two characters who get any focus in this issue are Peter and the symbiote, while the rest are more reactionary, and only present for a few panels and/or pages, save for an unnamed kid. Even then, the spotlight is mainly on the symbiote itself, with its actions taking a toll on Peter in multiple ways. However, what this issue lacks in terms of side characters, it makes up for by diving into the twisted psyche of this alien that, for better or for worse, has taken Marvel comics by storm for the past thirty-something years. While it isn’t the first to do so, and likely isn’t the last, it’s one of the most impressive takes on this character I’ve personally ever seen. I highly recommend it to anybody who’s been craving something a bit darker from Spider-Man as of late, and I hope to see Ahmed writing for the symbiote again very soon.