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The Best Comics in April Part 1: The Mediocre Return of Peter Parker

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Each month the staff at 8th Dimension Comics picks out the best book to review. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

The Amazing Spider-Man #1: It's been a long time coming. For the past several years Peter Parker has been gone from the Marvel universe. Well, not really. To the world at large Peter Parker was not only alive and well, he became a doctor, started a technology company, joined the Avengers, and also was kind of a jerk.

That's because Doctor Octopus had taken over Parker's body to become the Superior Spider-Man. I know, I know. It sounded stupid to me as well when I first heard about it, but the book easily became one of my favorites despite its hokey premise. All that's come to an end now as Octopus sacrificed himself to die a hero, and Parker returns to his body and new life.

Just in time for the movie.

Look, I want to be excited to have Parker back, I really do. There's no doubt that Marvel has pulled out all the stops to get us interested again in the rebooted adventures. Amazing Spider-Man #1 is four times the length of a typical issue, and contains Inhumans #1 as a bonus to boot. Four or five different sides to Parker's return are explored, and some of it indeed looks very interesting.

For instance, while Octopus was in control he beat up Black Cat, exposed her as the petty thief she is, and got Felicia Hardy sent to jail. This issues looks in on her as she plots her revenge against Spider-Man, and also looks like in the coming issues we'll be exploring her bad luck powers somewhat. I always liked that aspect of her character as it offered a more nuanced set of motivations beyond greed and cleavage. I'm excited about that.

On the other hand, so little has changed and I can already feel what made me bored with Spider-Man coming around again. Felicia Hardy's going to give Parker a bunch of bad days? Great, more of him being banged around by life as if it was a slapstick comedy. Once again Parker's out of his depth, head of a company he didn't know he owned and in his first few pages he ends up having to fight crime naked with web underwear because hilarity.

It's really, really tired. Three years was not really long enough for me to miss this sort of thing.

What made Superior Spider-Man such a compelling book was that it was kind of neat to have a jerk Spider-Man who was super confident and condescending. It was like Dr. House as a superhero, and they growth that Octopus went through in Parker's body was gripping. It was new and original, that begrudging hero who never lost the inferiority complex that made him a villain in the first place. It's the same thing that made Scarlet Spider worth reading.

Now it's all back to square one just so the books can be more in line with the latest film, and that feels like a cheat. I mean, don't get me wrong. Superior Spider-Man was over. It ended where it should have, but bringing Peter Parker back to crack jokes and have silly personal problems is definitely a step backwards.

Rating: 5 of 10

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

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