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Ooo Eee Ooo Ah Ah Ting Tang Walla Walla Bing Bang: A Witch Doctor’s Spidey Story Review by Marco Manalac

The Amazing Spider-Man #1.1 came out this past week, and it’s a totally new arc called Amazing Grace. The cover says that the book guest stars the Santerians, but they only really appear in the last couple of pages. This doesn’t bother me too much, because they seem to be the center of all the craziness happening in this storyline. Fans of Daredevil: Father may remember the Santerians as Hell’s Kitchen’s vigilante super-group. They haven’t been very present since their debut in 2005, but the new year is upon us, and it might be a good idea to inject some fresh blood into the Marvel Universe Mix. If we’re doing a bit of a reboot after Secret Wars anyway, we might as well try out some new characters and teams to attract new readers.

While the main series of The Amazing Spider-Man is dealing with Peter Parker’s new life as a major player in the global marketplace, this spinoff book has our favorite web-slinging hero going back to his roots. Yes, Spider-Man is back to the streets. Spidey is back in Harlem!

But although we think we’re getting a familiar street-level plot, things quickly take a weird turn, as the comic evolves into a mystical, resurrection-centric adventure. Yes, death, resurrection and confusing the audiences are very big things nowadays. In Game of Thrones, we saw Jon Snow stabbed to death, only to catch news of his return to the set for the next season’s shoots. In The Walking Dead, the whole world gasped in horror as we thought we saw Glenn getting his intestines eaten by a swarm of zombies. It turned out that he wasn’t the one being eaten. It was somebody ON TOP of him getting devoured mercilessly. Totally plausible. We are getting big, not-really-deaths in other franchises like The Leftovers, which I still have to catch up on. And how can we not mention the big farewell to a major character in a beloved science fiction movie to come out near the end of this year. Don’t worry, I am not spoiling anything today.

But yeah, my point is that Amazing Grace is a story revolving around death and resurrection. Julio Manuel Rodriguez, a highly respected and much loved son of Harlem was murdered by “drug-addled thugs” and his family and friends mourned for him. Even Spider-Man himself was there to see the memorial. But very soon after, reports come in that the deceased man has emerged from his grave, alive and well. And even Jonah Jameson is declaring it a “genuine Christmas miracle.” It’s odd and a bit awkward seeing Jameson talk about Christmas, God, and miracles. He never struck me as the spiritual type, even though we know he is just doing it for show. But in a world of superheroes, is it so strange to believe in the living dead?

No, it’s not, because right away we learn about why Julio is alive. He had cancer and he turned to a witch doctor named Don Anselmo to save him. Without getting into details, I’ll just say his plan worked and now we have an actual living, thinking zombie freaking out the whole city of New York. Spider-Man’s search for Don Anselmo quickly leads him to meet the Santerians, and we have a trippy, magical, fantasy adventure on our hands, folks!

Although the issue was mostly for set-up, it was nice seeing Spider-Man watch over Julio’s children, taking time with them to take selfies, eat piraguas (which editor Nick Lowe explains is a Puerto Rican shaved ice dessert shaped like a pyramid, consisting of shaved ice and covered with fruit-flavored syrup), and dig for information on their dad’s death and unbelievable comeback. This week’s issue highlights how Spidey almost always establishes a very strong connection with children, even when adults mostly fear or hate him, as demonstrated by Julio’s wife freaking out when she sees her kids hanging out with him. But this sort of tension is what makes Spider-Man so interesting and fascinating as a character. In and out of the comic book pages, he can be so very polarizing. And quite honestly, I would not have it any other way.

I also just want to point out how while Joe Molina’s writing is spot-on, it’s really Simone Bianchi’s art and Israel Silva’s coloring that steal the show for this issue. It’s a Christmas story, but the art and colors are very dark and serious, a smart contrast to the visuals of the main series. This is a great title for readers looking for an alternative Spidey tale.

It’s nice seeing Spider-Man get back to the very real and gritty vibe of his older volumes. After all, he did make his name as a street-level hero. This Amazing Grace arc, I believe, is Marvel’s way of convincing doubters of the all-new Spider-Man that he is still very much the same person.  While Peter Parker is now an international superstar, Spider-Man will always be a champion of the people, especially those going through the hardest, most difficult of times. Maybe he’ll be eating halo-halo sometime soon! But just like it says on the last page, if you want to know what happens next, don’t miss The Amazing Spider-man #1.2, coming your way very soon! Happy holidays, guys!

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