Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2023
- Erica Shultz, Celeste Bronfman
- Julian Shaw, David López
- VC's Joe Caramagna
- Cover Artist:
- Corin Howell, Brian Reber
- Release Date:
- Andrew Dalhouse, K.J. Díaz
Spider-Man had some of the worst days of his life in the last few weeks, with Ben Reilly coming after him, bringing the demons of limbo with him, followed by Rabin's assault on him and Mary Jane, which led to the death of Ms. Marvel. With much happening in his personal life too, Peter Parker finds the two halves of his identity collide in the latest Annual, much to his chagrin. Written by Erica Schultz and Celeste Bronfman with artwork from Julian Shaw and David López, colors by Andrew Dalhouse and K. J. Díaz, and lettering from VC's Joe Caramagna, The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 reunites the Wall-Crawler with the miscreants of the Dark Web saga while bringing the darkness of the recent Hellfire Gala into his life.
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual opens with Spider-Man intercepting a demon harassing a passerby on the streets of New York, who promptly makes for the Limbo Embassy. He follows the offender into the building, and a scuffle breaks out between him and the guards. The demon is actually Janine Godbe, aka Hallows' Eve, in disguise. She uses the commotion to free her boyfriend, Ben Reilly. But can they escape the Goblin Queen's wrath? The next story is set at a party as Mary Jane celebrates her aunt's birthday. Everything is going fine when Anna suddenly starts beating up her guests. Peter turns up as Spider-Man to stop this rampage but finds he has bit off more than he can chew.
Erica Schultz's story in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 is the book's centerpiece. The whole plot revolves around Hallows' Eve's attempt to jailbreak Ben, but with Spider-Man getting involved, shenanigans ensue. The humor is conveyed by slapstick comedy, as the pacing does not give a moment's respite. Yet, in regard to emotional content, the tale falls flat and feels rushed. Julian Shaw's artwork imbues animated energy into the charging narrative. Naturally, with such stylized art, the colors also need to pop, and Andrew Dalhouse answers that call. The main characters seem to take the colorful spots in the book. Joe Caramagna's lettering is dramatic, perfectly mirroring the character's actions at that moment.
The second segment comes from Celeste Bronfman, who draws the reader in with an unsuspecting feel-good opening and then traps them in a subversive narrative. Bronfman's script is tight but leaves room for Spider-Man's jokes and Peter's fumbles. Mary Jane has a lot of agency in the tale and is as much a hero as a costumed webhead. David López's use of heavy inking brings the main elements into focus. The fluidity of the minimalist style litters the background with little details and tilts the panels from different perspectives to add a sense of hysteria. K. J. Díaz's colors are soft and range from light ochre to teal, with red making a sporadic appearance.
The Amazing Spider-Man Annual draws from stories in the ongoing Zeb Wells run while maintaining synergy with the greater Marvel universe. As for the stories themselves, Spider-Man's tussle with Hallows' Eve falls flat emotionally as the script seems to save Ben's story for another day, leaving all parties involved tired and disappointed. Luckily, the second tale takes a sudden turn into mayhem, follows a coherent theme as indicated in the now disastrous Hellfire Gala, and ends on a rather shocking note. The Amazing Spider-Man Annual is fun and plays well with established lore.