Amazing Spider-Man 1.6: Molina’s story mercifully ends — like Julio’s life

AG Julio

It’s a tough time to be a fan of The Amazing Spider-Man. Readers regularly must to deal with things like Dan Slott turing the wall-crawler into a living spider-meteor, or telling audiences that Peter Parker’s love for Mary Jane is “anti-Marvel.”  There seems to be no end in sight. The past year has added insult to injury with the addition of Jose Molina’s “Amazing Grace” storyline, which has finally ended with “Part Six: Lead Me Home.”

For those who have not paid attention since the beginning, here is a quick recap:

  • Peter Parker, The Amazing Atheist (on Molina’s watch) becomes obsessed with Julio Manuel Rodriguez. The mystery man died of cancer, returned from the dead, and seemingly performs miracles with his new lease on life.
  • Spider-Man and the Santerians (Julio’s friends) plan to track him down and reveal the truth.
  • Iron Man tells the group that Rodriguez is drawing power from a portal to the spirit world that is located in Harlem.
  • A “showdown” in the city is announced.

ASM 1.6 concludes with the group realizing that a demon has taken up shop in Julio’s body and will draw power from  it until the two are separated. Iron Man informs the group that a gate to the spirit world is opening that must be closed before all hell literally breaks loose.

Uncle Ben’s spirit returns once more to give his atheist nephew some advice about life, death and the nature of God — but the hero wants none of it.

“Unsubscribe,” Peter says before swinging into the fight.

Amazing Grace SpiderMan

AG1.6

 

One of the Santerians eventually break’s Julio’s neck, which causes the portal to close and the demons to disappear. Spider-Man is livid and scolds the team after Julio’s (second) funeral: “Julio was not to be harmed! There’s always another way!”

The fact of the matter is that there is not always another way. As the kids point out to the veteran superhero, “We had 30 seconds before that monster got loose in our world.”

Would it have been nice to have a priest on hand to perform an exorcist? Sure. Would it have been a good idea to call Dr. Strange for some help along the way? Of course. But that didn’t happen, and the Santerians did the best they could in a bad situation.

Peter mocks the group for believing Julio is in a better place, and they shoot back: “After everything you’ve seen…why can’t you?

The story ends with Peter walking into a church and asking a priest to talk.

PeterParker Priest

The most disappointing thing about “Amazing Grace” is that it had a lot of potential and guys like me should have loved it.

  • Jose Molina is the first writer to seriously address spiritual issues in ASM in years.
  • “Spirit Uncle Ben,” or whatever you want to call him, actually makes some interesting points.
  • Peter Parker goes to a priest — for advice. (Marvel won’t even allow Matt Murdock into a church these days unless its on Netflix.)
  • The Santerians understand a grim reality that law enforcement personnel and soldiers all over the world are all too familiar with: Sometimes a life needs to be taken to save life.

The problem for Mr. Molina, however, is that Peter Parker should have never been portrayed as a militant atheist to begin with. He would have never blamed God for Uncle Ben’s death because he blames himself. Spider-Man was born out of the guilt that Peter felt over Ben’s murder.

I cannot cheer this particular scene, which respectfully broaches issues of faith, because the writer needed to warp Peter Parker’s origin to make it happen.

I hope Mr. Molina learns from this experience and goes on to write some solid comic books down the line, but someone needs a verbal beatdown for putting him on ASM before he was ready. The book was a disaster from start to finish.

Related:

Molina’s Amazing Spider-Man 1.5: Car crash scene a perfect metaphor for story

Molina’s Spider-Atheist: God ‘a lie’ because Uncle Ben died

Molina’s Amazing Spider-Atheist makes mockery of Peter Parker’s history

Molina’s Spider-Man: ‘Amazing Grace’ a sloppy mess

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Molina’s Amazing Spider-Man 1.5: Car crash scene a perfect metaphor for story

ASM 1.5 wagon

Jose Molina’s latest installment of The Suddenly Atheist Spider-Man was released on May 25, and fans of the wall crawler will be glad to know the he apologized for being “less than respectful” to the Santerians over their religious beliefs. That is, unfortunately, the one bright spot in an issue that is best represented by a car crash scene later in the book.

Here is what you need to know for The Amazing Spider-Man 1.5:

  • Spider-Man is still on the hunt for Julio Manuel Rodriguez, the man who mysteriously came back from the dead and performs miracles.
  • Writer Jose Molina actually thought it was a good idea to feature Spider-Man as a (female?) horse-drawn carriage driver.
  • Don Anselmo is “reborn” as a young man after a ceremony due to his faith. His god tells him Julio is controlled by a “false god.” (Question: Wouldn’t Don Anselmo’s god also be a false god since it isn’t God?)
  • Julio causes a car accident and then performs a miracle to resurrect a dead woman.
  • Spider-Man and the Santerians apologize to one another and then use Iron Man (shoe-horned into two pages) to locate where the spiritual conduit is that Julio’s host draws power from.
  • Iron Man gives the group an an address in Harlem and Spider-Man says “showdown time.”

ASM 1.5

It is very rare to see a Marvel comic that fails on pretty much every level imaginable. The entire creative team appears to given up all hope for salvaging the book.

  • Jose Molina continues to write a sloppy, poorly paced story that reads as if he has the attention span of a squirrel.
  • Artists Simone Bianchi and Andrea Broccardo have slapped together one of the ugliest issues of ASM of all time. Marvel would have gotten a better product if they asked a kid on Deviant Art to do them a favor for $100 bucks. Spider-Man wouldn’t look like a marshmallow, police cars wouldn’t look like they came off a Detroit assembly line in 1973, and Peter Parker wouldn’t look like Ace Ventura.
  • Editor Nick Lowe, who allowed a writer to have Peter Parker blame God for Uncle Ben’s death, is still M.I.A.
  • Question: Is it possible for a letterer to underperform? It seems like even the “AaaaaIIIEEEEEEE!” “KRIIIIII” and “CCRRNNNCHHH” in the crash panel are font failures, if that’s even possible.

In short, Marvel should be ashamed that there is essentially zero quality control for its “point” issues of ASM. There is one remaining issue of “Amazing Grace,” which is fitting because the few readers who are left will be singing the famous hymn after they finish.

Stay far, far away from ASM “point” issues for the foreseeable issue — at least until Mr. Lowe decides to do his job.

ASM 1.5 crash

Molina’s Spider-Atheist: God ‘a lie’ because Uncle Ben died

ASM Peter

Peter Parker’s origin has been told numerous times over the course of decades, but one thing that has remained consistent is that he primarily blames himself for Uncle Ben’s death. Writer Jose Molina, however, used the publication of The Amazing Spider-Man 1.4 to give Peter an easy way to avoid responsibility for his behavior on that day. Who does Peter blame for his uncle’s death? Answer: Jesus.

Yes, that’s right, Molina’s Amazing Spider-Atheist had his beliefs solidified on the day he infamously told a cop that looking after “number one” was all that mattered — right before the fugitive he let escape killed his uncle. It was all God’s fault, which is why years later the character is obsessed with proving that Julio Rodriguez did not return from the dead and miracles are all lies. (Note: At no point in this story does Peter bother to think about that time he died and came back to life…or the times he interacted with dead loved ones.)

SpiderMan fugitive

Sadly, this tale requires Anna Maria Marconi to be the voice of reason by mentioning that man’s purpose in time is, as Whittaker Chambers put it, not God’s purpose in eternity.

It seems safe to say that God would not be God if his totality were transparent to self-centered teenagers and cocksure adults, but that never dawns on Molina’s Peter Parker; acting out of character can do that to a superhero.

ASM AnnaPete

Perhaps the only bright spot in this story is that it will soon be over. Spider-Man goes full-Batman, dangles Julio’s murderer over a balcony, and finds out that dying was always Rodriguez’s intention. He apparently needed to sacrifice himself — just as he had to sacrifice his father in the previous issue.

Spider-Man finally tracks Julio down and he admits that his resurrection was all part of a plan to restore faith in mankind. The two are separated when a police helicopter unleashes a hail of bullets, and the next time readers see Julio he is in church allegedly talking with Jesus. This “Jesus” (we’ll just assume Julio has been possessed by a demon and give Molina the benefit of the doubt) promises that superheroes will come to Rodriguez like “lambs to the slaughter.”

ASM Julio

The final page of ASM 1.4 asks, “You want to know what happens next? Don’t miss The Amazing Spider-Man 1.5.”

Well, yes, I do want to know what happens next, but for all the wrong reasons.

  • Will Suddenly Spider-Atheist be vindicated?
  • Will Jesus be a new Marvel villain? (I wouldn’t put it past Marvel these days.)
  • Will Julio actually be possessed by a demon, or will he be a cyborg that will allow Spider-Atheist to rest easy at night?

Julio Rodriguez may have returned from the grave in this story, but copies of this book certainly deserve to be buried six-feet under.

RELATED: Dan Slott uses terror attack to mock Christians, play partisan politics

Molina’s Amazing Spider-Atheist makes mockery of Peter Parker’s history

ASM Uncle Ben

Writer Jose Molina’s take on The Amazing Spider-Man is like beef stew, if all the carrots, potatoes, and onions were fresh and well-prepared, while the star of the show — the beef — were rotten. Issue 1.3 of Amazing Grace features The Amazing Spider-Atheist, which makes zero sense given the character’s history. Worse, he is not a tactful skeptic, but a condescending jerk.

For those who are not up to speed, Peter Parker: the Spectacular Atheist is investigating the death and resurrection of a man named Jose Rodriguez. While a mystical group of heroes called the Santerians attempt to get DNA samples from Rodriguez, Peter goes down to Cuba to find out what happened when the terminally ill man was there.

What makes Amazing Grace doubly disappointing is that scenes deserving of kudos for their ambition are spoiled by Molina’s betrayal of the character. Conversations happen with the spirit of Uncle Ben and Beast that intellectually tower over anything Dan Slott has dished out in years, but yet the scenes fall flat because a worldview that Peter Parker has never held has been shoved into his word balloons.

ASM Beast SpiderMan

Mike McNulty over at Whatever a Spider Can described the situation perfectly in his review of the issue:

Spider-Man lives a universe (albeit a comic book one) where real magic, gods, ghosts and demons do exist. He’s talked with Uncle Ben’s ghost before, courtesy of Doctor Strange, in Amazing Spider-Man #500. He’s knows people who have come back from the dead, himself included. He’s teamed-up with the likes of Ghost Rider and Thor, the later whom Beast even mentions in his theological debate with Spider-Man. He even had a lengthy conversation with God Himself in Sensational Spider-Man #40. And don’t even get me started again on his run-ins with Mephisto, who is the Marvel Universe’s version of the devil. Spider-Man has always been a scientific rationalist and his own religious upbringing is rather generic if not ambiguous; but the notion he would reject any supernatural explanation, or that he’d be so dismissive of those who subscribe to religion, faith or mysticism, is outright laughable and disingenuous given the character’s own history.

Boom. McNulty rightly drops a Truth Bomb on Molina’s head, and potential customers are better off for it.

Marvel has an enormous problem when it comes to Spider-Man. In the ongoing ASM series, Dan Slott has turned the character into Peter Parker-Wayne-Stark-Zuckerberg-Jobs-Musk. Now, with the “point” issues, readers are also subjected to a writer who dismisses core components of the character to suit his storytelling desires. There is almost zero fidelity to the “soul” of the character (no pun intended). The writers seem to treat ASM like the family van, with themselves in the role of the angry parents shuttling everyone on a vacation.

Slott or Molina: “I’m in charge, kids! We go where I want to go. Don’t make me turn this van around!”

Meanwhile, the passengers are wondering why their driver wants to take the van off a cliff.

If Peter Parker had always been a hard-charging skeptic, then none of this would be an issue. He has never been weirdly preachy or begged his friends to read the Bible, but it is abundantly clear that he has a quiet spirituality to him. To blatantly dismiss that fact and have him sneer at men of faith is an insult to anyone who cares about continuity.

Do not buy this book unless you want to watch a car crash play out for the next couple of months.

 

 

Molina’s Spider-Man: ‘Amazing Grace’ a sloppy mess

ASM1.1

The Amazing Spider-Man 1.1 and 1.2 sounds like a great story in theory: A man is murdered by drug addicts but miraculously returns from the dead. Peter Parker investigates and finds himself falling down a rabbit hole of voodoo and witchcraft that eventually ends inside Communist Cuba. Unfortunately, writer Jose Molina has a tenuous grasp of the character, Dan Slott’s Peter Parker-Wayne-Stark status quo exacerbates the problem, and artist Simone Bianchi draws our hero like he took some hallucinogenic drugs and used Ace Ventura as his inspiration.

“Amazing Grace” is a story that could have been a really cool, dark reprieve from Dan Slott’s typical fare. Unfortunately, the roller coaster of quality goes downhill the moment Peter Parker blurts out “No Christmas crap until Thanksgiving.”

The ride takes a transgender swerve  when the curvaceous Dr. Kevin Templeton starts swearing up a storm.

ASM Kevin Templeton

Perhaps the worst part about “Amazing Grace” at its half-way point is Molina’s repeated attempts to cast Peter Parker as a “doubter” of spiritual realities because he is a “man of science” (as if people who love science cannot believe in God or the spirit realm).

ASM1.2 Cuba

At one point in ASM 1.1 Peter says “the Beast” (i.e., Satan) does not exist, which is a slap in the face to fans given his history with Mephisto.

One would think a character who recently died and was resurrected would be a bit more open to the spiritual realm, but not to Molina. Instead, ASM 1.2 ends with “Uncle Ben” appearing before a shocked Peter. The deceased Parker says, “It’s Been a long time.”

Actually, it hasn’t — again, because Peter and his uncle talked when Dan Slott killed off the character in 2012.

One of the few bright spots in “Amazing Grace” is that Molina is not afraid to give Marvel’s liberal editors an education on communism. A professor at a Cuban university tells Peter “the embargo on free speech” under the Castros is something the U.S. cannot lift, and some locals say Cuban health care is only great for those with “money, connections, or a foreign passport.”

Molina has two issues left to bring this story back from the dead. Unfortunately, it’s a good bet that Bianchi’s artwork will keep ASM 1.3 – 1.4 buried.