Amazing Spider-Man #39 Review

by Charles Martin on February 12, 2020

Amazing Spider-Man #39 Review
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Iban Coello
Colourist: Brian Reber
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

"Sins of Overdrive" Backup Story
Nick Spencer
Artist: Francesco Mobili
Colourist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: Joe Caramagna

Publisher: Marvel Comics

As usual, I can find a lot to criticize in the current arc of Amazing Spider-Man. On the villain front, we've got an unengaging gambling contest going on between the Foreigner and Chance. In more Spidey-centric affairs, we've once again got the star locked into reactive mode as a supporting character drives his plot.

But the character doing the driving here is J. Jonah Jameson, and that's always worth opening a comic for. 

I don't think it's too contentious to say that bringing Jonah into the fold as a knower of Spider-Man's secret identity and a putative (but wonderfully inept) ally is one of the best disruptions to the Spidey status quo we've had in years. 

Nick Spencer can't take credit for introducing it, but dang, can he run with it! 

The core of this issue is sticking Spidey and Jonah in a recording booth to do a podcast together. And as the astute Norah Winters points out, all you need to do with a pair of personalities like that is let them rub up against each other and watch the sparks fly.

Mr. Spencer's talent for writing spiky people into a natural-sounding conflict is on full display, with Jonah and Spidey launching into an epic back-and-forth where they each score points. The dialogue puts legs under these characters' fractious relationship, trotting it into fresh territory while preserving the ever-antagonistic way they instinctively react to each other. 

I want to commend Iban Coello for loading considerable visual interest into a script that's practically wall-to-wall conversation. He rallies a big bag of tricks to add variety: inventive panel angles, dynamic layouts (the combination of contemporary and flashback panels is particularly impressive), and emotionally exaggerated faces.

(I would bet Mr. Coello was heartily sick of drawing variations on "shouty Jonah" by the time this issue was complete, though!)

Brian Reber's colours do an excellent job of adding consistency and making the whole issue feel like two ongoing scenes. The palette throughout the book is warm and realistic, with flashbacks receiving a subtle fade to distinguish them from the present. Spider-Man and the supervillains in the gambling subplot cut through the earth tones with their high-intensity costume colours, complementing the way Mr. Coello's art manufactures visual excitement in an otherwise-quiet story.

Besides building a barn-burner of an argument between the two main characters, Mr. Spencer's script also does commendable work on evolving the plot. By the end of the story, the gambling sub-plot has grappled onto the Spidey-Jonah dispute in a way that promises a satisfying resolution soon.

And as always, Mr. Spencer massages context and backstory into the contemporary tale. It makes this issue, like most in the volume, exceptionally friendly to those of us who don't have the budget or time to keep up with Spidey's wallet-punishing publication schedule.

In other words, if you haven't been reading regularly but want to drop in for the big Jonah spat, feel free! You won't be lost, and the sub-plots are getting just interesting enough to tempt you into sticking around.

This issue comes with a brief B-strip showcasing Overdrive, one of the perennial D-listers in Spidey's rogues' gallery. It's a grim little piece that emphasizes the difficulty of giving up the supervillain trade. Francesco Mobili and Erick Arciniega provide appropriately chilly illustrations. What future developments are being hinted at here? I don't know, but the prospect of Mr. Spencer gathering up some more of his favourite old Foes is certainly promising!

ASM #39 adds a satisfying treat, in the form of a contentious Spidey/Jonah podcast, to a story arc that needs the boost. Some of this volume's finest stories have involved tying Jonah around the protagonist's neck in an endearing-infuriating way: endearing to us readers, infuriating to Spider-Man, and always funny. It's been done before, but it's done well again here, with a sharp script and hard-working visuals. This issue magics up compelling content out of sheer storytelling craft.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Iban Coello gets plenty of mileage out of those big, expressive Spider-Eyes.