Yesterday (well, not yesterday-yesterday, but yesterday as I wrote this – September 15th), I finally read the Amazing Spider-Man Free Comic Book Day 2021 story starring my favorite Spider-Man and yours, Ben Reilly. (I’ve got a post about why Ben is my favorite Spider-Man in me; you’ll get it someday.) Today, I was set to gush about how much I loved that teaser story, and how it might convince me to regularly buy Amazing Spider-Man for the first time since One More Day. (Yup, I hopped off. Nope, I never really came back.)
But then, before I could put finger to keyboard, I discovered that Marvel is shipping five issues of Amazing Spider-Man in December. And reader, I immediately decided that following Amazing Spider-Man is still not for me. Because my, and I imagine most readers’, monthly pull list does not have room for $20 worth of Spider-Man – even if that Spider-Man is Ben Reilly.
Weekly Comics Need Mission Statements
Now, I love a good weekly superhero comic. For example, I bought into House of X and Powers of X as they were coming out because those books were a) good, b) surprising, and c) dominating the conversation on comics Twitter. Part of the reason House and Powers hit so hard, I’d argue, is because they shipped weekly. Instead of having a month to come to terms with each new event or idea, readers were confronted with a weekly expansion of those events and ideas. Thus, the series as a whole never had time to feel stale.
House and Powers are not the only weekly superhero comics I’ve bought into. I also read Batman: Eternal as it was coming out, and I picked up Justice League: Generation Lost in the aftermath of Brightest Day. Neither of those series was as successful or good as House and Powers. Neither was as successful as DC’s best weekly superhero series, 52. But both did what I think weekly superhero comics must do to be worth reading. Which is a) have a mission statement and b) conclude after they accomplish their mission.
This new era of Amazing Spider-Man may have a behind-the-scenes mission statement. But if it does, I certainly can’t tell what it is. And that’s after seeing solicitations for roughly 11 issues – nearly the same total number of issues that House and Powers ran for. There does not appear to be a thematic throughline connecting October, November, and December 2021’s issues of Amazing Spider-Man. (By the way, I realize this paragraph could age incredibly poorly. I kind of hope it does!) Without that throughline and the narrative momentum it would provide, I can’t understand why Amazing Spider-Man needs to be a more-than-weekly book.
Except, of course, for one thing: Amazing Spider-Man always sells.
Amazing Spider-Man? More Like the Amazing Cash-Cow
While I’ve only been sampling bits and pieces of Nick Spencer and co.’s current, pre-Ben Reilly/Beyond Corporation run on Amazing Spider-Man, what I have read has been … not good. And yet, Amazing Spider-Man 71 still placed 10th in Diamond’s July sales charts (which, notably, no longer include DC Comics). Even when Amazing Spider-Man is terrible, it sells. And as I said at the start of this piece, the upcoming Amazing run looks like it’s going to be quite good.
So, of course Marvel is going to milk it for all its worth, by pushing it to run weekly rather than monthly or even bi-weekly. After all, there is money to be made.
(Looking back at previous months’ solicits, Amazing Spider-Man has been releasing bi-weekly most months in 2021. Marvel added the Sinister War miniseries on top of Amazing as Spencer’s run concluded, making Amazing a stealth-weekly book since July.)
And I guess, Marvel, go make that money? Many loyal Amazing Spider-Man readers will continue buying the series no matter how good it is or how often it releases. Some readers may even be excited about the weekly pace and decide to pick up the series as a result. But I’d imagine there are more readers out there like me, who are excited about a “Ben Reilly as Spider-Man” series (the time for 90s nostalgia is nigh) but unwilling to pony up $20 or more a month to read it. I would have loved to buy one or two issues of Amazing Spider-Man starring Ben Reilly (with Peter and Mary Jane as supporting characters) a month. But I can’t justify buying four or five, especially when there are so many other superhero series out there fighting for my monthly pull list dollars.
Thankfully, Us Reilly-ites Have Other Options
Above, I stated that weekly superhero comics need both a mission statement and a conclusion they are working toward to be successful. While the larger story the Ben Reilly braintrust is working toward may have a conclusion, we as readers know that Amazing Spider-Man itself will never conclude. Because – and say it with me this time – Amazing Spider-Man sells.
So, given the lack of a mission statement, the unlikelihood of a satisfying conclusion (again, hoping to eat these words, but I remember how the original Clone Saga played out), and the pace of its release, I can’t bring myself to buy into the new Ben Reilly era of Amazing Spider-Man. It just doesn’t satisfy my requirements for a weekly superhero series. Instead, I’ll likely check out J.M. DeMatteis and David Baldeón’s Ben Reilly: Spider-Man series, which may have been designed for readers like me who are excited for more “Ben Reilly as Spider-Man,” but unwilling to throw down $20+ a month to get it.