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Friday, July 22, 2022

Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business (2014) | Graphic Novel

A plain-clothes Peter Parker is nearly captured by private military contractors. That's weird. He's able to escape capture with the help of his long-lost sister, Teresa Parker. That's weirder. And now they need to go globe-trotting to stop The Kingpin. If this story threw many more curveballs, there's a chance people might've checked out, but it doesn't. Instead, it just gets more enjoyable to read and, frankly, just stare at because of the artwork. Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business is part of an Original Graphic Novel line called Marvel OGN, so it's like a longer, self-contained, single-issue. It's written by Mark Waid and James Robinson, painted and covered by Gabriele Dell'Otto, and penciled by Werther Dell'Edera.

The best thing about stories that go off the rails is that it makes buying into ones like this pretty easy. We don't need to forgive "Sins Past," or anything like, but we should give them a bit of a break because of what they allowed future writers to get away with.  Plus long-lost siblings reveal themselves in comics, Law & Order: SVU episodes, and even our world all the time. Waid and Robinson do introduce the story gently though, with a standard, but very entertaining, crime-in-progress. 

Spider-Man Hijacking
The only, very minor, art complaint I can think of is that there's usually another panel and speech balloons on top of iconic shots like this one | Copyright 2014 Marvel

Peter stumbles onto a truck that's full of shop-lifted laundry detergent, intended to be resold to wholesalers, and then smaller retailers. We get great quips, like "Stop in the Name of Mr. Clean," great panels, and a good sense of where this Spider-Man is right now. No Parker industries, so this is the only way to keep Family Business somewhat grounded. 

Once the main story kicks off with Teresa's introduction, they're quickly "Jason Bourne-ing," as Peter calls it, to places like Monte Carlo, Switzerland, and Cairo. 

As a fan of the show Archer, Monte Carlo was easily my favorite destination. It took a few minutes to confirm, but someone somewhere will rest easy knowing that Peter and Sterling Archer both don't know the first thing about Baccarat. At least they both clean up nicely. 

Personally, I recommend "college rulesBlackjack. If you can't count cards, just be the last person dealt and pray only one deck is in use | Copyright 2014 Marvel

They're there to get information to lead them to their parents' safe house. They're nearly stopped by a villain named Cyclone, and I really like the way his suit is analyzed. Spider-Man figures out that this version of the character isn't a mutant, so it'll be quick work to basically tear out his battery pack. Still, it would've been nice if Teresa could've helped. The best parts of this story, dealing with this relationship and their relationship with their parents, is where the writing does have some hiccups. 

We only get to experience so much of these these two learning about each other, and their mom and dad, because of the constraints of about a hundred pages. Shorthand dialogue about power and responsibility is well-used, but it still feels like a workaround because the plot has to keep powering through. Other times, it is a bit on the nose. The Monte Carlo contact tells the two that Richard Parker was a wisecracker, instead of it being shown in one of Waid and Robinson's flashback scenes. Yes, this stuff should be in there but in a less clunky way. Luckily, the buy-in of the sibling storyline doesn't really have this problem.

Since there's no time to do a DNA test or something, what Waid and Robinson come up with is that Teresa has a family photo and Peter's expertise as a photojournalist tell him that it's not doctored. Doubt is in the back of his mind and ours, but things are addressed well, and nothing about the story really feels cheap because of that doubt. A costume change for Spider-Man is handled similarly, and outside justification for that is the artists get to have more fun. It just works. And again, this part of the story is not the wildest thing to happen in comics, other pop culture, and everyday life. What is wild is that they meet The Kingpin in Cairo.

Leaving out some details, what Family Business comes down to is a male Parker is able to unlock a vault full of Nazi gold that's also guarded by a robot. Nick Spencer's Ant-Man runs into a robot just like this a year or two later, and I recently re-read that for a (Patreon exclusive) guest appearance on the Superhero Cinephiles podcast, so the suspension of disbelief is still going strong here. Plus, this was around the time of the Webb/Garfield movies that were all about Peter's parents, so that probably helped some readers at the time. Now, I'm not so sure. I also wonder if this book has much of a legacy outside of the art and Wilson Fisk's iconic look? 

Wilson Fisk
Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk | Copyright 2021 Marvel Studios

The closest comparison I can make to Dell'Otto and Dell'Edera's work is Alex Ross because of how it's painted. A quick comparison can be made with the Ross art in my Uncle Sam review, but a better one can be made by looking at his work in Marvels and Kingdom Come. Where Ross excels is scope and detailing, but, as far as I know, work like this in comics is still incredibly hard to come by outside of covers, and any instance of it should be celebrated. Personally, a character like Teresa should be, too. She's definitely not well-known.

I wish she was. Peter having that connection felt really heart-warming, as unexplored as it felt at times, but I couldn't find too much on the character after that, but if I'm missing something please correct me. As far as Family Business goes, Fisk and the robot are stopped, the day is saved, and there doesn't seem to be any major lasting impacts to the story. Some of that is probably by design because of the self-contained thing, but something about a bombshell like this just defusing, one that could've opened up the world of a character, doesn't feel right. This isn't even where Cindy Moon (Silk) was being kept, which is where I thought the story was going, but that just goes to show what casual reading gets you sometimes. Anyway, someone on Reddit said that the Webb/Garfield movies created the perfect universe to introduce and adapt her story, and they're right, but the MCU wouldn't be a bad fit either.

For those who've seen No Way Home or ready my review, they know that that Peter could use literally anybody in his life just popping up right now, and while writing around Doctor Strange's magic to make this happen logically would be quite difficult, it could be incredibly rewarding for Peter, his sister, and the fans who feel especially close to them.

3.75/5

Update: It looks like Chip Zdarsky featured her a few years later in his Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man run.

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