Review: “Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business”

All bets are off as Spidey faces an old foe at a Monte Carlo casino.

All bets are off as Spidey faces an old foe at a Monte Carlo casino.

After decades of revelations, you’d think it a certainty that there would be no more than a smattering of skeletons left in the closets of those closest to Peter Parker. However, Mark Waid and James Robinson have conceived a whale of a sucker punch for Peter in the entertaining new graphic-novel “Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business”

“Family Business” reads like a classic Annual. The stakes are high, but the action is loosely tied to what is occurring in current continuity, and everything is wrapped up nicely by the end of the story, although there is a tiny opening for future storytellers to riff off of later. The artwork is as stunning as you would expect from Gabrielle Dell’otto, painting over Werther Dell’Edera’s fine pencil work.

Peter finds himself in the middle of a kidnapping by a mysterious Special-Ops team before he is saved by an even more mysterious woman named Teresa Parker, his supposed sister. The two are being pursued because they are the offspring of Richard Parker, but they don’t yet understand which of their father’s secrets would cause someone to come after their hides. And all of this may or may not be tied to a plot being hatched by the Kingpin and his unwilling henchman, Mentallo. Revealing too many more details would only serve to spoil Waid and Robinson’s tight story.

The pleasure of “Family Business” is that it places Peter in a blockbuster action movie where the story slows down only enough to unload some secrets before tossing our hero and his sister back into the fire. The book moves from New York City to Monte Carlo to Cairo à la a James Bond film; Peter even sports a dashing tuxedo to fit in at a posh casino. Of course he proves himself a fish out of water, and the most human character in comics, when he attempts to play Roulette at a Baccarat table.

Peter: 22 black.
Dealer: This is Baccarat, sir.
Peter: Then I rescind my bet.

Dell'Edera and Dell'otto create a spectacular action sequence set on the rain-drenched streets of the Big Apple.

Dell’Edera and Dell’otto create a spectacular action sequence set on the rain-drenched streets of the Big Apple.

Dell’Edera creates exciting pages, from his angled panels and inset panels, to his ability to construct thrilling action sequences. Dell’otto beautifully paints over Dell’Edera’s pencils, bringing his unmistakable visual style to this expertly illustrated book. The opening action sequence has Spider-Man taking out some thugs trying to sell black-market laundry detergent, which is unusual but it is used for some classic Spidey one-liners and to complicate matters. Dell’Edera has our hero crawling, swinging, and dodging bullets, always finding the most exciting angles and positioning of his characters. The artist has an exceptionally strong eye for action.

In the same scene, Dell’otto convincingly paints it as though New York is being plummeted by rain while Spider-Man attempts to subdue the criminals. The painter masterfully captures the water splashing against the tires of the escape vehicle as Spider-Man pursues it, himself being pelted by huge droplets. Dell’otto is called upon to paint manmade weather conditions during a scene in a casino and the result is superb. Again, Dell’Edera draws a fearsome action sequence featuring a B-list villain and Dell’otto brings a convincing sense of movement, transforming airborne casino chips and ice cubes into deadly objects.

Peter and Teresa meet with Emile Chigaru, a man who operated as Richard and Mary’s mission controller. He brings the two up to speed on their parents and provides them with details on why anyone would be hunting down the Parkers’ offspring. One emotionally resonant piece of dialogue comes when Emile says the following of Richard: “Unbearably courageous. Though your father had an odd habit – when he was in the middle of action and danger – he’d make jokes and wisecracks. Can you imagine?” Peter looks down, having just learned that his father had indeed passed something down to his son.

The Parkers are eventually led straight into the clutches of the Kingpin and Mentallo where all truths are revealed and a battle ensues to protect Cairo from total destruction. Waid and Robinson have built a solid “Spider-Man” story, stuffing a ridiculous amount of action within a conservative amount of space (the book is 99 pages). Dell’Edera and Dell’otto’s artwork is sensational and they bring the same amount of exuberance to their work as the writers have.

“Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business” is a mostly light and totally satisfying read, and a perfect reminder of the entertaining Giant-Size one-shots and Annuals of our youth.

Grade: B+

Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business
Written by: Mark Waid and James Robinson
Art: Werther Dell’Edera
Colors: Gabriele Dell’otto
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Original Publication Date: April 2014
Pages: 99 pages

You can find this book at one of the following recommended retailers:

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