A Tangled Web: What An Icon Means In ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ #534

by Tony Thornley

Captain America is a lot of things to a lot of people. One of the best explorations of that by far comes from the time that Cap and Spider-Man found themselves on the opposite sides of one of the Marvel Universe’s most famous conflicts.

I’m not going to give any false pretenses. Civil War is a seminal crossover event, and the inspiration of probably the best of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. It’s also not very good. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Many of the tie-ins, unlike the core series, were very good. Amazing Spider-Man was the best example of that, as were its sister titles Friendly Neighborhood and Sensational. But I wanted to pick out one issue in particular here.

In Amazing Spider-Man #534 we see an exploration of how Peter Parker sees Steve Rogers. It’s a story that still resonates for many readers, and leads into the biggest turn in the event. It’s all thanks to J. Michael Straczynski, Ron Garney, Bill Reinhold, Matt Milla, and Cory Petit.

In the wake of the battle that claimed the life of Goliath, Peter Parker is questioning everything about the position he’s taken. He’s troubled by Tony Stark’s methods more than his words. However, a routine mission pushes him further away when he finds himself face to face with Captain America.

Now, this isn’t the famous issue where the quote “no, you move” comes from. That’s a few issues down the line. That’s one that’s worth talking about later down the road. However this issue covers more about Peter Parker’s perspective on Steve Rogers, and who he is, what he represents. 

Straczynski gets it here, and puts it on the page. This arc is his best work after John Romita Jr left the series, largely it’s about Peter questioning right and wrong. It gets that point across almost perfectly. Where it falls short though is not in the right and wrong, but WHAT is wrong. 

It’s not about the registration law, which realistically is not just smart but what SHOULD be happening. The story needed to talk about the methods being the problem, which is never really made clear. That’s probably the biggest problem of all of Civil War, and we just really don’t get that point across to us the readers.

Garney and Reinhold tell a very different story than Straczynski does, and it works. While Peter has his internal debate, we get an action-packed fight between Spider-Man and Captain America. One of the best things about it is that they makes it clear that Cap has the upper hand the entire fight, and Peter’s desperation comes across in his body language. He knows that the fight is out of control, and it nearly drives him over the edge in one tense moment.

Most readers think of the later conversation between Steve and Peter as the high point in the Civil War tie-ins. Frankly, they’re right. However, this issue lays the groundwork for it in a nearly perfect issue. I had really started to feel Straczynski was losing his touch back when this run was being released, but here we saw the best that Spider-Man could be, and very nearly the worst.

Amazing Spider-Man #534 is collected in Civil War: Amazing Spider-Man and is a commonly available issue to track down in your local comic book store. It’s also available via Comixology.

We’d like to ask, on behalf of our friends and colleagues that own and are employed by comic shops, that you first try to get these books at your local shop. This is a very uncertain time for owners, employees, and their families. Show some love for your community and friends by buying from your regular shop when possible and safe.

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