Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2023 Cover
(Photo Credit: Marvel Comics.)

Comic Review: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (2023)

With two stories centered around a jail break from Limbo and a Fall of X tie-in, there is surprisingly little Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (2023).

Spider-Man Annuals Explained

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 1964 Cover
(Photo Credit: Marvel Comics.)

Annual issues are often used to tell special stories outside the scope of the usual monthly comic book series. The first Amazing Spider-Man Annual from 1964, for instance, marked the first appearance of the Sinister Six. This was the first time multiple villains joined forces to fight Spider-Man.

Annuals are also often used as a promotional tool, linking popular series to other books. 1964’s Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 also featured guest appearances by other Marvel Comics heroes. These cameos came with notes from Stan Lee telling True Believers what books to buy to see more of those characters.

The 2023 Amazing Spider-Man Annual leans more toward the latter style of annual. There are multiple text boxes instructing the reader as to what other comics they should be reading to understand this story. Unfortunately, this only highlights how very little happens in this issue.

A Finale For Hallows’ Eve and Dark Web

The first story of Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2023 centers around Janine Godbe. She is the long-time love-interest of Scarlet Spider Ben Reilly. During the Dark Web event, Janine became a Halloween themed anti-hero called Hallows’ Eve. As the name suggests, she gains her powers from a series of magical Halloween masks.

Janine wants to break Ben out of Limbo, where he’s currently imprisoned by the Goblin Queen Madelyne Pryor. None of this concerns Peter Parker, except he just happens to chase a demon into Limbo’s embassy on Earth at the same time as the jailbreak.

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2023 Page 15
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This subplot has some funny moments. Erica Schultz has a good handle on Spider-Man’s voice. There is also some ironic comedy with Madelyne Pryor complaining about the paperwork required in running a realm full of demons.

Unfortunately, the bits with Ben and Janine seem somewhat tacked-on. The whole subplot feels like a lost issue from Schultz’s Hallows’ Eve mini-series from earlier this year. It doesn’t help matters that nothing comes of the demon that Spider-Man was chasing.

Thankfully, the artwork for this section is fantastic. Artist Julian Shaw and colorist Andrew Dalhouse combine soft inks and tints to give the scenes in Limbo a striking ethereal quality. The lettering of VC’s Joe Caramagna is also good.

Spider-Man Vs. Mary Jane’s Aunt Anna

Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2023 Page 25
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The second story of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 centers around a birthday party for Mary Jane Watson‘s Aunt Anna. The beloved aunt goes berserk and starts trying to kill everyone, forcing Spidey to crash the party. Somehow, he loses a fight to the senior citizen. It is unclear from the art if this is because Anna somehow gained super-strength or if Peter was holding back.

In either case, Aunt Anna’s sudden madness is apparently tied to the Krakoan medication she’d been taking. This will presumably be a major storyline in the X-Men comics, but it doesn’t amount to much here. Writer Celeste Bronfman has a good ear for the characters. However, the comedy doesn’t outweigh the lackluster action.

The artwork for the second story does not compare well to the first. David Lopez‘s characters often look posed and unnatural and Lopez’s inability to choreograph a fight scene adds to the confusion regarding Spider-Man’s fight with Aunt Anna. The colors by KJ Diaz are good but do little to enhance the finished artwork.

The 2023 Amazing Spider-Man Annual can be easily skipped by most Spider-Man fans. Those seeking a continuation of the stories of Hallows’ Eve and Fall of X will enjoy it, but there is very little Spider-Man to be seen. A larger problem is the overall uneven level of quality between the two stories.

Rating: 5/10

Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1 (2023) is now available in comic shops everywhere.