There but for the death of Ben goes Peter.
For the 50th anniversary of the ol' Web-head, Dan Slott gives us a sort of what-if story in Amazing Spider-Man #693, letting us know the kind of person Peter Parker would have become if his Uncle Ben hadn't met with horrific tragedy that Peter was indirectly responsible for. We tend to view Peter these days as a paragon of virtue, an unshakable moral compass and a role model for any kid out there, but if you recall, his initial use of his newfound super powers was in pursuit of money and fame. What if he'd never wavered from that course?
Well, you'd probably get Alpha, aka Andy Maguire, the little over-powered punk that's giving Peter fits right now.
Last issue, we saw the nobody kid become superhuman at a science exhibit hosted by Parker, who now feels responsible for him. However, Maguire has instantly begun to take advantage of this by hooking up with his high school crush and becoming the spokesman for Horizon Labs – instant money and fame. With his parents in constant consultation with their lawyer to try and encourage him to exploit the hell out of this and maximize his new career profit potential, he's got nothing close to a role model – save for Spider-Man, and that's a guy he's brushed off as HIS sidekick, now that he knows he's an "alpha level" powerbroker. He doesn't even stay with his crush for long enough to enjoy it, because he cheats on her immediately with the head cheerleader Paula Lake and barely even bothers to explain it. "C'mon. She's a cheerleader," he says to the broken-hearted Chrissy.
Andy Maguire is a total dickhead. And that's exactly who Peter Parker would have been if not for the tragedy that defined his life. Peter even says so, admitting to Mary Jane "have you ever met anyone more self-centered than me?" At first, you dismiss that due to his heroism and selflessness, but how often is Peter completely wrapped up in his own head, anaylzing and over-analyzing, assuming guilt whenever possible? That's what he does, and it's often why we can identify with him, but he does get focused on his own problems quite a bit – which he realizes he's doing by complaining about his self-centeredness to MJ, forgetting that Alpha doesn't have a secret identity, which means BAD GUYS will be threatening the kid he hates but feels duty-bound to try and mentor.
That bad guy is the Jackal, who has a keen interest in genetic malarkey (and messing with Peter's head) and wants to clone the kid. So he kidnaps him and his whole family. Spidey manages to rescue them, but the whole experience shocks Andy's parents into realizing the dangerous world their son has stepped into, but Andy himself doesn't learn the right lesson at all. He emancipates himself from his parents, takes control of his fortune, moves into a penthouse and starts hooking up with Katy Perry (or some other purple-haired pop star/model). Thus, Peter deems him unworthy and starts working on a way to depower him… which seems like a betrayal that's going to set the kid into supervillainy.
Humberto Ramos is aces once again, bringing his uniquely kinetic style to the proceedings and giving Maguire a hairdo that ensures that we hate him. Maguire is certainly annoying, but Slott is planning it this way, illustrating the strange alternate reality that Peter could have existed in, and making it an extremely frustrating cracked-mirror for him to look into. This kid doesn't really seem to have anybody in his life who would affect him strongly enough if they died to give him an Uncle Ben moment of truth. It's just as hard for Peter to remember that and not hate him as it is for us.
Amazing Spider-Man #693 is interesting even while being off-putting, and Slott's walking a very tight rope with keeping it that way while featuring a character as annoying as Maguire. Let's hope he keeps it going with Part 3 next time out, because we REALLY want to see this brat learn a lesson or twelve.