As though Spider-Man wasn't already busy enough with the Future Foundation, the Avengers, solo super-heroism and his regular job at Horizon Labs, it looks like he's about to take on yet another responsibility. In this August's Amazing Spider-Man #692, Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos are introducing Alpha: a sidekick for Marvel's flagship hero.

Check out a little speculation on what this might mean for Spider-Man and an eight-page preview of his first appearance after the cut!As strange as it might seem for Spider-Man to be taking on what Marvel's press release describes as a sidekick, it's not exactly out of character. As 150 issues of the classic Marvel Team-Up (and the current run of Avenging Spider-Man) will attest, he's one of the few characters who tends to work just as well when he's paired with other characters as he does when he's on his own. The difference is that Spider-Man usually gets played as the brash youngster of the pair, as opposed to an older, more mentoring figure. This time, though, when he's paired up with a kid who gains his powers at the same age that Peter Parker was when he got his fateful spider-bite that formula's going to be inverted in a pretty interesting way.

But even that's not unprecedented. Spider-Man's pitched in to help out younger heroes in the past, from the Prowler to Rocket Racer to the Slingers to his recent appearances in Avengers Academy. It's a pretty unusual choice given all that they've done over the past few years to recast Peter Parker as a "younger" character -- most notably ditching his marriage to Mary Jane in the pages of "One More Day" -- but at the same time, giving him a character to play off that can reflect his own development is always an interesting choice.

Especially given how Slott characterizes Andy Maguire in his opening page -- modeled after the first page of Spider-Man's origin in Amazing Fantasy #15 -- with the line "this young man is no Peter Parker." It could be that Peter's goal of mentoring a kid in the same position as he was is doomed to failure from the start, or maybe it's just an indication that having Spider-Man around to tell him how it is is going to mean that Andy won't need his uncle to die before he realizes you shouldn't be a jerk with your super-powers.

Either way, it's a pretty interesting development that's already been met with some interesting reactions. CA's David Brothers pointed out on Twitter that Alpha's real name is a combination of movie Spider-Man Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire (a pretty spectacular groaner), and film critic/Spider-Man fan Matt Singer noted that one of the things that originally made Peter Parker so unique was that he was a teenage character who wasn't a sidekick.

Matt Wilson, the co-host of the War Rocket Ajax podcast who lists Spider-Man as his favorite character, is a little more skeptical:

"The thing about Spider-Man is that he's got the world on his shoulders. He takes the responsibility on himself so no one else has to. I'd think he'd tell this kid to go home and forget he has powers, because Peter Parker would hate to put anyone in danger, let alone be responsible for him seeing harm."

Meanwhile, CA editor Caleb Goellner was just upset that Alpha is not, in fact, Alpha 5, the worrisome robot that used to assist the Power Rangers.

As for me, I'm optimistic. I've enjoyed Slott's run on Amazing quite a bit up to this point, especially in how he's used Peter's supporting cast to create a rich, compelling story. If nothing else, there's a lot of potential in there for a new character. Of course, giving Spidey a sidekick eight issues before a big anniversary at #700 seems just a bit ominous. Hope you survive the experience, Alpha!

Amazing Spider-Man #692 hits your local comic book shop and the Marvel digital app on August 22 as the start of a four-part story.

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