“Honestly Peter, I don’t know how you balance it all.”
Writer: Robbie Thompson
Artist: Nick Bradshaw
Color Artist: Jim Campbell
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Editors: Axel Alonso, Devin Lewis, & Nick Lowe
Peter’s grades improve, he fights the lizard and becomes more responsible!
Story: In the recap page of this issue, Peter informs us of a lesson that Uncle Ben taught him (not that lesson): “‘If you’re not balanced… you fall over. So keep it simple Peter: Don’t fall over.'” This idea of balance serves as the theme for the issue. Afterwards the story then follows Peter through his time in school. Peter’s history grades improve but this results in Flash tormenting him further because Peter has rose above the curve in history class. Peter thinks about defending himself against Flash but reasons against it because he believes that it will go against Uncle Ben’s “balance” teachings and expose his secret identity.
Peter returns home to see Aunt May struggling to pay off her bills. Peter looks on in distress and offers his assistance . Aunt May tells him that school is more important then Peter getting a job to help her out. Peter however is determined to not let her carry the burden alone.
Although Peter manages to find a job as a Pizza deliverer, he has to abandon his work in mid-route in order to stop a swarm of lizards from destroying the city. So Peter suits up to take on the lizard swarm and discovers an underground lab. Within the lab Doctor Curt Connors a.k.a the Lizard confronts Spidey and the reader gets through narration the Lizard’s origin story. Spidey’s narration explains that Dr. Connors was an army medic who lost his arm and developed a serum that revived his arm but also turned him into the Lizard. The narration also informs us that this is not Spidey’s first encounter with the Lizard. In their first encounter Spidey managed to develop a cure for the Dr. Connors and bring him to jail.
Spidey and the Lizard battle moves to above ground. The Lizard manages to escape but Spidey decides against pursuing him and instead captures the loose lizards rampaging throughout the city. Spidey captures the remaining lizards and tries to sell them to a zookeeper. The zookeeper tells him that can make more money selling pictures of them to National Geographic. From the zookeeper’s advice Peter gets the idea to sell his Spider-Man pictures to the Daily Bugle.
The comic book issue concludes with Peter giving Aunt May money and showing her that his pictures made it on the front page of the Daily Bugle. Aunt May tells him that she is proud of him. To her praise he replies that he is just living up to Uncle Ben’s lessons.
Analysis: The Spidey comics # 1-3 all follow the same pattern in terms of story structure. A theme is introduced as lesson from an adult to Peter, Peter has some problem at school, he then uses the theme/lesson as inspiration to fight a villain, and then he has a moment at the end with Aunt May. Consistency can be a good thing but when the story structure of each issue is so similar it gets boring.
Furthermore, these Spidey comics have all been essentially Spider-Man clichés with identical Spider-Man stories available in other comic books. For example there is a I Can Read Spider-Man story that resembles closely Spidey’s and the Lizard’s first encounter backstory. The other two issues like this one feels like snapshots of Spider-Man stories rather than fleshed out stories.
Although the Spidey issues are trite and shallow they are child and new reader friendly. New readers and children will be able to grasp some classic Spider-Man troupes such as the importance of responsibility, setting priorities, and being a part of something bigger than yourself. However, the writing is not the best, there are huge gaps in the dialogue and narration that requires the reader to rely on huge assumptions in order to follow the story. The mediocre writing combined with the fact that this book cost $3.99 means that there are better and cheaper books out there that could be given to a child or new reader.
This review will expand on the points I have laid out and specifically apply them to Spidey#3.
Pros: (1) The artwork is bright, crisp, and simple. These elements work well for Spidey because it is a simple and straightforward story (maybe too simple). The artwork captures the essence of a book that brings Spider-Man bring back to the basics. I especially like the Mysterio page that follows the recap page.
(2) The art also does a good job of capturing the anguish on Peter’s face as he sees his Aunt struggling to pay off her bills. Additionally the reader can see through Peter’s expression when he takes on the added responsibility of helping out with the bills that it weighs on him.
(3)The scene with Peter deciding to help his Aunt May out is a powerful scene. Although this is a scene that is shown in other Spider-Man stories it is a scene that makes Peter/Spidey a more relatable character. I wish that this issue had dwelled more on this scene.
(4) Peter’s characterization has been consistent. He works constantly works to improve myself. In this issue he manages to improve his grades and finds a way to help Aunt May. Furthermore like in Spidey#2, he is aware of his surroundings when fighting villains. In when fighting he will be protect innocent bystanders even it in puts him in a disadvantageous position.
(5) The scene with Peter delivering a pizza on a bike captures how it really is as a cyclist in New York City. It is hectic and scary riding a bike on a busy street like one’s found in New York City.
Cons: (1) Having a new theme for each comic issue is unwise for a Spider-Man comic. It is unwise because in introducing a new theme or moral for Peter to learn it undermines the main theme (“With Great Power must also come great responsibility”) that is suppose to drive Peter/Spider-Man forward. I believe it would be better if each story or at least in these early issues to reinforce the main theme and show how Peter applies it to each area of his life.
(2) The narration Spidey provides when in school does not start the issue on the right foot. The narration is as follows: “I could crush Flash and all his buddies. But if I do that? I lose the balance Uncle Ben always talked about it. I’ll lose it and fall. No more secret identity.” There is a grammatically error that makes the narration awkward. The use of “it” does not belong in the sentence “I lose the balance Uncle Ben always talked about it,” the sentence would read much better and make sense without it.
The second problem with the narration is that the narration does not follow logically. If Peter beats up Flash how does it lead to Peter’s identity being exposed? This leap in logic points to poor writing. To follow the story it requires that reader to make a huge assumption. I still do not buy how in defending himself he would be exposing his identity.
Final problem is that Peter is still getting bullied by Flash. I understand that he should not beat up Flash because it would be wrong but he could stop Flash from tormenting him. He could inform that history teacher that is concerned about his grades or at the very least try to reason with Flash (after all they used to be friends). It is even more puzzling because the Spidey comics has been didactic but it offers nothing for the bullying issue in Spidey. The Spidey creative team could have used this opportunity to teach children or anyone else reading to know how to confront bullying.
(3) So far his confrontation of the villains have never been his first encounter with them. In the first issue he met Doctor Octopus before, in the second issue he knew about the Sandman ahead of time and in this issue he already faced off against the Lizard and won. This issue may have been more impactful if this was their first encounter.
(4) None of the villains thus far have been interesting. The villains fall flat because they are not fleshed out and their motivations are either too simple or unclear. In terms of the Lizard, his motivation is very cliché. So Doctor Connors mutates himself into a giant Lizard and now he wants to get rid of all humans and replace them with lizards. The motivation is overused and unimaginative.
(5) Spidey slightly exposes his identity in fighting against the Lizard. “I like my friends being alive. Especially the ones who tutor me.” So if the Lizard can reason in his state he may be able to deduce that Peter is a student. He could deduce that maybe Spidey is a high school or college student. This is ironic given that earlier in the issue Peter refuses to defend himself because he did not want to expose his secret identity but here he partly exposes it.
(6) Spidey tells the Lizard that he is friend with his tutor. When did Gwen and Peter become friends. Did they become friends when Peter connected to Gwen over his Lord of the Rings reference in the last issue. It would be good if their relationship is shown rather then told to us.
(7) This issue glosses over moments that they should not have glossed over because if moments were expanded upon it would have improved the story. As mentioned above the issue glosses over Aunt May’s financial situation , it does not expand upon Gwen and Peter’s friendship and it also glosses over Peter’s employment. When Peter abandons his Pizza deliverer job, what happens after that? Does his boss call him and reprimand him? Does Peter have to pay for the pizza pie that he lost?
(8) Why doesn’t Flash have a tutor? He is worried over his grades to the point that he torments Peter. It would make sense that the person that needs tutoring the most is not the kid that has always been a good student but the student that is failing in both his science and history classes. Furthermore, Flash wears a football jersey which could mean that he is on the football and if that is a the case he needs to keep his grades up. Most schools have a policy that in order for students to stay on a school’s sports team is to keep their grades up.
(9) The final drawback is that Peter/Spidey is too competent. He is composed fighting villains, he has time to get tutored, and still has time to get a part time. How is he this good balancing his life? So far the Spidey comics have been misleading. The first issue sets up the comic book as one that would depict a young Peter Parker/Spider-Man who is inexperienced and insincere but the one that is presented is nothing like we were promised. Spidey/Peter has made no serious mistakes to learn from. Spidey/Peter always seems know what to do and do it well.
Reading this third issue has not made me change my mind about the Spidey ongoing series. I still believe there are better comics that serve the same purpose. This issue is ultimately forgettable and for that reason it gets a grade of a