“Funny how much I’ve missed this…You get so busy saving the world you forget how fun a simple night of crime-fighting can be.”
The Parkers want to kick back with Family Fun Night, but The Sandman has other plans! Can they save the day and get back to the talking animals?
WRITER: Gerry Conway
ARTIST: Nathan Stockman
COLORIST: Jesus Aburtov
LETTERER: VC’s Clayton Cowles
COVER ARTISTS: Ryan Stegman & Tamra Bonvillain
VARIANT COVER ARTISTS: Humberto Ramos & Edgar Delgado
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
EDITOR: Darren Shan
SPIDER-MAN created by STAN LEE & STEVE DITKO
STORY: As it’s Tuesday, Annie points out that it’s Family Fun Night and drags her parents out to Bouncy Bunny, who are accompanied by Gloria Grant and her son, Jermaine. Meanwhile, in a shifty part of town, The Sandman is planning his latest heist. Also meanwhile, in a better part of town, little Normie Osborn is dissecting Peter’s camera drone, but is interrupted by an interview, conducted by Betty Brandt. As the Parkers and Grants have fun, Sandman winds up pulling a job at the bank next door. The Spider-Family swing in and stop the heist, but one of the gang gets away, bringing a special item to Normie that will potentially spell doom for Spidey.
THOUGHTS: Hey, there, Crawlspacers and Web-heads! Brawl In The Family continues on with a story that feels more like a standalone than an epilogue or continuing chapter. Ryan Stegman graces us with his usual energy filled cover, with the characters practically exploding off the page!
However, Stegman’s spectacular art does not grace the inside of the book. Filling in this month is Nathan Stockman. When I first saw the preview pages, I wasn’t terribly thrilled. There was an over-the-top cartoonishness that didn’t suit my tastes. Upon reading the book, though, I had a softening of heart. As I looked through it and started to analyze, I could see the craft that Stockman was putting into it.
It comes down to little nuances. The forced smiles on Pete and MJ’s faces as they realize what a night at Bouncy Bunny entails, the guy vomiting outside Vinnie’s Place, the picture of the Mole Man’s T-Rex chasing Spidey. Stockman perfectly captures the youthful chaos of a place like Bouncy Bunny Buns ‘n’ Burgers-you’ve got the animal band on stage, kids climbing where they’re not supposed to, some throwing a tantrum, and the joy of diving into the ball pit.
Stockman demonstrates his storytelling chops by blending in onomatopoeia with his art and some interesting two page spreads, a few of which have a central image spreading over and across the top, with smaller panels below. He also uses splash pages to great effect, having the Sandman leap out at Spidey in one, and closing out the issue with the Spider-Family dog piled on top of each other after a long day. It’s a great final shot, portraying the love the Parkers have for each other and the soul that has been missing from the Spider-Verse side of Marvel for a very long time.
Gerry Conway seems to be just having a ball this issue. He maintains a light, playful tone throughout, adding whimsy even to his scene settings. I heard that old cartoon announcer voice in my head when I read, “Meanwhile, in a shifty part of town…”
In addition to having fun, he also establishes some things. We learn that Peter and MJ are in their 30’s, Normie is 10, and Harry is dead. I don’t say definitely dead because one never knows with a Goblin. Normie is that creepy type of little kid where you wonder if he had anything to do with Harry’s demise or if it stays true to Spectacular #200. Regardless, Evil Normie is Evil…and infatuated with Spiderling.
Sandman is the villain du jour this issue. Like The Mole Man before him, his dialogue is borderline farcical. Sandman has a Biff Tanner-like gift for mangling phrases and sayings, seemingly keeping him in line with the simpleton he was portrayed as in the first issue’s backup. Of course, this time out his depiction is a little more menacing and I don’t see him babysitting for the Parkers any time soon.
In contrast, Peter, MJ, Betty, and Gloria all seem like real, relatable people. Their dialogue is in stark opposition to how the villains are portrayed. They talk about ordinary, mundane things, compared to the bad guys, who tend to be grandiose and in love with the sound of their own voices. The important thing to take away is how down to earth the Parkers are, how your average Joe or (Mary) Jane can put themselves in their shoes and see an aspect of their lives, with the obvious exception of spinning webs.
It’s these moments of being “normal” where Conway really shines and makes Peter feel like Peter and Spidey feel like Spidey. The jokes are still there in costume and while he may no longer be a solitary web-slinger, he is still using his brain and his team to his advantage, taking down the threat quickly.
I wouldn’t call this story part 5 of “Brawl”, but classify it as one of the comics of old-a done in one where plot threads from prior issues get continued. Give Stockman a chance on art and let Conway tell his tale and you’ll be sure to find some enjoyment.
MY GRADE: B+
JAVI’S HUH?: When do we get a name for Annie’s Superior Spider-Sense? Is this something Professor X will address next issue?