Marvel is marketing this new Spider-man title as a return to classic Spider-Man stories. Like the marriage this is something long time fans have been after. With the recent Free Comic Book Day event we got a teaser taste of this new series. So let us see if we got what we wanted or if it’s a case of being careful what you wish for.
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Colouritst: Frank D’armata
Editors: Allison Stock and Nick Lowe
Free Comic Book Day.
First off a little context for those not in the know. Free Comic Book Day is an event held the first Saturday of May around the World. It is a day that retailers can choose to participate. Retailers can purchase special books for the day. Yes I said purchase, the retailers do indeed buy these books to distribute but they are at costs greatly reduced than that of a normal comic order. Still the cost of shipping that much paper alone can be expensive so please be kind to your retailer on FCBD. The retailer gives out the books for free. Different stores have different tacts to how they distribute the books. Some stores it is one book person, or multiple, some stores even allow as many as you want. The main idea is anyone who drops by the store gets a free comic(s). Now publishers have different tactics for creating these books. Often they are reprints of existing material. Sometimes they are previews of upcoming events and probably the least frequent but most appreciated are those that do New Martial just for the day. This is something Marvel has been really good at. Of recent they have actually been doing multiple books with new content, which is great.
Now I work the FCBD event every year at a local comic store here in Melbourne. All Star Comics. It is an amazing store if you allow me to humble brag about my LCS. The won an Eisner award for the spirit of retail. An amazing feet for a store that only opened its doors in 2011. FCBD is a huge event at the store are they literally have lines around block (and I do mean literally the city block), they turn an alley way in Melbourne into an artists alley and there is a sense of a comics carnival as we take over the streets of Melbourne in costume as thousands come through the door for some comics love. Now I work the line outside every year and it never fails to amaze the wide arrange of books people are interested. Every book has its fan. The Marvel books though are almost always on everyone’s list. Marvel does do a good job of tying in books that will grab folk’s attention at the time. This years there was Guardians of the Galaxy with a Defenders back up and a Secret Empire book with a Spectacular Spider-Man back up. While these where the biggest books of the day neither books to me seemed more popular than the other as it seemed everyone grabbing one (which was most folks) where grabbing the other. The diverse crowd grabbing these books also range equally from Wednesday warriors, trade waiters right through to folks new to comics
Q) Why am I talking about this and not the book ?!?
A) Its important to understand this book is possibly the most read issue of Spider-man this year. More fresh eyes are on this story than have been on a Spidey in print story in some time. It not only has to meet long-term fans expectations but grab new readers as well. Also in reviewing this book I do need to look at it from both these perspectives.
Peter and Mary Jane are out to brunch catching up when Peter is called away to apprehend the vulture who just robbed a bank. An aerial battle takes place but a female antagonist claiming to be The new Trapster stops the two with a glue trap and proceeds to rob them. Cut to post credit style last page of two shield agents monitoring the situation and are not pleased with what they are seeing.
MJ and Peter. Straight off the bat this book feels like home, with MJ and Peter having a catch up like friends do. Now this spin off book is continuity so MJ is working at Stark Industries, which is brought up, established and quickly brushed aside. For new readers it is quickly introduced that this Peter Parker is Spider-Man. I appreciate most of the banter going on here. MJ not wanting to talk about Spider-Man adventures, Peter not wanting to hear about her dating life. This did feel like not only two friends catching up but friends that had a history together which has been missing in a lot of interaction we have seen between the two in recent years with out it just being forced mentions of “remember when.” I smirked at a lot of humour Peter drops, such as the new Hammerhead having a hammer tongue. I did however feel that Peter telling Mary Jane to pronounce Spider-Man with the hyphen and that it’s a company’s copyrighted name edged a little to close to Deadpool style humour than Spider-Man’s. Now one could argue the way MJ was saying it was just a sped up version of pronouncing it were it sounded more like ‘Spadermen’.
We cut this conversation up short though as an explosion happens and Peter has to take off to save the day. I love how MJ does not blink one iota at this once again nailing their history.
Peter taking off down the ally and ripping his shirt open is very Superman style and I can hear the heroic music in my ears as I turn the page a BOOM! Beautiful half double page spread of Spidey swinging into battle and I am in awe of this heroic image of Spider-Man. I can honestly say this has emblazoned so much on me its one of the greatest spider-man panels of modern time for capturing so much in a single issue. This is beautiful page direction and a gorgeous way to kick off a Spider-Man run. Sadly though, at least for my personal tastes, Peter is still in the current Spider-Man outfit. There are both Pros and Cons to this. For some of us old time fans this suit is not our cup of tea coming from the Parker Industry story arc. As this book is meant to be a departure from the style of story going on there in the main book it does feel a little odd having its representation here. On the plus side it does ground this book into current continuity. These stories can matter and potentially impact in the grand story of Peter Parker.
So the main villain of the story is Adrian Tombs AKA the Vulture. Now to be honest the Vulture has never ranked highly on my list of Spidey villains. Not that I dislike him either he just never really grabbed my attention. Most people would be able to work out why they used this character in the FCBD issue. It is to tie in with his big screen debut in Spidey’s first solo MCU theatrical outing. Because Vulture is getting a lot of screen time of recent I do feel that I have been thinking about him more than I ever have. I really like that Vulture like other great Spidey villains really allows for strong aerial battles. Swinging in the air on a web is something very unique to Spider-man so any villain that emphasis what makes Spider-man unique is a great thing in a book that could be someone’s first Spider-man. Not to mention we do get a sense of age being a theme of the issue, hence the title “Time Flies.” Spidey berates Adrian about how old he is just as the Trapster will later on to a now old Spider-man.
The Vulture is more tech’d out here in a new suit which while tying into the movie vulture does help me enjoy him more here as it helps make him more of a credible threat than past incarnations have been.
We get a brief intro to the mew Trapster, a millennial villain. I was pleased that while this series gave us something old we also got something new. For anyone who also follows my SM/DP reviews you know I am an advocate for an increase in female Spidey villains. I was a little disappointed that Peter is falling more into the Deadpool fourth wall humour again with the spelling of “Trapstr” but on my second read it was no way near as fourth wall breaking as I remembered. What I really dug about this new villain is this almost missed line about leaving some money from the pile she was stealing off the Vulture so that when her trap wore off they would still fight each other for it hence giving her more time to escape. Such a simple line that creates a great sense of interesting character inner workings here. In one page I know she is smart, cunning and witty.
So we see on the last page SHIELD agents monitoring the situation but most of the dialog is cryptic and foreboding future issues. I do like the sense they are rogue from regular shield and this could be a different story than we have seen before from Spidey/SHIELD team ups.
Paulo Siqueira on art does an amazing job. This is one of the most Dynamic Spidey books I have seen in awhile. The Vulture / Spidey fight moves across the page from left to right only veering direction as it comes to a halt. The uses of larger panels are perfectly budgeted for impact and reveals, many of which are after a page flips adding influence. This is some masterful sequential art story telling here that is just so good you might not notice it at first. Paulo has some nice body language in the brunch scene that works nicely too. You can read exactly how those lines are to be read by looking at the positioning and expression of the characters.
All in All
What can I say? This is one of the best Spidey issues in recent time. So much is crammed into these ten pages of story. I think it plays well to new and old fans alike and is a return to classic Spidey. The humour is near spot one in a medium its hard to write jokes for. I really want to give this book an A+. I really do but I do think that that should be saved for a masterpiece. Which as great as this book is, it just hasn’t had the room to grow just yet. Still with the amount of great story we have here and the incredible art , all for the incredible price of NOTHING ! It’s hard to deny this is a fantastic book and great value to boot. So while I give this issue an A please note that it is a strong A. hopefully this is just a warm up and once we get our first full issue I can hopefully ad a Plus to that A.
PS: Couldn’t work it into the review but at some point in the issue peter spills pasta sauce on his shirt. The cover to the first Spectacular issue is Peter opening his shirt like Superman. Well if you look at that shirt the pasta stain is there in the spot from this issue.