(Marvel Comics, 2013)
Review by Shawn Warner
Written by David Morrell
Artwork by Klaus Janson
Color Artwork by Steve Buccellato
Peter Parker has returned! Well, sort of anyway. It’s not a full-fledged re-establishment of Amazing Spider-Man but it is a five issue mini-series set in the time before Spider-Man became superior, back when he was just amazing and Peter was in the suit as well as the body of our favorite wall-crawling, web-spinning, wise-cracking, non-lethal, friendly neighborhood you-know-who. More than just a short-term nostalgic romp, this series promises to be poignant and gripping and with the first two issues being created by the legendary Klaus Janson and First Blood author, David Morrell, it is off to an awesome start.
As a life-long reader of Spider-Man, this story immediately feels comfortable, the dialogue rings true, the characterizations are spot-on and the artwork is fan-bleeping-tastic! Morrell nails Peter’s personality with his pervasive sense of inadequacy, the self-imposed condemnation over his perceived failure to prevent Uncle Ben’s senseless slaying and the overall angst that blankets his world, driving him beyond the great responsibility that is intrinsically interconnected to his great power. All the classic, well-loved Spider-Man tropes and stellar cast of supporting characters find their way into this first issue; the gruff, hard-nosed, Spidey-hating J. Jonah Jameson and his insatiable desire to see the heroic Web-Slinger fall from grace, the selfless Aunt May and her loving, doting way of taking care of her grown nephew and then there is the perpetually exhausted Peter and his uber-hectic lifestyle as he tries diligently to orchestrate his roles as citizen, employee, friend, loved one and masked crime-fighting hero into a schedule that won’t kill him. There are no big battles or deep reaching conspiracies to take over companies or even a single masked villain in this issue in fact the only real foe is severe weather. This narrative deals instead with themes of altruism, self-sacrifice and gallantry, all of which are personified not only by Spider-Man but by those with whom he surrounds himself. Whether or not Peter gets to face an adversary from his considerable and diverse rogues’ gallery is inconsequential to the poetry and simple yet extremely poignant beauty of this story. This is a tale of a hero’s love for those he has sworn to protect and the introspection that is sometimes taken for granted but comes to the forefront when things slow down under the weight of a snow storm. I couldn’t help but think about Zero Year the first time I read this issue and the similar situations these heroes are placed in when they are faced with a natural adversity as opposed to a single or team of physical foes, the feelings of insignificance they must contend with as nature’s rage threatens their respective cities is one of the only times we can truly understand how it feels to be a super hero, in our inability to overcome nature we become equal.
Visually Klaus Janson has created a masterpiece; his ability to capture a near-limitless range of emotions through attention to the most subtle details is indisputably genius. His visceral approach to storytelling adds a dimension of sincerity that few artists have obtained with flashier styles. There are no gimmicks here, just classic line work, authentic character design, a deep understanding and respect for anatomy coupled with dynamic posing and page composition. These are the elements of a well-conceived and executed comic book, pure professionalism by one of the industry’s best. This is, without a doubt, one of the best looking books of the year and I can’t wait for the next issue.
Although nothing earth shattering transpires in this issue, it is certainly well worth picking up for the sincere story and superb artwork. I enjoyed this book immensely and recommend it to any and all comic book readers, if you are enjoying Dan Slott’s current Spider-Man story (which I definitely am) but you miss the old Spidey (which I definitely do) this is a perfect book for you. It’s like spending some time with a dearly missed old friend, a friend who was bitten by an irradiated spider thus gaining the proportional strength and agility of a spider, but a friend none the less and that’s an amazing thing for just $3.99. As Marvel is about to swing into the next stage of Marvel Now it is nice to have a book like this to remember just why it is that we love these stories and characters so much. So until next time see you at your friendly neighborhood comic book store. (5/5)
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629