(w) Chip Zdarsky (a) Mark Bagley (i) Drew Hennessy (c) Frank D’armata
After months of hype and buildup, the first issue of Spider-Man: Life Story arrived with a resounding thud. It wasn’t necessarily bad; it just failed to meet expectations. After an underwhelming issue, Spider-Man: Life Story #2 is a course correction by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley, that is to say, it truly shook the pillars of Spider-Man’s history.
Life Story #2 picks up in the 1970s, with Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy happily married. Already, this is a diversion from Spidey’s life as we know it, and a fulfillment of the love that was robbed of Peter in “The Night Gwen Stacy Died.” Now in his 30s, Peter’s priorities have changed as a result of maturation. Though it is a stark difference compared to where he was in the previous issue, it nonetheless feels organic thanks to Zdarsky’s capable writing.
The book also touches on Spidey’s supporting cast and how they’ve progressed in life. Harry Osborn and Mary Jane are engaged, but their relationship appears strained. There are clear cracks in a weak foundation, and as a result Mary Jane lashes out at Peter for trying to play the role of both hero (as Spider-Man) and coward (as Peter). Though harsh on the surface, it underscores her emotional pain for essentially “settling” for Harry, who is frequently high or passed out due to a cocktail of drugs when he’s not running Norman Industries.
Harry himself is the most like his character was in the 1970s, resentful of Spider-Man but still best buddies with Peter. This is the heart of this issue’s conflict, serving as a catalyst for a nod to the Original Clone Saga and other classic tales of the era. This is all wonderfully executed by Zdarsky and Bagley, the latter of whom shows a marked improvement over the previous issue.
Because Peter and the others are much older than they were in Life Story #1, Mark Bagley’s art no longer looks to be a rehash of his Ultimate Spider-Man work. Credit is also due to inker Drew Hennessy and colorist Frank D’armata. Together, the trio’s vision creates a grimy, grittier version of New York City that is appropriate for the time period. This is especially evident when the book looks to incorporate cultural touchstones such as the opening of Studio 54. But even something as simple as the characters’ clothing is done right, building up a world for readers to immerse themselves in.
Spider-Man: Life Story #2 is a big leap in the right direction for the miniseries, thanks in large part to improved art and the 10 year time jump. While understandable from a story perspective, the creative team perhaps played it too safe with the 1960s college setting. With Peter Parker and his friends thrust fully into adulthood, Zdarsky and Bagley are free to divert from the traditional Spider-Man formula to great effect. Should the rest of the series play out like this one, Spider-Man: Life Story has the potential to be an all-time classic.