Current Reviews


Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #3

Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2005
By: David Wallace

ďThe Other: Evolve or Die, Part 7 of 12: Bowing to the InevitableĒ

Writer: J. Michael Stracynski
Artists: Mike Wieringo (p), Karl Kesel (i), Paul Mounts (colours)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Stracynski gets his first crack of the whip on "The Other" with this issue, and whilst I wish I could say that the quality has taken a massive leap, we do at least get a stronger sense of where this has all been going than previous issues have provided. As the sudden and convenient appearance of the police at the scene of Spider-Manís defeat last issue scares Morlun off (rather surprisingly, for a character of such raw power), Peter is rushed to hospital. Whilst Morlun tracks him down, the ďSpiderĒ element of Spider-Man works hard to inspire a final ditch attempt to kill Morlun, lending new and freaky spider-like abilities to our hero in order to tip the odds in his favour, even as his injuries conspire to finish him off too. The writing of this issue takes a few liberties with time and space in order to make the story work, as weíre expected to just accept that it takes roughly the same amount of time for Morlun to track Peter to the hospital as it does for Mary Jane to arrive (ahead of the Avengers!) to make an attempt to save his life by taking on Morlun herself. That said, it does set up a strong enough reason for our hero to spring into action from his deathbed, and Iíve always enjoyed the strength of emotion that Peterís romantic connection to Mary Jane allows the character to display.

However, there are a couple of other story elements which donít quite work for me: I was disappointed to see Morlunís role in the story so prematurely curtailed, still waiting as we are for an explanation of how he came back from the dead in the first place and why no-one in the story but Spidey could see him for five issues. He seems out-of-character in his casual abandonment of Spider-Manís body in the issueís opening pages, heís written as less cold and emotionless than he has been in the past, and the rapidity of his defeat at the hands of an equally out-of-character Spidey was a bit of a let-down for me. There was also a slight sense of anticlimax to the issueís finale, as whilst JMS writes a heartfelt and emotional few pages in the aftermath of Peterís ďdeathĒ and has Wieringo produce a beautiful and emotive final splash page to sell the idea, the drama is ultimately undercut by the fact that we know that Peter isnít really dead in any real sense. Still, this development does at least draw a very clear line under Spider-Manís old life in preparation for JMSí presumed re-invention of the character at the end of this story Ė but Iím dubious as to how permanent any of the changes made are really going to be. Personally, Iím not really that keen on seeing Peter get more ďspiderishĒ powers or undergoing some freaky rebirth from a cocoon (as next issueís cover suggests), because (A) It sets him further apart from his "everyman" image than a marriage to a supermodel could ever achieve, and (B) the same idea was used very recently in another Spider-Man title, with less than stellar results. Still, Iíve seen mediocre ideas turned into better-than-average stories by talented writers before, and Iíll stay open-minded about the conclusion to this story until I read it.

I was surprised just how well Mike Wieringo captured the dark tone of this issue, as although Iíve enjoyed his artwork on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man so far, itís always stuck to the lighter, more cartoony side of the character. Paul Mountsí colours also do a lot of work to establish an eerie and sinister atmosphere in the issueís pivotal hospital scenes, and Wieringoís pencils portray a suitably gruesome fight between Peter and Morlun, as Peteís new Spider-abilities are revealed. That said, there seems to be an unusual amount of gore and graphic violence in this issue (did we really need to see a close-up of Peteís mashed facial features before he gets rushed to hospital?). This is also true of the cover art, which is pretty brutal for an all-ages Spider-Man book. Indeed, it has to be said that this issue is a pretty violent and scary read for a series which Marvel has promoted as a more child-friendly Spider-Man title. Perhaps this is another reason why the entire story might have worked better as a shorter arc, in one title, under one single creative team to bind it all together.

This issue isnít a bad read, but itís a continuation of an overlong story which is only just beginning to go somewhere and has suffered from the uneven mix of creators who have had a hand in the story so far. I do think that JMSí ďSpider-TotemĒ angle has merit and Iíve been one of the minority of readers who welcome the fresh take on the character, but Iím still not certain if Spider-Man can suffer quite such an extreme and nasty reinvention whilst staying true to the essence of his character. Still, Iím sure JMS has plans to rein "The Other" back to end up with a Peter Parker who isnít that dissimilar to the one we started with... I just dread to think what Pat Lee will make of such a delicate story next issue.

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