Current Reviews


Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1

Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2005
By: David Wallace

“The Other: Evolve or Die, Part 1 of 12: Shock”

Writer: Peter David
Artist: Mike Wieringo (p), Karl Kesel (i), Paul Mounts (colours)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

The buzz on this crossover has hardly approached House of M or Infinite Crisis levels, but there’s definitely been a quiet anticipation of this first issue of "The Other" amongst Spider-Man fans and Peter David enthusiasts alike. Happily, the issue doesn’t flounder or stall, and introduces a new villain and a strong sense of David’s point of view on the hero right off the bat. The writer’s conception of Spidey is a very classic take, mixing the kind of slapstick jokey silliness that makes Spider-Man such a light character with a real sense of danger and loss which makes the new bad guy “Tracer” a little more than just another goon in a flashy suit. Wieringo’s art, whilst a little cartoonish and not massively to my tastes, suits David’s script very well and captures the nature of Spidey’s character and powers to a tee. There’s a strong sense of motion in his clear, simple lines, especially during the scenes which show Spidey webslinging or trying to evade Tracer’s attacks. Wieringo also shows a gift for capturing the comedy moments of David’s script too, as one can’t help but love the moment where a smug Spidey trashes J. Jonah Jameson’s limo in error, or the absurdity of Pete remaining masked during his examination by the Doctor-of-superheroes Callisto – who looks likely to play a more significant part in this arc as "The Other" progresses.

Despite the overall sense of sprightliness and fun which pervades this issue, David also foreshadows a more serious threat to Spider-Man further down the line, in the form of mysterious health problems for our wall-crawler, as well as the return of a foe which many assumed to have been defeated in the J. Michael Stracynski’s first Amazing Spider-Man arc. Peter’s bizarre dream, which opens the issue, also gives clues as to what’s to come for the wall-crawler - but how much of this dream is literal and how much is meant to be metaphorical is anyone’s guess. David is careful to never make the sequence too creepy, adding a few silly touches to the images which actually undercut the tension of the moment in favour of a few funny visuals which will likely amuse younger readers. In fact, the entire issue seems to be conceived as a very “all-ages” approach to Spider-Man, and younger comic book fans will probably find that this title speaks to them much more than what JMS is doing in Amazing right now.

David crafts an interesting beginning to "The Other" here, and definitely manages to set his stall out as to what kind of direction FNSM is likely to take once this crossover has played out. He never feels burdened by the demands of writing what is only a small part of a bigger picture and doesn’t get bogged-down by the new status quo of Pete as an Avenger. In fact, he uses it to his storytelling advantage, giving us an interesting scene of Spidey being trained by Captain America. Cap advises Spider-Man to reject his more instinctive approach to combat and instead focus on overcoming his gut reactions to take a more focused, common-sense approach to combat, and it’ll be interesting to see how much this plays into "The Other"’s bigger picture to any degree, as we’re rumouredly due sometime soon a return to the themes of JMS’ initial Spider-Totem concepts which began his run on Amazing Spider-Man.

This is an interesting beginning to "The Other," and one which suggests a lot of promise for the crossover as a whole – even if we don’t really have any idea of where this is all going yet. Peter David seems to be a competent pair of hands to craft the initial chapters of the larger story, and even if his Spidey plays a little young for me, I’ll be interested to see how the next two issues of his story (in upcoming issues of MK Spider-Man and Amazing Spider-Man) pan out. I would also give one final piece of praise to this issue’s cover, as what looked like a garish and over-simplified piece of art on internet previews actually proves to be a real attention grabbing and kinetic piece of artwork on the finished page, especially with that arresting red colour wash. I also like the Rian Hughes-designed “The Other” strap which runs down the left-hand side of the cover, as it will at least give some coherent look to a story which is spread over three different Spider-Man titles per month.

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