Review: PETER PARKER – SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #1

Cover
Cover

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1 
Written by Chip Zdarsky 
Art by Adam Kubert, Jordie Bellaire, Goran Parlov and Nathan Fairbairn 
Lettering by Travis Lanham 
Published by Marvel Comics 
Maltby Rating: 9 out of 10

While a fancy new suit and status quo are both creative and marketing necessities for a hero as long in the tooth as everyone’s favorite wall-crawler, Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert prove that nothing beats the solid fundamentals with Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man #1, a colorful mix of the old and new that sets the stage for a massive new Spidey mystery.

Zdarsky’s commitment to the basics make for a real comfort read, without constraining his own creative scope for the new. This reviewer has a real soft spot for Johnny Storm’s long-term bromance with Peter Parker, and Zdarsky jams an entire issue’s worth of dialogue into their opening sky-high lunch date. Jumping from old flames to new, Spider-Man saves stand-up comedian Rebecca London from a classic New York mugging, which quickly leads to a casual coffee date. Zdarsky has a masterful grasp of tone and character here, as Spidey, Ant-Man and the debuting Rebecca trade barbs while inspecting the mugger’s peculiar Stark phone. Appreciably, not everyone is a fan of the “world in which everyone has impeccable wit!” trope, even though it’s a convincing argument to say that Spidey popularized the style way before Joss Whedon or Brian Michael Bendis had even been born.

Panel 1
Panel 1

Ant-Man and another debuting character yet again offer a well-balanced mix of new elements with the well-worn. What if the Tinkerer had a heroic brother? Well, he does, and he’s called the Mason. It’s a simple yet solid concept that provides a fun base for other writers to build off of. The fact that Pete (and indeed, the reader) has no idea who this guy is (“Everyone uses him at some point!” exclaims Ant-Man) solidifies Zdarsky’s commitment to every element of Spidey’s character: even that of the painfully uncool underdog. Away from the comedy, the plot concerns the mystery of the new operating system on the unhackable Stark Phone, which leads Spidey to Chicago. Two killer cliff-hangers later and that’s all she wrote for the main feature. It’s a compelling opener that does it job in ensuring its readership will still be here for #2, which is undoubtedly the hardest challenge in modern comic books.

Zdarsky’s penchant for quick-witted humor make him a very comfortable fit for Spidey, while Kubert lends his experienced although somewhat too well-worn hand. While Kubert’s draftsmanship is second-to-none, his application of webbing on Peter’s costume sometimes feels like an after-thought, as if he drew the panel and then simply slashed over Spider-Man diagonally with a ruler. Still, Kubert gives equal weight to foreground and background, offering the reader an absorbing depth of field that immerses the reader right in the chaotic world of 616 New York.

Panel 2
Panel 2

Kubert’s Spider-Man is delightfully spindly, and the armored foe of the issue’s end is imposing as hell, although some of his portraits leave something to be desired, especially for the shocking final page. Composition-wise, Kubert’s panel layouts are as busy as the script, artfully setting out the many demands of Zdarsky’s wordy script. Seven panels prove no trouble for the consummate visual veteran, who curves and slashes panels to provide smooth flow across the issue.

The omnipresent Jordie Bellaire brings fresh light to Kubert’s pencils with a palette dominated by an airy light blue. His light touch makes for an especially evocative first page, lightly dabbing over Kubert’s pencils for Spider-Man’s tongue-in-cheek retelling of his own origin story with the primary blues and reds that make up the wall-crawlers costume. Always true to tone, Jordie paints the sky red as the real threat reveals itself in the penultimate pages of the issue.

Panel 3
Panel 3

The art of Goran Parlov accompany Chip Zdarsky’s script for “Spider-Fight,” the issue’s eight-page back-up feature. It’s a simple enough script about a foiled mugging that turns into a Black Widow ambush with a hidden purpose, adding an extra little element to the already compelling mystery set in the main feature. Parlov’s art has a charming old-school feel to it, with simple, clear and characterful lines that make reading this back-up a breeze.

The appeal of Peter Parker: Spectacular Spider-Man #1 as a jumping-on point for new readers, as well as a chance to get more conservative fans back in the saddle after a prior alienation, is obvious and strong. The main feature offers a razor-sharp script combined with well-realized although imperfect pencils, while the back-up is just as quick-witted as it adds an extra question mark or two to the main mystery. Read this. By Oscar Maltby