Comics : Marvel Mangaverse Spider-Man

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

If the idea of a Spider-Man "Mangaverse" sounds familiar to you, it is because there already is one. Written and drawn by Japanese artist, Ryoichi Ikegami (later known for his work on Mai, the Psychic Girl), it related the adventures of Japanese college student Yu Komori, who was bitten by a radioactive spider. Though clearly "Manga" in style and pacing, Ikegami's artwork is far more realistic than the "Wee Pals" look that seems to define American interpretations of the genre. The series debuted in Japan in the 1970s but was not seen in English translation until Spider-Man: The Manga #1, December 1997. It lasted until issue #31 cover-dated June 1999.

So, why Yu Komori and why not Peter Parker? According to the text pages in the back of issue #1, Marvel decided to choose a local artist to reinterpret the character after an eight-week run of American Spidey translations met with lukewarm reaction in Japan. They determined that the two cultures differed enough that the character would only succeed if presented "from a Japanese viewpoint". In other words, there became an understanding that Japanese point of view and culture needed to be incorporated into American-originated characters in order to win over the public. Manga was a strong product of that culture and was respected as such.

Now, of course, we hire an American artist, thrown in some broad Japanese clichés and make the main character look like he's five years old. Hey, Kids! Manga!

In Detail...

Marvel Mangaverse Spider-Man
Mar 2002 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man (Peter) Done In 'Manga' Style
Editor:  Brian Smith
Writer:  Kaare Andrews
Pencils:  Kaare Andrews
Inker:  Kaare Andrews
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Tiny little Peter Parker runs to his family's dojo to discover Ben, his uncle and sensei, mortally wounded by the monster ronin called Venom. As he dies, Ben tells Peter "with that great power must come great responsibility". Peter is now the head of the Spider Clan, even though he is "barely halfway through his training". The Kingpin, a huge sumo who is the head of the Kuji Kuri, is the one who has hired Venom to wipe out his rivals and he insists that the job is not done until young Parker is dead.

Meanwhile, tiny Petey trains his heart out. His Aunt May, worried that she'll lose him to the feud, reminds Petey that he promised her he would not fight. In order to protect his Aunt, Petey hides his identity behind a mask and costume that are representative of his Spider Clan. He now is Spider-Man.

On the rooftops of the city, Spider-Man confronts Venom but is not prepared for the army of assassins that the villain has brought with him. He is overwhelmed in the battle, until he has a vision of his Sensei. Ben tells him "the true master holds nothing back from life, therefore he is ready for death, as a man is ready for sleep after a good day's work" and "the master focuses on the moment for it is in the moment that he lives". These trite words of wisdom inspire Spider-Man to fight back and win.

Finally, it is Spider-Man versus Venom, man-to-man. In the battle, Venom blurts out that he is Luke's father! ... no, sorry. He blurts out that he is Spider-Man's cousin since he is the son of Aunt May and Uncle Ben! The fight ends in a stalemate when Spider-Man chooses to help save innocent bystanders below rather than fulfill his vengeance. A very impressed Venom returns to home base, murders the Kingpin, and takes "the power and the Kuji Kuri for myself". One day, he and Spider-Man will meet again. (But, not in our lifetimes, I hope.)

In General...

By all appearances, Kaare Andrews is a gifted young artist. His covers for Peter Parker: Spider-Man #s 27-29 were first-rate and he is getting good buzz on an upcoming Tangled Web issue, but this project never had a chance. The tired old hero versus a hundred assassins pseudo-Japanese bit, Uncle Ben doing the silly "Kung Fu-I-Have-Some-Wisdom-To-Impart-Grasshopper" business, Venom riffing on the "Star Wars Darth Maul and Darth Vader combined into one" kind of thing, and Spider-Man looking like "Spidey" in Chris Giarrusso's Giant-Size Mini-Marvels only nowhere near as cute and funny, all conspire to put this book out of its misery long before we are put out of ours. A couple of nice bits (Doc Ock as the school teacher, the Kingpin as the sumo leader) rescue it from total oblivion. One web.

Overall Rating...

You know, Spider-Man: The Manga was cancelled in the middle of a story. If Marvel wants to do Spider-Man Manga, why not start by giving us the rest of that?