Comics : The Spider-Man Handbook

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This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

This handy offering from Quirk Books is packed an convenient pocket-sized format at 5.5" x 7.5". In its 175 pages you'll find lots of hints for the aspiring Spider-Man, or super-hero wannabe in general. Fancy yourself as the next Peter Parker? Well read on!

In Detail...

The Spider-Man Handbook
Oct 2006 : SM Title
Find ISBN 1594741255
Summary: The Ultimate Training Manual
Publisher:  Quirk Books
Writer:  Seth Grahame-Smith
Illustrator:  Carlo Barberi
Foreword:  Stan Lee
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Review

The book is, of course, firmly tongue-in-cheek. It swaps freely from real-life useful information such as how to climb walls (using chalk and fingers - assuming your spider-sticking abilities are on the fritz), and how to negotiate with a hostage-taker. It's interspersed with handy "know your enemy" profiles of classic Spidey foes such as Doc Ock and Venom.

In-between it covers the gamut of topics that would be both useful and useless in real-life. Example: Useless - how to treat a radio-active Spider-bite. Example: Useful - how to follow somebody without being spotted.

So, if you've ever wondered about the best way to keep your civilian identity secret, how to build a web-shooter (and how to web-swing), and how to deal with the grief of losing a loved one at the hands of a super-villain, then this is the handbook for you. Don't swing out of an apartment window without it.

In General...

The range of topics is a little disconcerting at times. Some sections are pure factoids about the Spider-Man character. Other section give advice that would be useful only if you really did have Spider-Powers, while yet other section are handy advice for any non-powered vigilante - such as advice on how to live well to maintain fitness.

This slide from the mundane to the ridiculous to the sublime can leave you a little confused about what this book is really trying to be. But the answer is quite simple - it's trying to be entertaining. Writer Seth Grahame-Smith has a pretty handy wit, and he uses it to good effect.

I'm not sure how much of a hardcore SpiderFan Seth might be. He credits a bunch of guys from SpiderFan.Org with assistance on the profiles and checking Spider-Facts - and that shows. The villain profiles are 100% true to the comics. However, at other times there are bits of the book which are a little embarrassingly off the mark.

The most glaring example came in the opening chapter. Seth points out that there are an estimated 150,000 species of spider as yet undiscovered, and asks if surely one of them may perhaps be radioactive. Of course, this is totally off-base. The spider that bit Peter wasn't naturally a radioactive species at all, it just wandered into a science experiment.

Errors like that immediately undermined the books credibility, and there are occasional glitches here and there that kept me nervous. Example: Seth calls the X-Men "Mutant Mercenaries". Maybe he just got excited with the alliteration. He claims that the Lizard gave Spidey his worst ever beating in the Torment story-line. Though I would have said that honor probably went to Morlun.

There are other little nitpicks - he says that Spidey can track people without casting a shadow (the web-head's a vampire now?) He also claims that you can identify clones because they don't have the memories of the original (but then goes on to describe Ben Reilly as possessing exactly those copied memories he formerly denied). He also claims that the question of Did Gwen's Neck Snap or Not? is still an open point. I'm pretty sure that one was laid to rest some time ago as a resounding YES IT DID.

All of these could have been spotted by including a hardcore Spidey fan among the proof reading team, and it's a shame that an otherwise highly amusing book should be spoiled by this kind of pesky little oversight.

Overall Rating...

I was tempted to give this a near-perfect 4.5 webs for the entire concept, but I'm going to dock a half-web for the tiny errors which were allowed to sneak through the editing process.

I also considered docking another half-web just for the confusing way that the topics veer so erratically between Spidey-fiction and real-life, but that would take the book down to three and a half webs, and it deserves higher than that.

Final rating: Four webs. Despite some minor flaws, this book is a lot of fun all round. It's generally well written and well illustrated. I would heartily recommend it as a birthday present to any pre-teen or teenage Spider-Man candidate in your family.