Well, this is a surprise. I held off reading this issue until after I saw the new film The Amazing Spider-Man because I didn’t want to spoil anything. And it turns out that this story takes place in and around the events in the film and isn’t an adaptation at all. Instead…
Peter Parker perches on a rooftop watching Captain George Stacy climb into a police car and take off, siren wailing. He follows as Spider-Man. As he does, he thinks back to the day he took a Science Club photo for the yearbook. His full attention is on Gwen Stacy but he does notice Flash Thompson having some sort of dispute with a fellow named Danny. After school, Danny tells Peter that “Flash is making me help him cheat on tests.” Danny doesn’t want to do it anymore but is afraid to say “no” to Flash. Later, Aunt May walks right into his room while he is crushing on a photo of Gwen on his desktop and Peter decides he needs to get a new lock for his room. He joins Uncle Ben in his basement workshop and tells him about Danny’s problem. Pete knows that if he helps Danny “not only will I be known as a rat but Flash will really come down on me. I’ll be in a real fix at school.” Ben tells him that “Life is like these watch and clock pieces I put together…everything is like a puzzle piece that has to fit together perfectly. And life is like that, too. You just have to find the way to make the pieces work together – there’s only one way – the right way. Any other way? It won’t work.” This seems like a cheap platitude to me but Peter is impressed. “Uncle Ben,” he says, “how do you always know the right thing to say?” He then makes a lock for his door that works with a remote. Uncle Ben is impressed by this. “I’ve been impressed by everything you’ve done since you were a baby,” Ben says (what sort of impressive things do babies do?), “I just want you to know I think you are a good boy – no, a good man – and while I know that things like this are tough at your age, I know you’ll find the right way to handle it.” Back in the present, Spidey’s left web-shooter malfunctions. His right shooter works but he is off-balance and only snags a traffic light. He crashes into a building and falls to the ground, dazed. Four thugs with old-time hockey goalie masks and crowbars see their opportunity. “Someone call the boss,” says one, “tell him we’ve got ourselves the mystery man.”
This is not a review of the film but I should say that I generally liked it. I thought Andrew Garfield was terrific as Peter and Emma Stone was great as Gwen (and I love that Gwen is in the movie). But did we really have to go back to the beginning and spend 45 excruciating minutes (or thereabouts) with the whole “bitten by a spider” thing and with Uncle Ben’s death? Yes, I know it was done differently but who cares? Over the years, I have read or seen hundreds of versions of the origin and Uncle Ben’s death and I’m not interested in seeing any more. Even non-comic fans know all of this by heart now. It didn’t matter to me how well it was done or how differently it was done. I’ve seen it! Get on with it!
So, I was pleasantly surprised to open this apparent movie adaptation and discover I didn’t have to read it once again. I like the movie versions of the characters, though, and I like the way Tom Cohen has layered onto that. I like that we learn that Gwen has read both Kerouac and Vonnegut and that Peter likes that. I like that we learn that Uncle Ben built bridges for a living and repairs old clocks and watches for fun. There’s not enough of this sort of thing in the movie, actually.
I also like the way Neil Edwards’ art initially establishes the character with the actor in the film and then subtly goes off in its own direction. The Peter on page one looks very much like Andrew Garfield. Later he looks more like, well, Peter. This is true of Uncle Ben looking like Martin Sheen on page twelve and, to a lesser extent, Aunt May looking like Sally Field on page eleven. Gwen never really looks like Emma Stone, though. Neil makes nice use of two-page horizontal panels to show Spidey in action, too.
So, something fresh when I was expecting canned, some nice character touches, and some imaginative art. I can give that three webs, I guess.
I’ll get to the next issue next week.