Dan Slott and Ramon Perez revisited the classic origin story of Spider-Man with the first issue in this Learning to Crawl mini-series. With the second installment, we move forward in the narrative and see Slott's re-imagining of what was going on behind the scenes during the first issue of the Amazing Spider-Man book. As always, Slott tries his best to stay faithful to the original stories (right down to the minute detail) while at the same time sliding the time scale from the mid-'60s to the early '00s. Slott took advantage of the new time setting last issue by creating a tech savvy kid going by the name Clash that is sure to be Spidey's main foil as this series unfolds. Let's take a trip back in time (kind of) and see how a young Peter Parker "learned to crawl."
In an effort to imitate his idol Spider-Man, young Clayton Cole (also known as Clash) zooms around town looking for bad guys to apprehend. As luck would have it though, Clash witnesses Spider-Man leaving the Baxter Building after being rejected by the Fantastic Four (which famously took place in ASM #1). Peter doesn't even hear his biggest fan shouting his name as he swings away. "I'll make you guys look like pikers!" shouts a young Spider-Man. This story may take place in 2001, but the lingo is straight out of 1963.
Peter's battle with the Thing and the rest of the Fantastic Four has him looking pretty rough and the school counselor believes that Flash Thompson has been picking on puny Parker. After letting Flash take the blame for his shiner, Pete is introduced to a group of nerdy kids like himself that hang out at the school's AV Room.
Meanwhile, Clash tracks down Spider-Man's former agent Maxie Schiffman to make a proposition. Clayton, with his parent's fortune, wants to hire Spider-Man for a "personal appearance." After briefly going over the events of Amazing Spider-Man #1, we see an obviously stressed Peter Parker respond to Maxie's attempt to reach out to him. Though his pride tells him that setting up a fake fight with this Clash fella is a bad idea, there's too much money involved for Parker to say no.
So, on a New York rooftop, Clash sets up a video camera and the two masked vigilantes scuffle. As expected, a belabored Spidey responds poorly to one of Clayton's sonic blasts and instead of following the script, Spider-Man webs an irate Clash up and swings away.
Later that evening, a worried Aunt May barges into Peter's locked room and is shocked at what she finds. "Look at all of this in here!" she shouts "It all makes sense now."
First of all let me start by saying that Ramon Perez's artwork is again stellar. Through the first two issues of this series, it's the artwork that has been by far the most enjoyable and most consistent aspect of this comic book. Ian Herring's fun colors also helps convey a light-hearted and classic feel that perfectly matches Perez's awesome line work. If I were reviewing this book on artwork alone, I would probably give it a glowing recommendation and an awfully high "spider-head rating." This is more than just a picture book though and It's within the writing of these stories that my complaints lie.
Slott makes a deeply concentrated effort to wrap these Learning to Crawl stories neatly around the early Stan Lee/Steve Ditko plots that these stories use as a backdrop. While not necessarily original, it's a fine concept. As I mentioned in my review for the first issue though, my main complaint is the jarring modernization of the overall narrative. These are stories that were meant to take place in the '60s and the classically styled artwork, the outdated lingo and the antiquated outfits all make me feel as if this story should be too. The appearance of cell phones and laptops don't update the story in my mind, they just take my attention away from what the story is supposed to be about.
This time around, Clash, the main antagonist, is given the spotlight treatment and we finally see how he makes the hard turn from idolizing Spider-Man to wanting to kill him. We never get to see Clash out of costume though, which means this thinly developed character isn't given much of chance to get more interesting. The same can be said for pretty much the entire story so far. It leans so heavily on the original stories and other than a few touching moments it feels like little more than a rehash of the Silver Age Spider-Man tales we all know and love rather than a new and exciting take on them. There's still three more issues to go though. Maybe Slott has a few tricks up his sleeve.
The story is a little flimsy, the shock ending is not all that shocking and yet I can't help but give this issue a good rating. The art is just too good to miss.