For months now I've been singing the praises of this book, and now, with this issue, Peter David, Spider-Man writer extraordinaire has joined the team of writers who are penning tales (or in the case of this issue, "tails") about this unique version of Spidey. Peter, as we all know, has been writing about Spider-Man in various titles on-and-off for a couple of decades, and truly has a handle on the character (Peter's Spider-work can currently be seen in the pages of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man).
I don't know how long that Peter will be helming this title but hopefully, with his contributions, some more industry attention will be directed towards the title, and people will realize that unlike its predecessor, Marvel Age Spider-Man which was essentially re-telling classic Spidey stories with a new scripter and artists, the creators on Marvel Adventures Spider-Man are crafting all-new adventures with a unique version of our favorite Webbed wonder.
What makes this book truly unique is that it delivers an interestingly classic look at Spider-Man in a totally modern age, linked, yet totally unconnected to the (sometimes ponderous) weight of his 44+ years of history. You see, this comic outstandingly juxtaposes the feel-good fun of old-time continuity, which it effectively layers on top of the well-worn and comfortably known history of Spider-Man. However - and this is really the wicked-cool part - it holds no tangible impact on the established continuity of the character as he exists in his regular, on-going titles. Giving us good old-fashion fun with no discernable consequences. Can't beat that with a stick, eh?
It totally doesn't get much better than this folks. As readers, we are handed a comic that is one part retro Spidey as a teen (Marvel Age: Spider-Man), one part Modern Spidey as a teen (Ultimate Spider-Man), and two parts Classic Spidey as a teen (Silver Age Amazing Spider-Man); thus making it more than an just an alternate universe Spidey, but something that is just shy of an actual continuity implant. Which of course makes this series not only fun to read, but quite entertaining as well.
As if to prove that this is not a re-telling of an old Spidey tale, Jack "Werewolf by Night" Russell, (along with Dr. Strange) appears in this issue. As with all of these stories, the splash page is essentially a pin-up of Spidey in action (from the middle of the story) with this issues' guest star (in this case Werewolf by Night) as the pair of them are running through the woods. From here we flash back to the previous evening where we find Peter (somewhat reluctantly) attending a Midtown High pep rally on the school's football field.
Peter is sitting with his classmates in the bleachers as they cheer on the school's football team - including Peter's arch nemesis Flash Thompson. As Falsh is cheered on by the entire school, all peter can do is think back on all the crap that Flash has heaped on him over the years (atomic wedgies, and the like). Now that Peter is Spidey, what he wants to do is put the jock thug in an airplane spin and toss him around like a ragdoll, only he can't because that would reveal that he is Spider-Man.
On Peter's way home from the rally he comes across a bunch of the football jocks standing in front of the old Russell home - which has been abandoned for years - apparently waiting for something. Sure enough, after a minute or two, Flash comes sprinting out of the house, terrified, and shouting something about a dog being locked up in the old place. Flash, you see, took a bet about his bravery from one of the other guys, and went into the house on a dare. Only while he was in there he got bitten by, you guessed it Jack Russell and when the other lad doesn't have the five bucks he bet, Flash starts gets angry and to change (Hulk-like) into a werewolf, and attacks the other boys. As he begins to chase the freaked out kids down the street, he is brought up short by his friendly neighborhood Spider-Man (hey, like how we worked Peter David's "other" Spider-Title into this review, pretty nifty, eh?). Well, a pre-werewolf Flash proves to be not much trouble for our hero, who webs him up tight, and - realizing what he is up against - transports Flash to Greenwich Village to the sanctum sanatorium of Dr. Steve Strange. The good Dr. explains to Spidey that in a world that supports Sorcerer Supremes and magic, has room for a little old werewolf or two. He goes on to tell the disbelieving Spidey that for Flash to be cured, Strange has to whip up a potion that contains as one of the important elements, a tuft of the hair of the wolf that bit Flash.
Hence, while Strange begins to prepare the potion Peter has to return to Forest Hills (where he lives and the Russell house is located) to retrieve that hair and then must return before the dawn of the morning following the night that Flash was bit. (still with me folks?) Reluctantly (mostly because Flash is such a jerk) Spidey swings out, Spider-style, to find Jack Russell and grab up some hair (Why Strange didn't just weave a spell to get Spidey there and transport him back once he had acquired the wolf hair is hard to explain, especially as they are under something of a time constraint, but this is only a minor complaint.)
Eventually Spidey makes it all the way out to Queens and the Russell home and pulls some boards off a window to get inside and see what is going on in the house. Once inside he comes across, not only a bunch of rats (the four-legged kind), but a fully morphed Jack Russell as well. As can be expected, in his wolf phase he is about as tame as Dr. Curt Connors is during his Lizard transformation (another aside, Peter can accept a man altered into a lizard by science but has trouble with someone altered into a wolf by magic. I'm not sure why I brought this up, I was just thinking).
Somehow the werewolf has come unchained from the wall, and is now lose in the house. After a brief fight that winds the pair of protagonists out on the front lawn, Spider-Man manages to web Russell up in much the same fashion that he captured Flash earlier in the evening. However, much to Peter's chagrin it is only after the sun begins to come up and the wolf has changed back into Jack that he actually manages to capture him. Still, Spidey, being the hero he is, grabs up a tuft of hair that was torn loose during the fight and heads back to the Village, this time in a cab (where he keeps cash in those tights is anybody's guess).
Back in with Dr. Strange, Spidey laments that he took too long, and now Flash is doomed to remain a werewolf for the rest of his life. No so much, Strange assures our young hero. Apparently the sunrise curse of the werewolf is tied to the rising of the sun in Romania, where the curse originated, thus Peter actually had another 14 hours to go. The next day, everything is as it was at Midtown High, only Flash seems to have a bad case of fleas (and probably an overwhelming urge to howl at the moon as well.)
As with much of Mr. David's fare, this was a light, breezy story not only in the vein of other Marvel Adventure stories, but as far as these mixed breed sorts of stories go (mixing science-based and magic-based characters doesn't always come off well). The tone was light and the story was fun. Save for the transportation issue that I discussed earlier in the review, I very much enjoyed the story. Truth to tell, one of the reasons that such a transportation spell was not used was because David had set up this dilemma in Spider-Man over the way Flash constantly treats Peter and his roll as Spidey- as-hero with a need to save Flash, even though he is a huge jerk.
Good stuff actually, which is why this story gets high marks. I personally can't wait to see what else Peter David will do in this series. I strongly suggest that you all join me on this unique and interesting trip.
Not for nothing, and probably because I never really read the old Werewolf by Night comic, so I can perhaps be forgiven for not noticing this until just now (seriously, I kid you not), but the Werewolf's character is "Jack Russell" which, as most of you probably already know, is a breed of dog, thus making the fact that this Jack was metamorphed into a werewolf something of either comicbook irony, or just a lame not-so-inside plot device of the writer that created Jack in the first place. (Hey, what I lack in observational abilities I more than make up for in wit and stile, eh?)
If you are looking for a way to introduce a youngster to Spidey, then this (along with Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four and Marvel Adventures Avengers) is (are) the series that you want to pitch to them. For it is with this family of series, that Marvel recalls it's own colorful (and fun) past and grants new readers a much-need jumping on point, while attempts to hook new readers with the magic that is Marvel comics.