While it is the richness of the characters that has kept him vibrant for nearly five decades and across hundreds of titles, it is also arguably that same complex (and often convoluted) history that keeps (drives) as many readers away from our Webbed hero as brings them to hero-worship at his feet. Thus, it is a book like this title that can, by a magical twist of literary finesse that can pick up on the best parts of that wealthy tapestry of content and deliver what is, quite possibly the finest incarnation of Spidey that these tired old eyes has seen in a dog's age.
Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man features stand-alone stories of a classically themed Spider-Man set in a modern world. It is set-up to evoke the look and feel of Stan Lee-style action, wrapped a present-day art. The stories have no connectivity between issues (other than the recognizable elements of the Marvel Universe remaining the same, and recognizable to even the most casual of readers). This makes the comics ideal for younger and/or new readers or even for older fans who are looking to pick up an occasional issue without having to deal with 45 years of continuity or the messy fallout of Marvel's recent Civil War event.
Young Peter Parker is assigned to cover the opening of a new circus that has come to the Big Apple. Only, it is the Circus of Crime that is lead by the notorious Ringmaster and his villainous cohorts as opposed to a friendly circus for the kids. Now it is up to Spidey to not only capture the crooks, but clear his own name of the crime that was pinned on my the Ringmaster.
As the story opens, Peter is riding up an elevator with Betty Brant to visit the office of their boss, J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher of The Daily Bugle. As they arrive, JJJ is on the phone, in the process of yelling at a photographer who just bailed out of covering an assignment for the cantankerous publisher. As if on cue freelance photog, Pete enters JJJ's office, and is handed the assignment by a now smiling Jonah (needless to say, a smiling Jameson is almost more creepy than a screaming one).
At any rate, Pete heads off to the fund-raising charity event which is being attended by virtually every wealthy patron in the city. Only when he gets there he is momentarily distracted while he is swapping out his lenses, and thus is the only person under the Big Top who is not hypnotized by the Ringmaster. As the various members of the Circus of Crime begin to empty the pockets of the wealthy patrons, Pete slips away, and changes into his Web- Slinging togs.
As the criminal performers are loading up their getaway truck with their ill- gotten gains, Spider-Man swings into action and proceeds to slap them all around. Unfortunately, just as the Ringmaster and his cronies duck out the back, the entire audience wakes up, realizes their valuables are all gone, and the only one to be seen is Spidey, standing in the center ring. Hence, they all automatically determine that he is the one who swiped their stuff, and (once again) our hero is blaimed for a crime he didn't commit.
Later that night, The Ringmaster and his crew realize that they caught a break with Spidey getting blamed for their heist, and determine to stage another massive theft under the Big Top the following night. Meanwhile, Peter is feeling especially depressed as headlines accusing Spidey of being a thief are plastered across every newspaper in town. Unsure of what to do, he passes a poster advertising the next show, and realizes that he has to show up, catch the crooks, and clear his name.
The night of the performance, Spidey manages to swap places with one of the flying Gambino Brothers to secretly slip into the show. During the course of their trapeze act, Spider-Man webs the other brother to the trapeze bar just as he reveals himself to the Circus of Crime. What follows is an all-out romp as our favorite hero manages to take down each member of the criminal circus (hey, you thought he was going to lose?)
He winds up the night by snapping himself high atop a pile of unconscious circus performers. The next day he shows up at the Bugle and collects his well- earned check from Betty.
While it would be a huge disservice to this title to say that this story was engagingly predictable, I'm honestly running out of high praise to heap on this wonderful title. Each and every month it manages to capture the high- spirited energy of the Spider-comics of my youth, while spinning them into wonderfully thrilling, fast-paced and visually striking new stories.
Am I upset that that they aren't more richly layered as are the mainstream titles? Quite honestly, no. I indulge in this title to free my self of some of the more horrific elements that occur in Spidey's regular titles, and so should you.
Always fun, always entertaining, and one Spidey that I look forward to reading every month.
Though both the writers and artists change on this title, it always remains faithful to its mission statement, and true to the spirit of Stan's, Steve's, and John's Spidey.