Imagine a world where Spider-Man is still a teen-ager only he doesn't live in some far-off time, but exists in the world of today, re-imagined for a modern sensibility only without all the grim and grittiness of that bygone day, but with all of the exciting nuances and fun from the Silver Age of Marvel Comics. It is important to say that while it is most assuredly true that these stories are targeted for a much younger audience than your typical Marvel Comic reader; it should be duly noted that there are plenty of us "old timers" (yes, I'm one) who were around back during those hey-day of that era who still find this title a refreshing breeze. In this version of the Marvel Universe, it is present-day America, and Peter Parker is still 15, attending Midtown High, and a part-time freelance photographer for The Daily Bugle.
My friends, you have just entered the Marvel (Adventure) Universe, We control the horizontal, we control the vertical, and we are extremely very happy that it is here, as we have come to be entertained.
This tale is a true example of Spidey living in the digital age. As the story opens up, we see our teen arachnid hero being shot up with laser blasts, having heavy mechanical equipment being tossed at him, and then being pummeled by none other than Doc Ock, only this isn't really "our" Spidey, so much as it is a digitized version of our pal, that is being operated by one Peter Parker, who (by his own admission) is better at this stuff in real life than he is on an electronic arcade station.
Dejected, Peter walks away from the gaming console telling himself that Aunt May really frowns on him playing these games anyway, and would prefer him to do his homework. As he crosses the crowded arcade he spots none other than his arch-rival, Midtown High's biggest sports jock and his personal bully, Flash Thompson, racking up a high score on the Spidey arcade game.
Spotting his incredible score, Flash is approached by game developer who challenges the high schooler to step up to real gaming power by trying out his prototype game. Never one to back down from a challenge, Flash steps up to the plate and straps himself into this new prototype game. Even as he does it, Peter's Spider Sense goes off like a Klaxon alarm and he tries to warn Flash, only the brutish teen won't have any of it.
A the developer tries to explain the game play to him, Flash just brushes the guy off, stating that he'll figure things out as he goes along. Once Flash has the helmet on and is strapped in, the unit whirs to life and becomes mobile, growing legs and arms, crashing through the side of the arcade, and sending all of the patrons running for safety.
Flash, who has the VR helmet strapped to his head, simply doesn't realize that all of the destruction that he is dispensing is actual, and not simply virtual. Needless to say, as the resident hero of the piece, Peter switches to his fighting togs and lights out after the arcade game run amuck. However, as it turns out, even in real life the arcade game severely tests his meddle. Dodging the blasts from the game, Spidey manages to get up over the raging marching, and pull Flash from the cockpit.
Not a bit embarrassed over the swath of devastation that he inadvertently caused, Flash touts his insanely high score. Only (as can be expected) the fallen game may be down, but isn't quite out, as it roars back to life, and this time sporting the leering face of none other than the batty Arcade on its video monitor.
Spidey swings into action against the video warrior, only with Arcade at the helm; the robotic game proves more than a match for our young hero, as it wreaks even more obliteration on the area. Even as Spidey is having his webbed butt to him Flash Thompson is on the ground offering up advice to his hero. Reluctantly, Spidey follows the advice from Flash (especially considering that as the high scorer of the digital Spidey game), he actually knows all of the best moves to beat the game itself.
Even as Spidey manages to defeat the mechanical monstrosity Flash again touts his superiority as it was his moves coaching the hero that actually won the game, leaving his hero shaking his head in the sham of it all.
As always, this story read quite well, Arcade's frenetic antics and gaming with style are always fun to watch. Plus the use of the whole Arcade in a videogame arcade was kind of a cool updating twist.
While I loved the use of Arcade as the villain and the video-game come to life, I was a bit disappointed with the art this time around. Sanford Greene's art just wasn't up to the standards of the rest of this series, and brought the overall tone of the story down. Flash didn't so much look like Flash as he did a Neanderthal version of the school Jock. I'm dinging this issue a full point for what I consider to be sub-standard art. Sorry guys.
An end-note indicates that next issue is going to be a 48-page special issue celebrating the series' 50th issue. I can hardly wait! This off-spead pitch aside, I truly love this series.