Spider-Man is 50 years old this month so Marvel have decided to celebrate with a series of five .1 issues.
|Executive Producer:||Alan Fine|
|Chief Creative Officer:||Joe Quesada|
|Editor In Chief:||Axel Alonso|
|Assistant Editor:||Ellie Pyle, Tom Brennan|
|Artist:||Roberto De La Torre|
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Jr.|
|Lettering:||VC's Clayton Cowles|
Peter Parker arrives in Jamaica Bay, Queens, for a rendezvous with reporter Norah Winters who needs his help. She needs him to take some photos for an expose on some real estate details and, even though he has his Horizon job, he owes her from the favour she did him in Amazing Spider-Man #625. She leads him to the old Acme warehouse in which he confronted the burglar who killed Uncle Ben in Amazing Fantasy #15. This brings up floods of memories for Peter but he hasn’t got time to wallow as his spider-sense goes off when he and Norah approach the security guard. Peter recognises him as a man who worked for the Brand Corporation and leads Norah, who is busy asking questions, away from the building.
They return to the Daily Bugle together where Norah has a go at Peter for leaving. Peter leaves as Joe Robertson enters. He asks Norah what their argument was about and he tells her that the warehouse was where Uncle Ben’s killer was cornered.
Peter changes into Spider-Man and swings back to the warehouse, hoping that he can get to the bottom of what’s going on there. He breaks in and, as he sneaks around, recalls all the bad memories, the decisions and actions that led him to the warehouse all those years ago. He enters the elevator shaft and spies a light far below. He investigates and discovers the security guard and another workman discussing a problem. Their excavation team have reached the foundations of an old Brand Corporation building but have compromised some of the storm sewers along the way. With a storm coming in, the tunnel isn’t safe for them to extract what they need. The security guard is determined to proceed though. A thunderclap turns their eyes to the ceiling where they see Spider-Man! He webs the security guard up and learns, from the other man, that the workmen in the tunnel are in danger! Spidey webs him too and bounds down the tunnel as fast as he can! He recalls how the Brand Corporation were involved in secret experiments, like the one which turned Tarantula into a monster in Amazing Spider-Man #234-6, and that they must have been gagging to get their hands on their old facility and the secrets inside.
As Spider-Man reaches the workmen, and another Brand guard, the security guard cuts himself free from his webbing!
Spidey evacuates the Spanish work crew but spots a blinking junction box which indicates the security guard has primed the explosive charges! The explosion blasts through the tunnel, causing it to flood! Spidey hurls the Brand guard to safety up the tunnel before he is swept under! He feels the current pulling the water through a grate so he tears it open and swims through and then towards a light! He pulls himself out of the bay and heads back to the warehouse!
Inside, the workers arrive at the top of the tunnel and attack the security guard! He is tackled towards a control panel and accidentally knocks the master control!
Spidey calls to the police and he swings back, arriving just as the whole building explodes! Desperately, he digs through the wreckage and finds the elevator shaft. He climbs down and finds the workmen alive! He webs them to safety and then collects the three bad guys, depositing them for the police. He even points the workers, who have problems with their work permits, in the direction of lawyer Matt Murdock.
Two weeks later, Mayor J. Jonah Jameson holds a press conference on the Acme warehouse site. Although he blames Spider-Man for bringing the building down, he announces that a new development project shall be brought to life on the site in order to revitalize the neighbourhood. Peter, watching this, is approached by Norah who apologises for her reactions. As Peter leaves, he knows that it was here he truly learned what it is to be Spider-Man. He thanks his Uncle Ben for the lessons and memories or responsibility…
Roger Stern gets these anniversary issues off to a great start here, with a quiet, balanced story that does indeed capture and celebrate a key element of Spider-Man.
His choice to use an important setting as the driving force behind the plot, rather than perhaps a character or event, is a unique one that immediately grabs my attention and signifies that Stern has thought this through. From here he can freely explore the old threat of the burglar, the new threat of a few Brand Corporation foot soldiers and the growth that the character has shown in between. There’s a lovely continuity nod to some long forgotten Stern Amazing Spider-Man issues as well which add to the flavour of continuity and detail.
Stern’s choice of villain is equal to that of the burglar as well: normal men, no powers, thieves who exploit others for their gain and all of whom have the potential to impact dramatically on the lives of others. This mirroring is clever as he remembers and highlights the fact that it can be the simplest of things (a burglar, a storm or three simple foot soldiers) that can do an awful amount of emotional damage.
It is the details which allow this story to succeed without overdramatized shock and awe. Stern relies on a simple story that is based in continuity and re-establishes the core of Spider-Man. The dialogue, thought bubbles and pace are all perfect and, again, considered. Roberto de la Torre is the perfect match in terms of details. His pencils are not flamboyant, the colours are muted and realistic and there is no outspoken drama in his panel layouts. They simply just tell the story, allowing for emotional moments of quiet and space and the necessary action. The opening shot of Spider-Man hanging upside-down is one of my favourites and highlights the level of depth, mood and texture that de la Torre can produce. At times, the facial structures of his characters waver in consistency and often fail to convey expression accurately from middle distance.
I have to mention the eye-catching cover from John Romita Jr. as a nice touch considering the work he’s put into Spider-Man over the years and a great example of his work.
I’ve given this a four because, although a brilliantly crafted comic book, there’s nothing boundary pushing here.