This new series takes the classic Lee-Ditko Spider-Man stories and remakes them for people who don't know any better. The first issue, for reasons I can't determine, skips Spidey's origin from Amazing Fantasy #15 and the stories from Amazing Spider-Man #1 and instead begins with the Vulture and Terrible Tinkerer stories from Amazing Spider-Man #2.
|Plot:||Stan Lee, Steve Ditko|
Well, there's this new flying villain called the Vulture and he proves he means business by zooming down out of the air and snatching a woman's purse. Peter Parker finds out about the Vulture by reading the Daily Bugle headline when he retrieves his backpack, which Flash Thompson has stuck into a newspaper machine. Aunt May needs money for the landlord and Peter comes up with an idea to earn some. He borrows Uncle Ben's camera, gets into the Spidey suit and sets out to take pictures of the Vulture except the Vulture nabs him and tosses him into a water tower from which he manages to escape. When he develops his pictures at home, Peter discovers that the ones he took when the Vulture was close by are ruined. He reasons that the Vulture uses electro-magnetism to fly, which is what ruined the photos. He goes to the Daily Bugle, meets J. Jonah Jameson and Betty Brant, earns five hundred dollars for his pics, goes home to invent an electro-magnetic inverter and uses it to defeat the Vulture. Meanwhile, in the second story...
I must admit that this book stymies me. Yes, I know that it's a retelling of two early Spider-Man tales but what exactly is the point? The cover carries two telltale blurbs. One tells us that the book is for "All Ages". The other announces, "Great for New Readers!" But the question remains. Why redo the old stories rather than reprint them? The early Spidey stories are already for "All Ages" if anything is. And, of course, the book is "Great for New Readers" because they haven't read the originals and don't know how crummy these versions are in comparison. But they also don't know Spider-Man's origin or who Flash Thompson is or who Aunt May is or what happened to Uncle Ben, presumably, and this book doesn't tell them because, as already mentioned, this first issue skips everything that takes place before ASM #2, May 1963 which stymies me most of all.
Okay, so I'm being a little bit dense here. I know why this book exists. The original stories are over 40 years old and some bean counter at Marvel is convinced that they are too old and stodgy for modern readers. Oh, it's not the plots that are old and stodgy because those are being borrowed for this book. No, it must be Steve Ditko's uncool artwork and Stan Lee's musty dialogue. But this is nonsense really. Yes, the old stories reflect their era but quality is quality. You don't take a classic like "Treasure Island" and try to modernize it into "Treasure Planet". (Well, you do... but it bombs.) There is no reason why reprints of the original issues in affordable new editions couldn't be effectively marketed to young readers because, trust me, a kid that reads the original will be enthralled but a kid that reads this remake will be bored.
To be fair, there are some nice bits here. I enjoyed the scene where Peter finds out about the Vulture because Flash Thompson stuck his backpack in the newspaper machine. The problem here is that for every updating and clever scene added, we have a great old scene taken away. The wonderful original scene of the Vulture stealing diamonds by coming up through a manhole cover is choppy and confusing here.
Scripter Daniel Quantz seems competent enough. I enjoyed the few scenes that he seems to have created himself. But it would be much fairer to Daniel to let him write his own Spidey stories rather than saddling him with pilfering from Stan Lee. As it is, it's difficult to tell what kind of stories he could tell. All we do know is that Stan Lee tells these stories better.
The two artists involved (Mark Brooks for the first story and Jonboy Meyers for the second) are not Steve Ditko. Marvel may not realize this but that is not a good thing. These artists have a veneer of the modern but neither one can hold a candle to Ditko in composition, perspective, and sheer sense of wonder. In every way shape and form, Ditko's work puts the current work to shame. So, why bother with this work at all? Why not just go back and look at Steve Ditko?
So, I'm absolutely trashing this book, right? Zero webs, right? Well, no. In spite of everything that's wrong with it, it does have its charm. Call it one and a half webs with this one stipulation. Ignore the blurbs on the front cover. "All Ages"? Forget it. Steer the kids to reprints of the original. "Great for New Readers"? Not a chance. They'll never come back for the next one. If you want to hook newbies, better give them copies of the original stories, too. Oh, and start them with the origin story, okay? I still can't figure out why we're starting with the Vulture.