Poor Spider-Man. No longer the hard-luck homemade superhero of the classic Marvel Comics (and movies!), he has been drafted into the New Avengers, dressed in a terrible costume, and turned into a warrior-servant of the mystical Spider-God, rising from the dead with new, demented powers.
These stories (and more) eventually drove me away from the main Spider-Man titles, after countless years of faithful devotion. I never stopped searching for new adventures of my favourite character, however, and I finally found a hit of new Spidey in the form of an original graphic novella commissioned by Marvel's European partners, Panini Comics.
First published in Italian as IL SEGRETO DEL VETRO ('The Secret of the Glass'), then in French as LE SECRET DU VERRE, the comic is a 24-page story that sees Peter Parker travel to Venice on assignment for the Daily Bugle. Arriving in time for the Venice Carnival, Peter soon becomes involved in the revival of a 17th Century alchemist - a man whose greatest creation came at a terrible price.
Written by Tito Faraci (DYLAN DOG), and featuring art by Giorgio Cavazzano, SECRET is a fairly standard Spider-Man story, but Faraci's script motors along nicely, with moments of quiet contemplation and gentle humour, and Cavazzano's art, honed through years of work for Disney, is gorgeous, combining expressive characters with detailed backgrounds and sumptuous Venetian vistas. If Steve Ditko had trained Andi Watson, it might have looked something like this.
As of the time of writing, SECRET has yet to be translated into English. Indeed, I had to buy my copy from Amazon France, and being an ad-free oversized hardcover album, it wasn't cheap. Bonus material - over 20 pages of sketches and script samples - rounds out the package nicely.
The lack of an English version is a crying shame, as the book is a genuine delight. It doesn't change Spider-Man forever; it doesn't tie into any other comics or crossovers; and all mystical mumbo-jumbo is confined to the villain and his idiom. Instead, SECRET is a self-contained, classic Spider-Man adventure in a refreshingly novel format, and it's well worth the one-off expense.