AUTHOR: J.J. ABRAMS, HENRY ABRAMS | ARTIST: SARA PICHELLI | PUBLISHER: MARVEL | FORMAT: SINGLE ISSUE | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
One of the ever-lovin’ joys of the Marvel cast of characters is the ability to tell and retell their origins and familiar elements of their lives. Having been a prominent – arguably the most prominent – character in all of comicdom, Spider-Man has been interpreted more than most (perhaps only Batman surpasses him) and this new five-part series by director J.J. Abrams and his son Henry continues to tread this well-worn path to varying degrees of success.
We join the story as Spidey is deep in battle, taking on a nameless foe as the world appears to be falling down. As ever, Mary Jane is by his side, but this time the odds are against him as not only is Peter bested but Mary Jane is tragically killed. The funeral reveals that Peter and MJ had a son as we step forward a dozen years to a teenage Ben Parker who is struggling in his teenage years as his largely absent father leaves him with an elderly Aunt May.
The beats of the first issue are familiar, perhaps too familiar, as Ben tackles a hulking school bully picking on a very Peter Parker looking kid ala Flash Thompson, falls for the new girl much as Peter and Gwen did and discovers his powers to shocking effect. Thankfully, Aunt May (it felt strange to see the white-haired May as opposed to the middle-aged May from the MCU) has the cool head she displayed in the Raimi films and points young Ben to the loft, where he finds letters from his father Peter to his mother Mary Jane and a familiar red and blue costume that badly needs a hero to fill it.
There’s a tragic, one-handed defeated Peter, nightmares of lost loved ones and an overwhelmingly powerful and mysterious villain… it’s drawn well enough by Sara Pichelli - functional but far from memorable – and does enough – just – to make the next issue a required purchase, but it has to be said that far more originality was expected from Abrams and son Henry.
When done right, classic Spidey tales sit comfortably alongside any other great storylines. At his core, Peter Parker is a fighter with the love of family in his heart. Doubts gnaw at him, insecurities a constant demon on his shoulder, but the kid who never gives up just isn’t present in this first issue and hopefully - like the older, slightly fuller-figured Peter from Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse – that Peter will swing into a later issue to be there for his son.
An underwhelming start, but one with potential to fly.