AUTHOR: J.J. ABRAMS, HENRY ABRAMS | ARTIST: SARA PICHELLI | PUBLISHER: MARVEL | FORMAT: SINGLE ISSUE | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Spider-Man is arguably the most recognisable superhero in the world, as well as being Stan "The Man" Lee's most iconic creation. The web-slinger has had countless reinterpretations and alternate variations of him told after nearly 60 years worth of comic book history, and now we have the latest alternate reinvention brought to us by major Hollywood filmmaker J.J. Abrams and his son Henry Abrams. When it comes to telling alternate universe stories of Spider-Man, they can either be really good (Renew Your Vows or Ultimate Spider-Man) or be really bizarre and unnecessary (Spider-Man: Reign or Spider-Man: Chapter One), but, judging by this opening chapter alone, this series is proving itself worthy as a pretty strong Spider-Man tale to tell by utilising familiar elements while also doing something different enough to stand out from other titles.
There's so much to digest and absorb when it comes to the plot and the new status quo that the writing duo has laid out, and without spoiling the major twists that happen at the beginning, this definitely does its best to make this Spider-Man stand out from other versions beforehand. While it can seem a tad frustrating that this is set in an alternate universe and not the main Marvel continuity, this is also more of a blessing than anything else since it allows the pair the freedom to tell the story they want to tell without the baggage and trappings of previous continuity. In regards to the major twist that happens at the start, it would've been a bit more satisfying to show a bit more of Peter Parker's previous life before the major turn of events happens to him in order for us to feel the emotional impact. It's only briefly shown in the first few pages and then immediately flash-forwards many years later.
However, once that happens, Peter is taken in a bold new direction where his core beliefs in how 'with great power comes great responsibility' becomes thoroughly changed and shaken due to the tragedy he now bears upon himself. We also see Aunt May take on a much more paternal role than previously seen, and this is also a welcome change. Yet most of the story revolves entirely on a completely brand new character that gets introduced earlier on, and whether or not you're totally on-board with what's going on, this new central protagonist is compelling enough to follow and slots nicely within the Spider-Man universe, and the cliffhanger hints at very big changes coming his way in the near future. This new series also introduces us to a brand new villain in the form of Cadaverous, yet there's nothing really to go off except that he's a seemingly menacing cyborg monster that apparently has a mysterious past with Peter. That's all there is, so there's not much to say when it comes to character development, although there could be room for improvement in future issues. However, at this point, one wonders why a new villain was necessary when an old villain with a new coat of paint would've been more interesting.
As much as writing is important, so too is the artwork, and veteran Spider-Man artist Sara Pichelli once again hits it out of the park. Pichelli made a huge mark on Spider-Man through co-creating the still-popular Miles Morales and making each page of Ultimate Spider-Man pop with energy throughout, and that energetic quality is still ever-present here. Everything feels detailed in regards to both the environments and the characters that inhabit this world, and that's all down to Pichelli's fine little touches that helps make everything stand out to the reader. When a character emotes, you can feel the emotions from the pages. Complementing Pichelli's artwork is Dave Stewart's sombre, muted colour scheme, which helps add to the atmosphere, reflecting the more grounded and emotional state of Peter, his life and his family.
While not a complete home-run, J.J. and Henry Abrams' new series takes the famous web-slinger into an unexpected and yet fascinating new direction. The new status-quo of this new alternate universe is compelling to explore and Pichelli, once again, proves to be one of the best Spider-Man artists working today. Whether or not the Abramses stick the landing by the end of this series' run remains to be seen, but for now, this is worth checking out for any Spider-Man fan.