Writer: David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky
Artist: Carmine Di Giandomenico
Collects: Spider-Man Noir #1-4
The last time I read a Marvel Noir title, I was struck with the feeling that the line might have been losing its way a bit. To Marvels credit, they haven't tried anything as ridiculous as "Thor Noir" or "Captain America Noir", but I'm still left believing that they didn't think this thing through enough. Most of the miniseries utilize Marvels most popular characters, whether they fit or not.
This one only adds wood to the fire.
Peter Parker, socialist extraordinaire, is taken under the wing of newsman Ben Urich. Peter wants to take down the Goblin, a man he's certain ordered the death of his uncle Ben. Not an easy goal, but he's helped along the way by a spider bite that gives him superhuman agility and silk webs he can fire from his wrists.
Look, I'm no noir expert, as I've said in the past. I have a passing interest in it, but well versed in the tropes I'm not. But I know enough to realize Spider-Man is not the best fit for it. Peter Parker is, in almost every continuity, a guy who rolls with whatever punch is thrown is way, which is a clash with a genre known for messy, ugly, dirty tales of betrayal and loss where everyone is bought and no one can be trusted. How do you make a guy like that work in a setting like this?
Turns out you kind of don't. Peter and his relatives are re-imagined as socialist crusaders in Depression era New York. Socialism being kind of a dirty word to most; some things never change, it seems. As pointed out in-story, it's a hell of an optimistic dream; everyone works together and things will get better. Even when faced with the ugliness, it's something Parker doesn't give up on. It's true to the character of Peter Parker in almost any universe, but it's kind of a clash with this genre.
An element of the supernatural also finds its way in. As always, Peter's bit by a spider. In this universe, it connects him to some spider god or a spider totem. Something like that. Regardless of what it is, the end result is Peter gaining superhuman agility, a Spider-Sense and webbing. I don't know enough about noir to truly say one way or the other whether it fits, but something about an element like this in a story striving to be noir seems off to me.
It's to David Hines credit that it doesn't just fall apart. It's readable and even fairly enjoyable. I'm just not sure it feels like noir, even with the betrayals, darkness and shadows. David Hine proves himself more a capable, dependable writer every time I read one of his comics. One of these days I hope to read a project of his unencumbered by flawed concepts or necessitated structural gaffes.
The Score: 7.5 out of 10
A fairly decent read, even if Spider-Man and noir isn't exactly a match made in heaven. I wouldn't recommend an outright purchase, but it might be worth a look. Depends on how much you like the idea of Spidey chillin' in the shadows and smacking around carnies. At least it's a better read than X-Men Noir.