Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spider-Man: Season One (comic)

Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Neil Edwards
Original Graphic Novel
Also Included: Avenging Spider-Man #1
Clearly, the gears are a spinning over at Marvel headquarters, because I have to say this new graphic novel line is a good idea.

Unlike DC, Marvel never really changed their continuity around all that much. As such, they've had less need to retell or revise the origin stories of their heroes. They're the same as they were when they first debuted in the 60's. The flipside of that being that said origin stories are not likely to appeal to anyone who may wish to try a Marvel comic.

Lets face it; Stan Lee - along with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko - may have built a universe from whole cloth, but the stories of their day are very, very dated and can be a bit of a chore to get through.

So, have a creative team produce an original graphic novel updating the origin stories of their most popular characters? A good move by Marvel. Including an issue of a modern day comic of said character - introduced as a "where are they now" after the main feature - to entice them into the monthly grind? That one's a shrewd move. Credit where it's due here; this is a slick, modern, well put together hardcover

The only iffy part is the branding*, but everything else more than makes up for it.

I probably don't need to recap much of the story; it's an iconic tale that everyone knows by heart now. Peter's a nerd who is bit by a radioactive spider, thus giving him amazing powers. At first he tries to take advantage of them for his own gain, but when his uncle dies in a manner that he could have prevented, he realized he has a responsibility to use those powers for good. The Amazing Spider-Man is born.

Cullen Bunn is a new face at Marvel who rose to prominence seemingly overnight. He tackles this in a manner reminiscent of an older comic; lots of thought balloons and a few too many instances of characters talking to themselves at length. I'm not sure if this was a conscious choice - perhaps Bunn was trying to update the storytelling styles of the day for this - but I'm not sure it worked as he may have hoped. There are several instances where it might have been appropriate for Bunn to pull back a bit and let the art do the talking.

The art, by the way, is pretty solid work. It's clean, expressive and does a fine job of telling the story. Neil Edwards doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything here, but at the same time, he doesn't really have to.

There's nothing offensively bad about this graphic novel; it's an alright retelling of Spider-Mans classic origin. It doesn't touch the best - I've long felt Ultimate Spider-Man is the cream of the crop in Spider-Man origins - but it's a step up from the original. If I had to choose one thing that struck me as an issue, it would be the odd pacing and structure.

The story itself feels like it's reached it's natural climax and endpoint when Peter discovers that his uncles murderer is the same man he let go earlier in the story. Instead, the book moves onward into Spider-Mans first real adventure against the Vulture. Trouble is, Vulture was barely mentioned in the first half and it's treated as a part of the same story. Since this part was not separate from the origin - as, say, another chapter in the book - it ends up feeling like a very long denouement instead of another adventure.

As for the extra - a copy of Avenging Spider-Man #1 to show what Spidey is up to in current continuity - it's a pretty fun opener to what seems to have been a multi-part storyline. Spidey teams up with Red Hulk to fight the Mole Men. It's some good fun. It's bolstered by art by Joe Maduriera, who hasn't done interior work on a comic in a good long while.

The Score: 7 out of 10

There are some issues here, but it's not a bad retelling of Spideys origin. I'd say it's worth a look for a newbie. Everyone else won't find much they haven't seen before. Regardless, the line is a good idea; I just hope the overall craft is on a higher level for the other installments.

* The "Season One" moniker is odd. It gets across the general idea; this is starting right from the beginning. It also accomplishes the goal of differentiating their line from DC's "Year One" tagline. But a "season"? That's television terminology that denotes a run of episodes from a serialized program. It's... odd, considering this is a single story, not to mention a comic book. It also breeds expectation; if there's a season one, shouldn't there logically be a second season? Time will tell  if there will be a Season Two, but as of this writing there's no word.

No comments:

Post a Comment