Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Review: SPIDER-MAN: Life Story #2


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Chip Zdarsky
PENCILS: Mark Bagley
INKS: Drew Hennessy
COLORS: Frank D'Armata
LETTERS: Travis Lanham
EDITOR: Tom Brevoort
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Akira Yoshida a.k.a. C.B. Cebulski
COVER: Chip Zdarsky
36pp, Color, $4.99 U.S. (June 2019)

Rated  “T”

Spider-Man created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee

Spider-Man is a classic Marvel Comics superhero.  Over the years, readers followed the adventures of Spider-man and his secret identity, that of teenager and high school student, Peter Parker.

In 1962, in Amazing Fantasy #15 (cover dated: August 1962), 15-year-old Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider and became the Amazing Spider-Man.  Fifty-seven years have passed in the real world since that event.  What would have happened if the same amount of time passed for Peter as well?   Spider-Man: Life Story is a new comic book miniseries that tells the story of Peter Parker and Spider-Man in real time, depicting his life from beginning to end.  Spider-Man: Life Story is written by Chip Zdarsky; drawn by Mark Bagley (pencils) and Drew Hennessy (inks); colored by Frank D'Armata; and letterer Travis Lanham.  “Life Story” is set against the events of the decades through which Spider-Man has lived.

Spider-Man: Life Story #2 opens in sometime in the mid-1970s.  Peter Parker and his wife, Gwen Stacy, visit the grave of Eugene “Flash” Thompson.  Flash, Peter's high school rival and erstwhile friend, was killed in Vietnam War/Conflict.  Peter is in a constant state of existential crisis.  He believes that he and others with great powers should be using their talents and creations to make the world a better place.  Peter still believes that he should have played a part in Vietnam.  But not everyone is feeling Peter's feelings or worldview.  And an old enemy reaches out to touch Peter.

For the last two decades, especially since the beginning of Joe Quesada's reign as Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics (in the year 2000), Marvel has been rebooting, re-imagining, and re-purposing the fictional histories of its comic books.  Maybe, that is a way to introduce classic story lines, story arcs, characters, concepts, etc. to a new readers.  One could say that this also allows older (and old) readers to experience the stories of the past retold to one extent or another.

I don't see Spider-Man: Life Story as a swipe of the fictional history and mythology of Spider-Man.  Instead Chip Zdarsky is representing the conflicts and melodramas that The Amazing Spider-Man and other Spider-Man publications depicted as the life experiences of a character who is aging in “real time.”  These are no longer just the adventures and misadventures and trial and tribulations of a young man and his superhero alter-ego who has been (mostly) no older than his mid-20s for the better part of six decades and is often eternally on the edge of graduating high school.

I am loathe to discuss the Spider-Man moments that Zdarsky represents, but I can say that by the end of Spider-Man: Life Story #2, Peter is 30 or 31.  He no longer has the eternal optimism of youth that will allow him to overlook a clone of himself.  He isn't a teenager or a college student or mid-20s professional who can brush off Spider-Man's darkest moments when it is time for him to play civilian the day after.

Spider-Man: Life Story does not quite take the real world approach to superheroes the way Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen did.  Spider-Man: Life Story #2, however, does take the approach to time and tide – the outward flow of time – that Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross' Marvels does.  No matter how many fantastic things are occurring, the players in this story age.  And life takes its toll.

What Zdarsky and artist Mark Bagley are offering is a chance to see one of the greatest superheroes forced to face his trials as a maturing man and not as an eternal boy or boyish man.  Spider-Man: Life Story #2 tells me that this series is for real.

9 out of 10

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux a.k.a. "I Reads You"

The text is copyright © 2019 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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