Friday, January 17, 2020

#IReadsYou Review: SPIDER-MAN: Life Story #6


[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]

STORY: Chip Zdarsky
PENCILS: Mark Bagley
INKS: Andrew Hennessy
COLORS: Frank D'Armata
LETTERS: VC's Travis Lanham
EDITOR: Tom Brevoort
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Akira Yoshida a.k.a. C.B. Cebulski
COVER: Chip Zdarsky
VARIANT COVER ARTIST: Paul Pope with Bruno Seelig
36pp, Color, $4.99 U.S. (October 2019)

Rated  “T”

Spider-Man created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee

Chapter Six: “All My Enemies”

Spider-Man is a classic Marvel Comics superhero, perhaps the most famous and most popular Marvel character of all time.  Over the years, readers have followed the adventures of Spider-Man and his secret identity, Peter Parker, who is a teenager and high school student when readers first meet him.  Amazing Fantasy #15 (cover dated: August 1962) introduced 15-year-old Peter Parker.  He was bitten by a radioactive spider and, after gaining various fantastical abilities as a result of that bite, Peter became the Amazing Spider-Man.

Fifty-seven years have passed in the real world since that event, but Peter Parker, a fictional character, has practically always been either a teenager or a young man no older than his mid to late twenties.  What would have happened if fictional time passed the same as real time for Peter Parker?  The 15-year-old bitten by the radioactive spider would be 72-years-old in 2019 instead of being eternally young still in 2019.

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 lettered by Travis Lanham.  “Life Story” is set against the events of the decades through which Spider-Man has lived.

Spider-Man: Life Story #6 (“All My Enemies”) opens in 2019.  There is a new generation of heroes, including a new Spider-Man, secretly a young man named Miles Morales.  Still, Peter Parker is called to be Spider-Man one more time.  He leaves his wife Mary Jane and their children, the twins:  daughter, Claire, and son, Benjy.

Peter and Miles take off into space in a Victor Von Doom spaceship and head for Tony Stark's old Space Lab.  There, they will find a device that can put a stop to Doom's technological plot against the world.  Peter believes that he must step aside for a new generation of heroes, and that he is an old man whose enemies have all died.  Peter is only partially right on one belief and dead wrong on the other.

As I wrote in my review of Spider-Man: Life Story #2, 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.

Spider-Man: Life Story is neither a swipe of the fictional history and mythology of Spider-Man, nor is it a reboot or retelling.  First, 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 have been (mostly) no older than their mid-20s for the better part of six decades and are often eternally on the verge of graduating high school.  Zdarsky depicts Spider-Man having to face his personal obstacles and his rogue's gallery of supervillains as an aging and old man when he previously did this only as a young man.

In Spider-Man: Life Story, Zdarsky is playing with the two themes that run throughout practically every Spider-Man publication and depiction of the character in film and television – the themes of consequence and obligation.  Because of that pivotal moment in his origin story when he decided not to stop the thief that would go on to murder his beloved Uncle Ben Parker, Peter is always confronted by the consequences of his actions and inaction.  What he does or does not do in pivotal moments affects everyone around him and connected to him.

Thus, writers have always depicted Peter as having a deep sense of obligation because he has these fantastic powers, so he owes the world Spider-Man, the superhero who tries to always be here, there, and everywhere.  So, I think what Chip Zdarsky is telling us in his brilliantly conceived comic book series, Spider-Man: Life Story, is that Peter Parker will be the hero Spider-Man regardless of his age and regardless of what year it is.  For Peter and Spider-Man, time is truly neutral.

I think that artist Mark Bagley also makes Spider-Man: Life Story a classic Spider-Man comic book series for two reasons.  First, Bagley is a straight-forward graphical storyteller, illustrating fantasy as if he were a journalist conveying the history that he is witnessing.  Secondly, Bagley understands the core ideas that make Spider-Man resonate with readers and fans.

Inker Andrew Hennessy embellishes Bagley's pencil art without losing what makes it special.  Frank D'Armata colors beautifully, accentuating the story without distracting from it.  Letterer Travis Lanham seems to know exactly where to place the lettering and also how to use the lettering to convey the story's emotions, moods, and atmosphere.  I can say that Zdarsky and Bagley's storytelling would be less successful without Lanham's efforts.

Spider-Man: Life Story #6 has a shocking number of surprises that relate to Spider-Man's past conflicts, including the recent past.  The best thing that I can say about this issue is that it ends the series and also leaves me (and I suspect, many readers) really wanting more.

9.5 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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