Tuesday, March 1, 2016


OK, long-time Spidey fans, we have a decision to make here.

On the one hand, we can reject this effort to re-write Spider-Man's history.  Now, Marvel may claim that it's not doing that, that it's just telling stories that we didn't see in the original Lee/Ditko run.  But, after reading this issue, it's clearly not true.  Bradshaw shows a number of moments that deviate from Peter's past as we know it:  we've got Peter walking on a wall (rather than down a hallway) while the famed thief runs past him, a dark-haired Flash Thompson, a visibly younger Aunt May, etc.  But, the changes aren't just cosmetic.  Thomsom also introduces a number of alterations to the mythos as well:  we're got Sajani as Peter's high-school rival, Gwen and him getting assigned to each other as study partners (her biology, him history), Flash and Gwen having an antagonistic relationship, etc.  Moreover, we've got the more modern setting:  Peter's slang ("Nailed it."), the African-American female principal, the tweeting, etc.

Particularly when it comes to the more modern setting, you have to wonder what Marvel is doing here.  After all, Slott already did that, to great effect, with "Amazing Spider-Man:  Learning to Crawl."  It updated Peter's origin story and cleverly avoided messing with the original stories by showing us scenes between the classic fights.  We had the tweeting, the caring teacher that acknowledged that Peter needed counseling, the more realistic Aunt May, etc.  But, Slott didn't change any basics, as Thompson and Bradshaw do here.  We could just consider this story to be the definitive update and call it a day.

On the other hand, we can accept it for what it is, an attempt to reboot Spider-Man in a way that makes him an even more compelling character for the modern era.  This arrangement will rely heavily on Thompson and Bradshaw not going too far.  After all, the changes that they make here are fairly mild.  OK, Flash isn't blond; he's still a bully.  Aunt May is younger; but, really, she was always too old to be Peter's aunt in the first place.  I think Sajani graduating from Peter's class might go a little too far, but, on the other hand, I'm intrigued how Thompson will try to streamline the sprawling cast of characters that various authors have introduced over the last 50+ years into an integrated unit.  Maybe making Peter and Sajani high-school rivals adds a certain...punch to their current relationship that it otherwise lacks.

That said, even if Thompson and Bradshaw don't go too far, Sajani's presence here raises questions about the connection that this book will have to the other books.  Will Peter refer to Sajani as a high-school classmate in "Amazing Spider-Man?"  Will we learn that Hobie dated Gwen in middle school?  I'm a little worried it's going to become very "Muppet Babies."

In other words, it's going to be about trust.  Peter easily takes out the White Rabbit on his way to school and later prevents Doc Ock from stealing information from Oscorp during a field trip.  (Thompson hilariously has Peter comment to himself that he needs to stop going on field trips.)  So far, they're in bounds.  It feels like a story that you could easily see Lee and Ditko telling.  (Sure, he Instagrammed a photo of the defeated White Rabbit, but we'll ignore that part for the time being.)  So long as they stay focused on the stories that we haven't seen and not changing the stories that we have seen, I'll stay with them.  We need to avoid Han not shooting first.  But, I'll be honest that I think we're looking at a high-risk enterprise here that could alienate more people than it attracts.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm here for now.

*** (three of five stars)

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