Current Reviews


Spectacular Spider-Man #1

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2003
By: David Kozlowski

"The Hunger (part 1 of 5)"

Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Humberto Ramos (p), Wayne Faucher (i)

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Welcome to the new Peter Parker: Spider-Man. Spectacular Spider-Man #1 essentially picks up where the former comic left off. If you're a new reader, which you should be since this is the debut issue, prepare to be a bit lost. Uber-nemesis Venom is back and he's extra-specially violent. Spider-Man confronts the monster and realizes that its human host, Eddie Brock, may be lost for good.

I love reading the first comic of a new series, in this case a re-start of the long buried: Spectacular Spider-Man, back issues of which are readily available at your local comic shop. One would expect a story that introduces the central cast to new readers who might not be familiar with our characters or settings. So it may come as a surprise that Spectacular Spider-Man is simply "Peter Parker: Spider-Man" in disguise. You may have heard that Peter Parker was cancelled, Marvel may have even solicited Spectacular as a new beginning or a continuation, I don't know and I suspect that a new reader won't either.

If you're a devoted Spider-Man reader then you'll know who Venom is, how Flash Thompson came to be in the hospital and why Peter Parker refers to his girlfriend even though he's married in Amazing Spider-Man and has never hooked up with Mary Jane in last year's Sam Raimi movie. Essentially, writer Paul Jenkins is almost hostile to the new reader. As the issue opens we are thrown into a dank, rainy corner of New York's Greenwich Village to see a young woman attacked by a shadowy creature. We skip to Peter Parker interacting with his neighbors, some of whom are really insulting stereotypes (especially if you're a New Zealander). Next we jump back to the scene of the attack where the cops explain that there have been a string of cases just like it. Again we change settings, this time to a church confessional where Eddie Brock complains to a priest that he is possessed. Confused? I was.

It is this kind of haphazard and disconnected storytelling that marks the debut of Spectacular Spider-Man. Jenkins just assumes that everyone will understand what is going on and that there is no need for introductions or explanations. Then, in the middle of the book Spider-Man fights Venom and we go down an entirely different narrative path.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your attitude, Humberto Ramos provides energetic and often eclectic art. I expect that some people will be bent sideways at Ramos's mega-exaggerated style. His characters are warped and contorted and often unpleasantly disproportionate. The button eyes and wonky facial expressions are generally amusing, but sometimes distracting. Yet, I like it - Ramos is unique, there's a children's book illustration quality to his style. Inker Wayne Faucher punches blacks really effectively yet renders such a clean line that it is always clear who and where the characters are. This is also a brilliantly colored comic that really helps to distinguish the different locations.

Final Word:
Am I being too harsh to Paul Jenkins and editor Axel Alonso? I don't think so. There are basic tenants of storytelling that are being ignored. I've got no reason to care about any of the characters - other than that offensive New Zealand guy who exists solely for comic relief. Spectacular Spider-Man #1 is like walking into a movie twenty minutes late, there's a whole act missing. I reference the Sam Raimi movie with good reason, there are people who will visit a comic shop and be attracted to a new Spider-Man book thinking that it is a good jumping on point. I suspect that they'll be angry afterwards.

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