"Skin Deep, Part 1 of 4"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Artists: Mike Deodato (p), Joe Pimentel (i)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As Peter tries to get on with his life we see Charlie Weiderman pays him a visit, and we learn Charlie was an awkward nerd who enrolled in Peter's high school and quickly took over Peter's position as the preferred target of the school bullies. However, while Peter did little to secure Charlie's friendship, we see Charlie looked upon Peter as one of his only friends, and in the present day he's looking for Peter's help in securing financing for a dubious sounding experiment. Needless to say no good deed goes unpunished, and by issue's end there is yet another super-powered individual bearing a grudge toward poor Peter Parker.
I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only comic fan who received a copy of Spider-Man 2 for Christmas, and as such before reading this issue I had just finished watching a film that featured a scientist who was so invested in their experiment's success that they were unwilling to acknowledge that there was a fatal flaw in their work. This in turn gives this issue a rather familiar feel as we have a young genius who is so blinded by the potential of his experiment's success that he's unwilling to acknowledge that there are some serious safety concerns that could turn his attempt at the brass ring into a full blown disaster. However, the simple fact of the matter is a successful experiment is a true rarity in the comic book universe, as I think roughly two-thirds of all the super-powered individuals in comics revived their powers from a botched experiment, and it's become standard operating procedure for the scientists to ignore the potential dangers in their bid to grace mankind with their discovery. This issue also offers up the other cliché in these experiments in that the scientist is never killed when their experiment blows up, but rather they are given superpowers, and like most good villains this issue also provides a ready made reason for why this newly powered individual would blame our hero for his experiment's failure. However, in spite of the plot by numbers story when it comes to how our villain received his power, this issue does earn itself my recommendation for the work it does detailing how this new villain was a part of Peter's world. I also rather enjoyed the scene where Tony Stark reacts to Peter's name showing up on the research proposal.
First off I have to say I loved the tongue-in-cheek feel of this issue's cover, as how can one not smile when looking at this image. As for the interior art, Mike Deodato does a pretty effective job of telling the material set in the present day, from Peter's harried behaviour in the opening pages, to a great one page collection of images as we see Peter is busy living his life, while Charlie Weiderman is busy carrying out his experiment. The final page explosion was also pretty impressive, as while you had to see it coming, it doesn't make it any less exciting from a visual sense. I also enjoyed the work that Mark Brooks turned in on the flashback material, as his work has a simple appearance that nicely suits the era that the story is supposed set in. In fact my only quibble with his art is that the writing suggests that this is supposed to be before Peter is bitten by the irradiated spider, but the art makes Peter look a little too buff.
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