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Peter Parker #1

Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010
By: Dave Wallace

Bob Gale, Fred Hembeck
Patrick Olliffe (p & i), Antonio Fabela (colours), Fred Hembeck
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Peter Parker #1 arrives in stores tomorrow, March 24.

Peter Parker #1 is the first printed outing for a Spider-Man story by Bob Gale and Patrick Olliffe that made its first appearance on Marvel's subscription-only digital comics service some time ago.

Don't let the series' title fool you: it's just as much of a Spider-Man book as Amazing Spider-Man, despite Marvel's history of having its "Peter Parker" books nominally designated as the place in which more character-based stories could be told. Set firmly in Amazing continuity, this debut issue deals with Peter's relationship with his flatmate, Michelle Gonzales, and introduces a new villain to Spidey's rogues gallery at the same time as showing J. Jonah Jameson's mayoral attempts to cope with a delicate PR situation.

Even if the references to current continuity are a little dated (since the tale was designed to be contemporary when it was first released digitally in November), it's still an enjoyable Spidey story. Gale seems to have an appreciation of the irony that constantly informs Peter Parker's existence, whether it's Spider-Man saving the life of a workman who was installing a city-wide camera network to apprehend the web-slinger, or more grounded problems like Peter being coerced into contributing hundreds of dollars to the costs of redecorating his apartment in a colour scheme that he secretly hates.

Talking of colour, the issue also introduces a new adversary in the form of Spectrum, a villain with a neat gimmick that could only really work in comics and cartoons, but which is pulled off well here. The character's ability to alter colour perception allows colourist Antonio Fabela to play around with some odd, somewhat psychedelic colour schemes, and I'll be interested to see whether the story continues along this road of visual experimentation when the character shows up again.

Artist Pat Olliffe turns in some solid work here, in a style that feels somewhere between that of John Romita Jr. and Sal Buscema. This makes him a good fit for a Spider-Man book, and he's obviously comfortable with the movements and physical attributes of the character (which perhaps isn't surprising after working for so long on the Spider-Girl title).

The story isn't all great, however. There's no particular reason to be interested in the J. Jonah Jameson subplot (although it does give him the opportunity to coin the excellent word "celebutards"), and Gale seems preoccupied with the antics of a trio of high-school girls who don't seem to be immediately relevant to the plot at this point. I'm sure that these scenes will intersect with Peter Parker's life in a meaningful way at some point, but for the moment they feel like a distraction from the rest of the story.

In addition to Gale and Olliffe's story, the issue also presents a Fred Hembeck short that deals with the pre-teen antics of Peter Parker and the Fantastic Four's Johnny Storm, who meet long before either of them obtain super-powers and inadvertently foil a crime spree. It's a fun, silly story that's illustrated in Hembeck's usual charming style and gets its biggest laughs from its forced references to the eventual superhero identities of its characters. However, it's not particularly memorable or hilarious, and I wonder whether Marvel's price of $3.99 might be a little too much to ask for a months-old (albeit fairly enjoyable) Spider-Man story and a light, fluffy backup strip.






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