Wednesday, February 17, 2010

WEB OF SPIDER-MAN #1 - April 1985

‘Til Death Do Us Part!

Credits: Louise Simonson (writer), Greg LaRocque (penciler), Jim Mooney (inker), Janice Chiang (letterer), George Roussos (colorist)

The Plot: Spider-Man’s alien costume returns to feed on him. As Spider-Man travels to the Baxter Building for Reed Richards’ help, he’s attacked by the Vulturions. He fights them off and follows the sound of church bells. Standing in the bell tower, the sonic blast harms his costume, but nearly kills Spider-Man. The costume pulls Spider-Man to safety before it disintegrates.

The Subplots: Mary Jane runs into Aunt May at a department store. May’s upset that Peter has dropped out of graduate school. Harry and Liz Osborn have given birth to a son and named Peter and MJ his godparents.

Web of Continuity: At this point, Mary Jane has recently revealed she knows Peter Parker’s secret identity. The alien costume was believed to have been destroyed by the Fantastic Four’s sonic cannon. The story of Spider-Man using church bells to kill the alien is greatly expanded in Amazing #300, which reveals Venom’s origin. This scene has also been retold dozens of times in the comics, and in TV and movie adaptations (although everyone leaves out the Vulturions). The Vulturions are a group of small-level criminals who have stolen the Vulture’s technology to gain vengeance on Spider-Man. Their members include (I swear) Honcho, Gripes, Pigeon, and Sugar Face.

Production Note: Janice Chiang is credited as letterer, but several pages have Phil Felix’s distinctive lettering style. Some of the pages also have a Rick Parker look.

*See _________ For Details: Peter says he’s recently broken up with the Black Cat. An editor’s note points towards Peter Parker #100 for the details.

Forever Young: Peter reflects on the youthful antics of his teenage neighbors, Randy, Bambi, and Candy. He figures they’re only now learning not to sunbathe in Autumn because they’re so young, then refers to himself as “Methuselah.”

Review: How do you open the first issue of a new series? Do you have the lead character reflect on the events of another title for several pages? Do you plug in a footnote referencing another comic on the very first page? Construct a story that’s essentially a sequel to another comic that’s a few months old? This is old school Marvel Comics, the company that was supposedly so horribly reader-unfriendly, yet managed to sell millions of comics every month. I don’t personally find this comic impenetrable, but I was surprised to read a first issue that doesn’t open with a slow-motion introduction of the main hero and some filler pages spelling out the premise. This could’ve easily been any random issue of Peter Parker or Amazing. I’m sure that worked in convincing people that this was an “important” part of the Spider-canon, but surely they realized a few issues in that most of the stories are pretty inconsequential.

Even if it isn’t a remarkable first issue, it is an entertaining superhero story. Before the black costume became this ultra-serious representation of Peter Parker’s dark side, the writers were able to have fun with it. Simonson has the costume freaking out and acting irrationally when it discovers Peter is trying to contact Reed Richards. It spends much of the issue running Spidey into walls, refusing to shoot webbing, and dropping him to the ground. There’s usually an element of sweetness in Louise Simonson stories, which comes through here when the costume acts on its affection for Spider-Man and rescues him during its final moments. That’s another aspect of the story that’s usually forgotten, but it makes for a nice ending. I also like the art, which is somewhat of a generic ‘80s Marvel affair, but does have lovely inking by comics legend Jim Mooney. Web is off to a reasonable start, but Louise Simonson was never supposed to be the regular writer, which will lead to a series of rotating writers and directionless stories in the early days.


Matt said...

This is one of my all-time favorite comic book covers. I can never see it too many times!

Interesting that Aunt May was upset about Peter's dropping out of grad school in April of '85, when the issue where he actually did so was published in August of '83 (though he never got around to telling May until something like June of '84) -- but that's "Marvel Time" for ya!

Threading of sub-plots such as that one are things that I greatly miss in today's Marvel Comics...

Bizen 247 said...

The best part of Web of Spider-man was the Charles Vess covers that would show up here and there.

Teebore said...

@Matt:Threading of sub-plots such as that one are things that I greatly miss in today's Marvel Comics...

Me too!

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