I’ve always like Spider-Man as a comic character. From the start, he’s been a super hero who, despite being deeply angst ridden, has been able to elicit real sympathy in the reader. Being able to climb walls and shoot webs hasn’t stopped him having money worries or having to deal with a perennially ill aunt.
But this is a character who’s been appearing in a monthly comic series for almost 50 years (His first appearance was in October 1962). To keep him fresh and appealing, the writers and editors have sometimes tried to revitalise the character by introducing a new direction.
The most infamous of these attempts among fans, was the Clone Saga of the 90’s. The creative team decided that Peter Parker, who we’d all thought for years was Spider-Man, was actually a clone. The real Spider-Man was Ben Reilly, who was much “grittier”. (He had stubble and everything.)
The whole thing proved to be deeply unpopular, so Ben was killed off and the status quo returned.
However, in 2007, the powers-that-be at Marvel Comics decided to revitalise Spider-Man again. Through a particularly convoluted storyline, he ended up once again young, single and living with his aunt. (He’d previously been married for 20 years. But not in comic time, which is different.)
The resulting comics started out pretty well. But over time, for some reason, the dreaded “grit factor” came into play again. Eventually, there was a story where the villain, the Lizard ate his son, closely followed by another featuring human sacrifice.
Now, I’m not sure if someone then spoke to the creative team and said “Hey, kids might be reading this!” but they’ve changed the direction again.
Which *finally* brings us to the actual comic that I’m meant to be reviewing.
The new storyline is called “Big Time”, and it’s written by Dan Slott, who wrote the excellent She-Hulk series a few years back.
So far the story certainly seems to be taking less of an interest in kicking Spider-Man at every opportunity. When the story begins, he’s unemployed and publicly discredited in his chosen profession of news photographer, but by the end of the first installment, someone’s remembered that he’s an ace scientist and he ends up working at the science equivalent of Google…
Needless to say there’s also villainous types who like to steal scientific advances from such places (in the spirit of every James Bond film), so the story still has plenty of kapow type action. (The comic even uses “Kapow” style sound effects, which many comics haven’t used for years.)
The villain in this instance is classic 80’s villain the Hobgoblin (who also featured in the 90’s cartoon). Or rather a new Hobgoblin, who takes over from his predecessor by decapitating him… (As you can guess, the less gritty thing isn’t completely in evidence…)
The storyline is clever and builds on the character’s long history while not being completely po-faced. (Any comic where the villain is repelled by Lady Gaga being played through a tannoy has a lot to commend it.)
The latest issue in the story line is Amazing Spider-Man #650. After some bumps, in the recent past, I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to the next 650.