After getting shot in the gut, Spider-Man somehow managed to climb a few miles up to the Earth’s surface from Under York, carrying a couple people. If anyone had any doubts that he was a hero, look no further. He may have gotten back to Manhattan, but he’s not out of trouble yet as the leaders of Under York are declaring war.
Comic books are capable of telling just about any story and super heroes can be used as a lens to get some great concepts through. Such is the case with the first few pages of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #4 where the webhead puts the immigration discussion into context in just a few words. “It’s a pretty simple idea. If an innocent needs help, you take them in.” Writer Tom Taylor hits the ball out of the park by the second page of this comic and he’s just getting started.
This isn’t a message that comes out of the blue. It’s weaved into the story in a way that makes it the only logical conclusion. How can you send these refugees from Under York back to such a backward, hellish landscape when they are up here searching for a better life?
The creative team doesn’t rest on their laurels after this impressive opener. Things only get better from here. Spider-Man gives his buddy the Human Torch a quick rundown of his latest adventure, which is shown in the background in 8-bit which is a hilarious touch from artist Juann Cabal. It gives you an instant understanding of the fun relationship between these two characters.
Cabal is quickly becoming one of my favorite artists with his impressive panel layouts and art direction. There is a gorgeous double page spread where the action really heats up. Spider-Man is dodging and weaving through attacks so the page is cut up into all these smaller panels, showing each movement and a number of small details from the scene. It takes an event that probably lasted a few seconds and blew it up into this epic action sequence. It’s like bullet time in comic book form.
Letterer Travis Lanham takes this over the top as the panels are surrounded by sound effects from bullets and web-shooters, creating a claustrophobic feeling. Spider-Man’s inner narration consists mainly of the words “Dodge the bullet” so these small boxes are scattered through the page, giving you a play-by-play of every move. It’s a perfect sequence that really shows what this medium is capable of.
Although this battle takes place at night, there’s an electrifying energy to it from colorist Nolan Woodard. The power has been knocked out so the streets are lit by the strange glow of the yellow elevators the Under Yorkers used to get up here. Spider-Man’s red and blue costume shines through like a colorful beacon of hope.
The issue comes to a head when the local residents come to Spider-Man’s aid. The Amazing Spider-Man movies get a bad wrap now, but one thing I thought they really got right was how New York loves the wall-crawler. That is on display in this comic in such a great way. They may not have super powers, but they stand by their hero, even if that means facing off against a super strong attacker. Spidey has created a community by doing what’s right and that’s a beautiful thing.
This was a solid, short opening arc for Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, book-ended by some potentially devastating news regarding one of Peter Parker’s loved ones. This helps frame these first few issues, showing the man behind the mask. Yes, he just survived a harrowing encounter that pushed him to his limit, but none of that can prepare him for what comes when he hangs up his webs and goes home. This is just one of the things that elevates this character and why so many people love him.