Peter Parker has been through some pretty rough times as of late. Still reeling from the death of his first love, Gwen Stacy, he’s turned to Mary Jane Watson as the two start to form a family. Of course, this couldn’t happen at a worse time as Peter has been swept away to Battleworld with a number of other heroes and villains. While Mary Jane prepares to give birth with an elderly and dementia-ridden Aunt May by her side, Spider-Man has found a new and darker suit.
It seems that regardless of all the good Peter does as Spider-Man, his personal life is met with tragedy after tragedy. Spider-Man: Life Story has been a sobering journey of this guy that just wants to do the right thing and suffering so very much for it. This issue is perhaps the most heartbreaking.
Let’s start with the birth of Peter and Mary Jane’s kids. Yes, I said kids. They’re twins! MJ is angry with her husband and rightfully so. Granted, Peter has a good excuse, but it seems that he’s consistently putting his life as Spider-Man ahead of his duties as a husband and now a father. Making matters worse is that her only companion in this is Aunt May who is starting to lose her faculties.
When Peter finally does show up, he looks like a broken man. Artist Mark Bagley captures the ragged and desperate quality that has descended upon the wall-crawler. The guilt of being absent for the birth of his kids is enough to tear him up, but his age is starting to show. He’s getting too old for this super hero work.
This plays into a really interesting take on the symbiote suit. Writer Chip Zdarsky frames Peter’s use of the suit as an addiction and that definitely shows in Bagley’s artwork. Peter needs the suit because he’s getting slower and weaker. He needs it if he wants to stay alive and keep fighting the good fight. One could argue that now that he has a family, it might be a good time to hang up the webs.
We also get a new take on Kraven’s Last Hunt that frames it through the lens of the Cold War. Zdarsky does a great job weaving real world elements into the story and this issue is no different. An aged Kraven looks desperate and terrifying. Inker John Dell brings out the wrinkles and wear and tear well. You can see the crazed look in his eyes.
Kraven pushes Peter to the breaking point, forcing the hero to realize everything he’s putting on the line when he dons the mask. Letterer Travis Lanham captures that frantic desperation in broken word balloons, like Peter is forcing the words out in a last ditch effort at mercy.
Although we’ve got an exciting time with the birth of the twins, Spider-Man: Life Story takes a somber tone. It’s more than a little dark and dreary. Colorist Frank D’Armata nails this mood perfectly with some great uses of greys. Some of the more heroic elements, like the time on Battleworld, cut through in bright shades, but you can’t escape this feeling of foreboding. It’s like there’s a constant dark cloud hanging over Peter Parker.
Now that Spider-Man: Life Story has really started to get going, picking up with Peter over twenty years into his super hero career, it’s shown a side of his story we haven’t really had a chance to explore. We’ve always seen the young, fun-loving Peter Parker and now we’re seeing the older, perhaps wiser version, where his life as Spider-Man is really wearing on him. We’re halfway through this now and I can’t imagine that Peter’s life is going to get any easier.