What if Peter Parker aged along with the rest of us? That’s the premise of Spider-Man: Life Story, with each issue looking at a decade in the life of the young man with great power and great responsibility. This first issue starts in the 1960’s as Peter grapples with what to do as a hero and a citizen in the wake of the Vietnam War.
Writer Chip Zdarsky wastes no time getting to the meat of the story. We don’t rehash Spider-Man’s origin. This book is made for someone that has a passing knowledge of the character already. There are a ton of supporting characters introduced, from the basics like Gwen Stacy and J. Jonah Jameson to villains like the Green Goblin and Miles Warren (although he’s shown before he turns into the Jackal). While newer fans can enjoy this book, longtime fans will get a lot more out of it.
While the Marvel Universe is supposed to be our world, it still has a bit of the fantastic in it with all the super powers and what not. This book feels more grounded in reality than the traditional Marvel Universe. Peter is at a crossroads. He sees the news reels showing Iron Man fighting alongside soldiers in Vietnam and wonders if he should be out there. This flares up in a heated confrontation with Flash Thompson, who just enlisted.
Artist Mark Bagley matches up to the look and feel of the 1960s. The fashion, technology, and haircuts are all in line with the period. There is no doubt about when this book is set. John Dell’s inks reinforce this to an extent. There’s a glimmer of the modern style that comes through with his lines, separating it from some of the old school comics.
There’s an innocence to Peter Parker. This is a version of the character that hasn’t had too much tragedy in his life. Sure, his Uncle Ben died and that’s pushed him to be the hero he is, but he’s a college kid enjoying all the opportunities that offers. I’m very curious to see how his demeanor changes as the series continues.
The standout scene in Spider-Man: Life Story #1 comes with a subtle and menacing encounter with Norman Osborn. This is like something out of a horror movie. Norman has Peter exactly where he wants him and slowly and subtly lets him know it. It’s absolutely chilling to watch. When this sequence starts, the panel layout changes to a more structured grid with more images on the page. Each one gives us a glimpse at a detail around Peter and Norman as the former quickly surveys the scene and understands the trap that he’s found himself in.
The tone of the comic shifts when Peter puts on the webs. Colorist Frank D’Armata creates a brighter, more vibrant feel. This is when the adventure part of Peter’s life starts, even if that means he’s in the crosshairs of the Green Goblin. Even though the fight takes place at night, it’s well lit and clearly shown. Shadows exist in this area of New York City, but they shy away from someone like Spider-Man.
While Norman is a monster out of costume, he reaches a new level of terror when he suits up as the Green Goblin. Even his voice changes. Letterer Travis Lanham uses wobbly word balloons, giving the impression that Norman’s speech is more erratic and crazed. This, coupled with the beady eyes of his mask, make for a pretty menacing villain.
Spider-Man’s life, in and out of the costume, makes for a pretty compelling read. This issue gets us started with the idea behind Spider-Man: Life Story, but it’s subsequent issues that will really change things. This is Peter Parker in his early 20s. How will he be in his 30s, 40s, 50s, and so on? Will he still be swinging through the city? After grappling with a decision to join the war effort, will he enlist in future military efforts? Needless to say, I’m plugged into this book.
Although he has super strength, spider-like agility, and other super powers, Spider-Man is the people’s hero. He is the perfect lens to view history through since he give us both the every man perspective and the super hero point of view.