Sunday, January 15, 2012

GN Review -- Spider-Man: Origin of the Species / Mark Waid and Paul Azaceta

What happens when a plethora of your enemies plans to steal your best friend's newborn son so that he can be experimented on?  How do you begin to keep that child safe, even with the best of intentions and spider-powers, when numbers, the media, and the police are all working against you?  Peter Parker sees just how far he can go to outstrip the infamous Parker Luck when a child's life is on the line in Spider-Man: Origin of the Species.

Peter, dealing with the typically tough trappings of his new life--money troubles, a hard-headed roommate, and a reputation both in and out of costume as a horrible human being--meets his friends for coffee, when the untimely arrival of Menace--aka Harry's ex, Lily Hollister--heralds a struggle with higher stakes than anyone is prepared for.  Before we know it, Spider-Man has grabbed the newborn child she's delivered, and is put through his paces to keep the boy out of the clutches of some of his deadliest foes--and the Looter--all of whom are working for Spidey's arch-nemesis, Doctor Octopus, who wants to use the newborn's unique biochemistry to cure his withered body.  It becomes both a physical and an emotional roller coaster ride as Spider-Man evades foes, loses the child, and becomes obsessed with both revenging himself upon anyone who had a hand in the baby's kidnapping and searching for and recovering Harry's son.

I have to say, this was a fun story.  I mean, I know the idea of Spidey swinging frenetically around the city with a newborn baby in his possession while he tries to avoid enemy after enemy who wants to either kidnap the kid or pound Spidey's flesh into the ground should be alarming on some level--I seriously doubt a newborn would survive that kind of ride without some form of injury, or even death--but you have to admit, if there's a better setup for a gauntlet, it's really hard to imagine what it is.  Plus, we get to see Spider-Man using his wits against the apparently brilliant Doc Ock, using him as bait for the Lizard near the end.

Also of paramount importance is the discovery that, near the end of the story, newborn Stanley Osborn is not the son of Harry's father, Norman.  This is significant not only because it means he won't be in any further danger due to his genome--Doc Ock thought he was the product of Norman Osborn and Lily Hollister, both of whom had unique genetic properties due to their ingesting various permutations of the Goblin Serum--but it also means that, despite all of Norman's efforts to take Lily from Harry, that Harry is after all looking after his son, and not his brother.  It's a heartening end to the Harry-Lily-Norman debacle, one that will hopefully herald better things for Harry and his family.

I didn't think I was going to like Paul Azaceta's artwork at the beginning of the story, as it seemed flat, simple, and with no real depth at first.  But as I read on, I found that it works pretty well with the story being told, with Spider-Man rushing into and out of trouble, desperate to find and rescue the baby, and all manner of volatile events happening in the blink of an eye.  With so much going on, the style actually works--the looks on the villains' faces as Spidey hunts them down in vengeance are particularly memorable--and the use of darkness and shading really works towards some of the end action scenes.  I think those who take their time to read and peruse the artwork may have issues with it, and I'm not sure how well it would be received in a slower-paced, more measured story arc, but I really do like it in this story.

Overall, I think this story will stand as a good example of how difficult life can be if you're Spider-Man.  Peter's attempts to keep baby Osborn alive, while somewhat comical, also take a turn for the dark, and his life out of costume is no picnic, either.  It kept me turning the pages, and the heart-warming resolution leaves the indelible conclusion that, while life is often hard for both Peter Parker and Spider-Man, it's always worth it for both of them to try their hardest to help others.  Highly recommended.

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