Thursday, January 12, 2012

GN Review -- Spider-Man: Peter Parker / Bob Gale, Tom Peyer, Patrick Olliffe and Todd Nauck

As much as I love seeing Spider-Man throw down and trash some bad guys, I do find it a welcome respite from time to time, to see more of his day-to-day life as Peter Parker, which over the years has come to be every bit as colorful and interesting as his life in webs.  In Spider-Man: Peter Parker, there is still plenty of webslinging action, but we get a lot more focus on his civilian life and the people he interacts with.

J. Jonah Jameson has been elected mayor, and is chomping at the bit to get Spider-Man put away and boost his faltering image.  In fact, he's squandering taxpayers' money to install special cameras and fund an "anti-Spider squad" to catch him.  Throw in some odd appearances by a new villain called Spectrum, and Spider-Man has his hands full just trying to stay alive, to say nothing about protecting his own public image.

He gets some unexpected help from a group of high school girls, who decide to use his example as inspiration and form the Spider-Girls, a service group aiming to make the world a better place.  When their image becomes popular, a thinly-veiled Paris Hilton celebutante clone swoops in and steals their thunder.  A media tug-of-war ensues, and Spider-Man gets involved by talking to both sides, trying hard to guide them to settle things civilly, do the right thing, and keep the mayor's Anti-Spider Squad and the ever-present Spectrum contained.

The final chapter of this collection tacks on a completely unrelated story involving a mentally traumatized Spider-Man and the Thing, working together to find out who caused a mental blackout in him that made him temporarily take charge of a group of homeless people.  As they take out an AIM lab, one of the homeless woman he led finds out his real identity, and destroys all the records to protect him.

With the exception of the last story, which feels completely unrelated and tacked on just for the purpose of filling out volume, I really enjoyed this collection.  It's fun seeing Spider-Man deal with publicity issues, particularly when he gets a chance to stick it to Jonah.  He takes his responsibility as a role model to the Spider-Girls very seriously, going to bat for them on more than one occasion in both his civilian and his super-hero guises.  And the Parker Luck is in full swing here, as Spidey very often gets shown in a bad light whenever he's just trying to do what he sees as the right thing.

Gale's writing here is pretty memorable.  He plays with the theme of appearance vs. reality masterfully, using both the Spider-Girls and Teri Hillerman as extreme examples of good and bad.  He also adds deft touches of humor; I found it particularly amusing that Ms. Hillerman kept asking Spider-Man questions about his body and how he likes to "do it."  Puerile playfulness at its best.  I couldn't really get into Peyer's story, as it felt too compacted and rushed to be a one-issue story.  I'm sure he did the best with what he could, but I just couldn't shake the feeling that this was filler.

The artwork in both stories is good.  I can't recall having see Olliffe's work before, but demonstrates an appropriate knack for drawing people, be they in large groups or singular shots.  It's a little flat and cartoony, but nothing to complain about, as it certainly suits the superhero comics medium.  Nauck's linework has more depth, which complements the darker narrative in which he's working.

Overall, this volume is a lot of fun.  Spidey vs. Jonah, Spider-Girls vs. Paris Hilton knock-off, Spidey vs. bad publicity... there's potential for a lot here.  Spidey fans could probably get  along without reading it, but I'm not sure why they'd want to.  Highly recommended.

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