It’s time for another Looking at Pretty Pictures and this time I’m going to talk about superhero books from last week. This week there was a big Batman event (Bruce Wayne is back) and a big Spider-Man event (he’s hit the “Big Time”). I’m going to talk about Spider-Man because it’s a beginning rather than an ending, so it’s easier to get into now rather than have to track down all of the “Return of Bruce Wayne” issues; and also because Peter Parker is just better than Bruce Wayne. (That last note is mostly for eye-shuh)
I haven’t read a new Spider-Man books in a while. The last thing I touched was the trade of One More Day which I will fully admit lies somewhere between not enjoyable and downright irritating. That being said, I haven’t heard too many bad things about the Brand New Day stories that followed the end of Peter Parker and Mary-Jane’s break-up. So once I heard about the beginning of the Big Time storyline I decided it was time to give the book a chance--and I have to say it was well worth checking out.
The first thing I should mention is that I think this book is written well enough that anyone with a basic idea of what Spider-Man is about should be able to get into this first issue. It quickly establishes that Peter has become part of the Avengers, his identity is still semi-secret, and that he just got over some major drama involving his old rogue gallery lead by Doctor Octopus. From there it moves onto segments to catch up with the supporting cast of the book and setting up a new, awesome job for Peter Parker.
Overall the thing that stands out to me the most in the book is the characterization of Peter and it comes from something I hate in the movies. Namely that Peter should manufacture the webbing instead of it being a thing that comes from his body naturally. Not because web spinners in a person’s wrists make absolutely no anatomical sense, but because his manufacture of the webbing shows how smart he is.
From the movies it never really felt like Peter was smart, like he is in the comics, and that is a really important piece of what makes Spider-Man enjoyable. Peter being smart makes him an enjoyable character because without that he’s just a guy with some vaguely spider-like powers that dresses up in a costume that is also vaguely spider-like. Peter’s intelligence sets him up to be a great hero instead of just a snarky vigilante.
This issue also does a really good job of giving Peter Parker a sense of moving forward. It establishes quickly how bad Parker’s life is overall and then jumps his life forward. Granted part of the draw of Spider-Man has always been that being a hero caused Parker problems, but seeing it finally become less of a liability and more of an asset is satisfying especially for a guy that catches about one break every three years.
As good as things seem to be going for Parker, we also get to see how much trouble is about to come down on him for either being Spider-Man or for being in the right job at the wrong time. The interesting thing is that for most of the Brand New Day arcs Spider-Man was dealing with new villains, and in this new story set-up they seem to be bringing back a lot of Spidey’s better known enemies. Which makes sense because Big Time is meant to appeal even to people that have a more casual knowledge of Spider-Man books, and it would be really hard to do that using less recognizable characters.
As someone that likes comics and hasn’t read any of the newer Spider-Man stories, I really enjoyed this issue. I liked it enough that I can easily say I’ll be keeping up with the book, at least until the creative team changes. I really feel like if anyone ever thought that they might want to try reading Spider-Man this is as good an issue as any to start with. There’s a lot of work left for Parker to realize his potential both as a superhero and as a person, but I’m pretty sure this book is just about as good as it could possibly ever be.