Saturday, January 5

i love me some well-written Spider-Man - a review of Spider-Man: Reign

so mainstream Spider-Man hasn't been treated the best lately.

first there was the questionable Spider-Man 3 movie (which i still loved, but saw many of the flaws that everyone else did - i just chose to look past them and enjoy the overall experience). if you want my lengthy remarks on the movie, check for my post from a few months ago.

then there's the debacle that is Amazing Spider-Man the comic book. ever since "The Other" storyline 2 years ago, it's been tainted by what i'd call "editorial mandates" - meaning maybe the writer (the wonderful J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame) wanted to do something with the character but the editors of the books had ol' Spidey fitting in to their plans in a different way. first Spidey moved in and joined the Avengers and Tony Stark/Iron Man became his mentor/father figure. not so bad, so whatever. THEN they had Spidey do something quite uncharacteristic in Civil War (it made national headlines it was so out-of-character). and NOW... well let's just say that the editorial machine that is Marvel has lost a faithful reader with their latest mainstream Spidey decision. i am done collecting Amazing Spider-Man for the foreseeable future.

however, there ARE creators out there still writing great Spider-Man stories. two of my ongoing favorites are Ultimate Spider-Man (which focuses on a younger Peter Parker and isn't bogged down by 40 years of history) and Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane (which is more like a high school drama, focusing on the friendships of Mary Jane, Peter Parker, Flash Thompson, Liz Allen, and Spider-Man).

and then there are the mini-series.

Spider-Man: Reign was a 4-issue mini-series that got collected in a hardcover trade that came out last year i believe. it's written and drawn by Kaare Andrews - someone i had never heard of up until this series.

you know Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller? came out in the 80s, was a dark, gritty look at Batman's future... yeah, well Spider-Man: Reign is the dark, gritty look at Spider-Man's future. and while it's probably not going to be the classic that Dark Knight is, it certainly was a great read.

set 30-some years after Peter has hung up the costume, the city of New York needs him again. it is being turned into a totalitarian state, and by a familiar foe. however, Peter doesn't go rushing to the rescue. see, he stopped being Spider-Man for a whopper of a reason and it takes a few familiar faces to make him don his costume once again.

ok, since the cover gives it away i'll tell you the reason. Mary Jane is dead, and he feels responsible. he feels responsible for ALL the deaths of those close to him - Uncle Ben, Aunt May, and Mary Jane. let me tell you - once you find out HOW Mary Jane died... wow. it's pretty shocking. i'm surprised it got past Marvel's editorial staff.

anyway, it's fairly obvious that Andrews pulled from Dark Knight for inspiration, as the art style, storytelling, and even story mirror it quite a bit. it's a very dark, brutal, and unforgiving story. speaking of the storytelling, it's written from a few points of view, and the dialogue early on is kept intentionally vague - so it can be a bit confusing at first (like "who's that guy?" or "why are these people speaking so cryptically?") but the story is better for it. all will be revealed, don't worry.

the only faults are that 1) it almost mirrors Dark Knight (and other future stories like V for Vendetta) a little too much with the whole totalitarian state thing, and 2) the main villain, while a good fit, just doesn't have the emotional punch that it should. see, Batman has his Joker (the villain in Dark Knight) but Spider-Man doesn't have a Joker. the closest foe would probably be the Green Goblin, but he's been dead for a while. as it is, they did the best they could with the villain, but it just lacked a certain something.

Spider-Man: Reign. read it if you can.

- kawitchate

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