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Review: Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man #1

Spidey definitely has the jokes in the new series Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man #1 from one of comics’ greatest comedy writers Chip Zdarsky, stellar and steady artist Adam Kubert, and colorist extraordinaire Jordie Bellaire. (It rhymes on purpose.) Instead of trying to tell some epic, interweaving crossover story or as a vehicle for his Batman fan fiction, Zdarsky and Kubert focus on the humorous and relational sides of Spider-Man. In this issue, he stops a mugger, basically goes on a date with Johnny Storm, sets up a date with a new character which he will probably miss, and there’s a soap opera ending. Sure, there might be one or two too many guest stars, but a little bit of comedy covers a multitude of gratuitous superhero cameos.

In its page layout, Spectacular Spider-Man #1 evokes the art of late 80s/early 90s “hot” artists Erik Larsen and Todd McFarlane, who tried to make every double page spread a poster you wanted to throw up on your bedroom wall unless you were one of those Goth kids that liked Sandman and Sandman alone. Except Adam Kubert is a hell of a storyteller, who kicks off the issue Manhattan style with an aerial shot of Spider-Man and his (boy)friend Human Torch eating shawarma on a New York rooftop after a frenetic opening page that both retells his origin and pokes fun at the incessant retellings of his origin in both comics and films. In his art style, Kubert strikes a balance between the cartoonish goofiness of, say, Erica Henderson and the strong superhero work of Andy Kubert. There’s punching, web swinging, and size changing when Ant-Man pops up, but Kubert leaves the page open for Zdarsky’s banter with bright pops of color from Bellaire, who is operating in happy superhero mode.

Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert spend most of the time with Spider-Man in costume because his weak Breaking Bad puns as Peter Parker either fall flat or work as excellent “your parents just spent a weekend binging Better Call Saul and didn’t answer any of your calls” jokes. Plus it sets up excellent sight gags like Spidey trying and failing to do a good cop/bad cop routine when he investigates a hacked phone in Chicago. (His costume is too damn bright.) Kubert brings the iconic splash pages while Zdarsky brings Spidey back to Earth with awkward phone conversations with Aunt May about the copyright friendly version of Tinder or freaking out about his powers when it was really just Ant-Man lending a helping hand.  Spider-Man is still about power and responsibility, but Zdarsky and Kubert show him struggling with his web fluid (This leads to so much dirty subtext if your mind’s in the gutter.) and freaking out whether to call or text back a standup comedian named Rebecca that he rescued earlier. Spidey is back to protecting ordinary people, being awkward and funny, and occasionally geeking out about science until Zdarsky pulls the proverbial rug out with a couple reveals in the last few pages.

And like a post-credits sting that stands alone as a complete narrative and adds a certain level of intrigue to the main plot, Chip Zdarsky, Goran Parlov, and Nathan Fairbarn cook up a one one one battle between Spider-Man and his fellow arachnid themed superhero, Black Widow. Zdarsky gives Spider-Man all the goofy, pleading dialogue he can handle while keeping Natasha silent and stoic until the final couple pages. She’s there to kick Spider-Man’s ass, and Parlov’s return into interior art is a true tour de force of action choreography. Spidey isn’t as good of a martial artist as Black Widow so he focuses on his speed, agility, and Spider sense as he dodges kicks that would incapacitate any ordinary person. However, his powerful figures aren’t lost under the speed lines, and you can see every move as the fight progresses. The backup makes you wish that Marvel would let Parlov draw an action-driven comic featuring any Marvel hero. Hell, he could even make Stilt-Man look badass.

If you want a Spider-Man comic that reminds you of flipping through comics with big, open layouts by John Romita Sr, Todd McFarlane, or Mark Bagley and still has a quirky, clever, and occasionally adult sense of humor, then Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man #1 is the book for you. Chip Zdarsky is truly the king of comedy featuring iconic pop culture characters with his playful, sometimes encyclopedic, and joke-a-minute approach to the webslinger just like he did with Jughead for Archie.

Story: Chip Zdarsky Art: Adam Kubert Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Backup Art: Goran Parlov Backup Color: Nathan Fairbarn
Story: 9.0 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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