In Review: Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #1

A good start, with a fun, easy story and strong art.

The covers: There were twenty-eight different covers that I could locate for this issue, though there could be more. The Regular cover is by interior artist Adam Kubert. In a move not unlike a certain reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper, a close-up is shown of Peter Parker’s chest, with him opening his white shirt to reveal his iconic suit underneath. Neat cover by Kubert, with the nice addition of a few mustard stains on the upper left of his shirt. The title and creator’s credits are at the bottom. The Marvel Hip-Hop cover by Sam Spratt has Spidey posed like 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me from 1996. He looks good and this cover is timely since the film of the name same is out now chronicling the Hip-Hop star’s life. Next up is the Action Figure Variant cover by John Tyler Christopher, who does an incredible job on this as he does on Star Wars variants monthly. The layout is the same as other Action Figure covers, though this features Peter Parker with interchangeable hands, some web, a backpack, cell phone, camera, and a different head that has half the face as Peter and the other half as Spidey. If a collector likes action figures, this is one to track down. The Blank Sketch Variant cover only has the title of this book across the top, leaving a blank space for an artist to create a unique illustration or to get the series’ creators’ signatures. However, instead of the back being blank there’s a “How to Draw Spider-Man in Six Easy Steps!” by Chip Zdarsky. What starts as a typical tutorial goes south quickly when the web work on his face starts. Very funny. The “Party” cover (I have no idea how this cover ended up with this moniker) is by Mike Deodato, Jr. This has Spidey crawling forward in a circular structure that’s covered in webs. Neat, but too dark and the figure is really loosely rendered — the colors define the shape rather than line work. There’s also a Black and White Variant of this cover, and it’s also meh. Zhang Wang does  the Year of the Rooster Variant and it’s a wowser. Spider-Man is sitting on Iron Man, who’s flying forward. The wall crawler is wearing a Chinese hat and there’s a Chinese character behind him, but I couldn’t find a translation of it online. There’s also a large white rooster behind the pair and some cool clouds. Very stylized, very cool. Tom Holland makes his Marvel Comics debut on this photo cover, Movie Variant, from Spider-Man: Homecoming. He’s in costume, though he’s taken off his mask, standing before a subway car that’s moving past him. Nice photo and good way to hype the upcoming film. The John Cassaday Variant cover is not working for me. It features a full figure, stocky, Spidey in the bottom half of the image, while behind him is Spidey’s face, with his facial webs extending beyond the head. Cassaday has every other piece of the face change between the hero and Peter’s face. It looks weird and the coloring is not good. The next variant was a surprise, the Ross Andru Remastered Variant. Andru passed away in 1993, so this is either a recently discovered piece of art or is one “remastered” by someone else. This has Spidey swinging between buildings at night. It looks like Andru’s art and I’m happy to see it. The Premium Variant is the same art as the Regular cover, with the colors different. Only the title of the book and the right side of the image has full colors. This is a “premium” frontpiece? The Collector Cave Variants (three of them) is a trippy little ditty, with Spider-Man upside down, with Mary Jane lifting his mask to get a kiss and Venom’s tongue erupts from his mouth, about to wrap around her head. Poor M.J. screams in terror. Todd Nauck is responsible for this well drawn horror. There’s a Regular version of this, a Virgin Variant that features no text, and a Black and White Variant. There are two variants from Joe and Adam Kubert. The first, limited to 3000 copies, has Spider-Man leaping and the Human Torch streaking towards Doctor Octopus. The pose of the title character is very awkward and Doc Oct is really big. This is just okay. There’s also a Black and White Variant with the same artwork, limited to 1500 copies. The Previews Exclusive Variant, limited to 5000 copies, states on the cover that it’s a San Diego Comic-Con Exclusive. It’s a Minimates cover showing toy Spider-Man battling toy Vulture high above the city. The characters are colored brightly, while the city is in black and white. Again, a good promotional vehicle, for the toys and the upcoming film. Barry Bradfield’s signature is on this cover. J.Scott Campbell is offering four different variants through his website. The first features Spider-Man shooting a web as he swings through the city on a clear day. The second features Spider-Man, sans mask, swinging through the city as Mary Jane has her arms happily wrapped around him. The time has switched to night as the web-head zips through the city for the third cover, now with a beaming Black Cat holding onto him. The fourth and final cover has Gwen Stacy holding him tightly. This one got to me. The city setting is the same for each cover, with the sky, the girl, and the time of day changing. KRS Comics has three variants by Stanley Lau. They all feature Mary Jane, dressed as Deadpool, pulling back her mask to reveal her beautiful face, while her right hand pops two claws that aren’t dissimilar from X-23. The first is a Color version, the second a Black and White version, and the final a Pencils Only version. All look good. The Fried Pie Variant is by Mike Perkins, with Mary Jane about to use a newspaper to swat a spider before her, while Spider-Man, hanging behind her, looks upset. Good idea for a cover, but the illustration is very rushed looking and Spidey’s muscles look odd. The Marvel Collector Corps Exclusive features a Spidey Funko Pop on top of a building about to shoot a web at the back of a hidden character who is unquestionably the Vulture. Neat, but I couldn’t find who illustrated this. There’s another Variant by Mike Perkins that has Peter looking like David Duchovny wearing slacks, a vest, and white shirt, looking in a three way mirror, which features Spider-Man fighting the Green Goblin, Doc Oct, and Venom. Not bad, but Peter looks like he’s in his late forties. Tyler Kirkham closes the covers out with a ComicXposure Variant by creating a homage to the original series. Spidey is against the wall as a female Tarantula lunges out, spiky feet first, to kill the web-slinger. I love this cover. Overall grades: Regular A, Hip-Hop Variant B, Action Figure Variant A+, Blank Sketch Variant B, Party Color Variant C, Party Black and White Variant D, Year of the Rooster Variant A, Movie Variant A, Cassaday Variant D+, Ross Andru Remastered Variant A, Premium Variant C-, Collector Cave Color Variant A-, Collector Cave Virgin Variant A-, Collector Cave Black and White Variant B, Kuberts Color Variant D, Kuberts Black and White Variant D, Previews Exclusive B+, Campbell Spidey Variant A+, Campbell MJ Variant A+, Campbell Cat Variant A+, Campbell Gwen Variant A+, KRS Comics Color Variant A-, KRS Comics Black and White Variant A-, KRS Comics Pencil Variant A-, Fried Pie Variant C-, Marvel Collector Corps Exclusive B, Perkins Variant C-, and Kirkham Variant A+

The story: Chip Zdarsky writes two stories for this first issue, with the first at twenty pages and the second at eight. The first story begins with a one-page retelling of Spidey’s origin, which has an appropriate response from Johnny Storm, who’s eating shawarma with Spidey high on the side of one of the Big Apple’s buildings. Once done, they agree to meet later that night to watch movies. His stomach full, and on the go, Spidey sees a hostage situation and must intervene. Things don’t go easily, but do have him meet up with Ant-Man and Rebecca London, who asks him out. Ant-Man takes Spidey to see someone who can help with a problem and they meet a very tall individual who was fantastic. I loved everything this person said and did, and the name of this giant’s assistant will certainly turn some heads. Needless to say, something comes up at this location which has Spidey forgetting Johnny to get himself into trouble. But the highlight of the issue is the last page of this story which had my jaw drop. There were a few very obvious acknowledgements to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with food and characters, and though they did fit the story, they did come off as a few too many. The backup story is titled “Spider-Fight” and it comes across as filler material, as he has to battle an Avenger for dubious reasons. This was a decent start to a new Spider-Man series and my hopes are high. Overall grade: B+

The art: This is a gorgeous looking book. Adam Kubert kills it with the panel that stretches across Pages 2 and 3, creating a sensational sense of vertigo. Johnny’s exit on these pages is really stretched out, but it works. When Spidey swings into action on 4 and 5 he looks great and his battle with the baddies on 5 is perfection. Ant-Man’s entrance is fun, with the final panel on 7 a great laugh. Rebecca London is beautiful and I hope that Kubert gets to draw more of her in future issues. The location where the Avenger takes Spider-Man is great and Andr–er, the new character he meets there is a wonderful giant. Behind this character is a wall sized computer screen that’s constantly showing schematics of his creations. The new character that assists this tall character is cool and is one to watch. Page 17 has a funny sequence that shows one person’s simmering anger. A new villain appears on 19, but 20 is the page that will stick in my mind for some time — This person is who?!? The back up story is penciled and inked by Goran Parlov. The art looks very 1980s, like an actual issue of Spectacular Spider-Man from back then, especially like Ross Andru’s art. One’s love of these visuals will depend on how much one likes Andru’s art. I grew up with Spidey looking like this, so I enjoyed it. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Jordie Bellaire is the colorist of the first story and Nathan Fairbairn for the second. Bellaire does excellent work on this issue with her giving every nook and cranny of the city some wonderful work. The heroes stand out impressively in their bright spandex suits, with the tone work on them exceptional. I love Rebecca’s hair, which is yet another reason for her to return. The screens in Mason’s rooms are instantly identifiable as computer monitors because of their colors. The setting sun on Page 18 and 19 provides some beautiful backgrounds. In addition to resembling art from three decades ago, the colors by Fairbairn are like that as well: with block coloring used for most of Spidey’s panels and dark colors used to create the night. Nice work. Overall grade: A

The letters: There’s no letterer credited for the first story — Whoops! This mystery letterer creates dialogue, the book’s credits, singing, sounds, laughter, a business card, and the tease for next issue. The individual responsible for this story does a good job, inserting dialogue in some very tiny places, without stepping on Kubert’s art. The sounds are really good and next issue promises this person a considerable amount of work. Travis Lanham does the lettering chores for the second story, employing scene settings, dialogue, and sounds. Lanham always does a good job, and he does so here as well. Overall grade: A

The final line: A good start, with a fun, easy story and strong art. The acknowledgements to the Marvel Cinematic Universe were a bit too much, but shouldn’t annoy readers too much. Someone appears on the final page of the first story that will have readers’ jaws drop and have them rushing to their local comic book store to reserve the next issue. It’s enough of a tease to want me to continue reading. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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