What if Spider-Man aged in real time starting when he was just a kid in high school back in 1962? That’s the question Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley are answering in Spider-Man: Life Story, their alternate take on Spider-Man. The series has breezed past the 60s, 70s, and 80s, so now it’s time to check in on Peter Parker in the 90s.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Spider-Man’s life enters the 1990s! The COLD WAR is no longer cold as PETER PARKER returns to a world gone MAD! But will he let that madness infect HIM and his family?
Why does this matter?
This series has been very good at weaving in known Spider-Man stories into a cohesive and logical new narrative. It has served as a fresh take while giving some of Spidey’s greatest stories the homage they deserve.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This issue does a great job featuring a new villain and how their relationship with Spider-Man has changed via a more realistic premise. There are a few storylines at work converging into something new, but somehow still reminiscent of some of our favorite stories. The issue opens in 1995 with Ben Reilly whipping out his camera to take pictures as a photojournalist. Fitting. There’s a major confrontation with Doc Ock that sets in motion a drama that will bring these heroes to their knees. Meanwhile, Peter is manning the highly successful Parker Industries with his own issues to deal with. Spider-Man is still alive and strong, but Peter is clearly getting up there in age. Zdarsky does a fantastic job weaving in a relationship and emotional drama efficiently over a page or two. I’d love it if he shared his outlines because they’re so tight and well-plotted — they’re a thing of beauty.
As the story carries forward there’s a big twist (or two!) and a confrontation that leads to a brand new direction for the characters. Of all the issues this one shifts the focus very well so that it’s pretty much impossible to see where it might go from here. That’s exciting.
Bagley is a master and continues to show it with this series. Great Spidey moments, such as lifting a car and thwipping away are in abundance, and yet the real tour de force comes when there’s no spandex. There’s a lot of emotion in these pages with characters reflecting on their lives, their doubts, and their futures. You’ll be right there with the characters through thick and thin and feel like you’re sharing in their story. On top of that, there are some fantastic new designs for villains, heroes, and the like as well as a great nod to the Ben Reilly costume if you’re looking closely enough.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Frankly, if this was the series’ last issue, I’d be good with that. The ending feels very final, although knowing the rollercoaster life of Peter Parker we know that can’t be true. At this point, it’s clear this series leaves big gaps for readers to fill in themselves, so it’s starting to look like that’s on purpose. That said, it doesn’t do quite enough to get you excited for the next installment.
Is it good?
An excellent chapter in a series that is fresh, new, and popping with opportunity. Most comics don’t feel as fresh as this and that goes for every page turn and every twist. Read this if you love Spider-Man.