Fans were certainly surprised when this series was announced over the summer as the first in a line of IDW/Marvel collaborations. Marvel Action: Spider-Man takes elements from different media interpretations of Spider-Man and mashes them together into something new for all ages.
This series finds a sixteen year old Peter Parker juggling his studies and superheroics. He’s late for his first day as an intern at the Daily Bugle and he really wants to impress them with his work ethic so he can get a chance to interview Tony Stark and pick his brain about how he’s able to have a public identity in addition to his duties as Iron Man. Unfortunately for Peter, the city is being attacked by giant mutant animals and his study group consists of two kids he clearly has nothing in common with: Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy!
The version of Pete in this series will immediately be accessible for kids and other fans who are familiar with the character as presented in Spider-Man: Homecoming or the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series. He’s awkward, but brilliant, and he could be an overachiever if he could just find the right balance between fighting crime all night and studying all day. His admiration for Tony Stark comes straight out of the MCU and his pals will hopefully be familiar to the kids seeing December’s Into the Spider-Verse film (you guys better go see it; don’t even test me).
It’s more than corporate synergy at work here, though. By combining various portions of the Spidey mythos, Marvel Action: Spider-Man comes close to a perfect balance of what makes Peter Parker so fun and so relatable in the first place. He’s just like us: trying to get by and do the right thing, hopefully making some friends along the way. He’s the perfect character for younger readers to latch onto, this version perhaps even more so. It helps that Delilah S. Dawson’s script is so direct; this version of Peter explains right away what he’s all about:
That first page is not only a great starting place for an all-ages book, it’s the ideal attitude for any superhero to have. It’s exactly the right foot for a series like this to start on. The fight that follows is fun and genuinely funny, especially with the way Spidey chooses to dispatch his foe. That sense of joy in being a superhero continues through the issue, though Peter’s narration reminds us that the art of looking cool and planning the perfect one-liner only makes up half of the job.
As a fan of the various Spider-People inhabiting the Marvel multiverse, I enjoyed the new takes on Gwen and Miles, but there are a LOT of introductions in a handful of pages, plus all-new enemies AND Pete learns something surprising about one of his new buddies. It’s seems like quite a bit for a young reader to take in, but I think it should still be a smooth read for any kids who have a general familiarity with the Spider-Verse as presented in the various film and television adaptations. The light tone will also be welcome for any young’uns still reeling from seeing Spidey disintegrate on the big screen earlier this year. It’s a really fun start, so I’m looking forward to seeing these takes on the characters that are at once familiar and brand new.
Also of note is Dawson’s letter in the back of the issue, which details her life as a Spidey fan. It’s also a great explanation of this series’ mission statement: no True Believer left behind! One of the most daunting aspects of getting into comics is not knowing where to start, but the Marvel Action line just may have cracked that code for young readers.