The first issue of Tom Taylor and Juann Cabal’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, the city-block, personal-stakes focused take on Peter Parker’s life, was earnest and fun but…lacking. Where it found a good balance between Peter’s personal voice and his Spider-Man one, it also spread itself too thin, getting lost between a few new and intriguing ideas, and far too many rote ones — hardly the debut readers might’ve expected from a creative team such as this. Thankfully, the second issue is a surefooted web-swing away from those problems and into something significantly more interesting.
Situated solely on the potential kidnapping (as well as kids napping, ha! See what I did there?) plot from the first issue, rather than following up on the Aunt May focused backup story at all, this narrative is much more tightly wound than its predecessor. With an immediacy, as well as a clearer focus, afforded by the table setting done in the first issue, Taylor gets to really lean into the voice he’s crafted for Peter here to great success. One exchange between the central, mysterious kids he finds himself babysitting had me laughing out loud but also turned to a genuine sympathetic sadness with the turn of the page — a real testament to the sincerity and empathy with which Taylor crafts his dialogue on a character-first level that made things like All New Wolverine and aims to make this, so rewarding.
That same focus allows the plot to retain more sensibility and credence, too. I’m more genuinely interested in the central mystery of who these Hi-C skinned kids, their missing mother, and their potential enemies are now than I was at any point in the first issue due to a series of great reveals, and a good balance between action and light and breezy dialogue. Sure, it seems like things are already stepping away from the central premise of the book – a street level view of Peter’s life on his own block — into something that might be untenable in the long run, but it’s also pretty fun and intriguing for the time being.
Cabal’s art remains as effective and engaging as ever, too. The primary highlight of the preceding issue for me, as well as across books like X-23 currently, I delight in the way he depicts motion through ghost-like images and puts a real physical comedy into Peter’s actions — having him pop up and under enemies across panels. The faces remain a little static, and there’s a painter-like approach to backgrounds which lack liveliness or detail, but on a macro scale everything is so fun and well-designed that these things are easily over-looked.
All said and done, this feels much more like the Spider-Man story I expected given the premise, and it lives up to the best parts of each creator’s capabilities — Taylor’s earnest but edged empathy, and Cabal’s dynamic design-work. Time will tell if they can tie-in all the disparate stuff happening, but the surefooted nature of just the second issue sure makes it seem like they’ll be just fine.