It has been hyped, talked about, and debated for months, and now it is finally here: the J.J. Abrams Spider-Man joint is upon us. In collaboration with his son Henry and artist Sara Pichelli, one of the biggest movie directors in the world has created a Spider-Man comic book. The hope is it’ll draw non-comic readers into the shops, but also get people excited to see what an Abrams-style Spidey story might look like. The five-issue miniseries kicks off today and it’s…interesting.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
WHO IS CADAVEROUS?! The most shocking and incredible comic of 2019 is here as J.J. ABRAMS (STAR WARS, STAR TREK, SUPER 8) and his son HENRY ABRAMS are joined by superstar artist SARA PICHELLI (MILES MORALES, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) team up for SPIDER-MAN! What do they have planned for Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson?! Who is Cadaverous?! The Modern Master of Mystery Makes His Marvel this September! Rated T
Why does this matter?
It’s always interesting when Hollywood folks enter the comic scene. From Joss Whedon to Kevin Smith the visual medium translates well to comics. I talk all about it on the Comics Podcast as it’s my most anticipated comic of the week.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Marvel has been very good at not spoiling a single thing about this book. I recommend you go in blind just as I did, since it jukes left when you think it might be going right and it generally defies your expectations. It opens with a great battle between Spider-Man and the so-called Cadaverous. Things aren’t going well. The fact that the first page is all black with the single word bubble reading, “Tiger!” might tip you off on a character who pops up in the book. The first eight or so pages are quite possibly the worst day of Spider-Man’s life. Much of the narrative flashes forward and focuses on an entirely different character. It’s very clear Henry Abrams wrote this book in part because the focus seems natural for him. I’ll leave it at that, but I will finish by saying I’m interested in where this goes even if we’ve seen other origin stories like it.
Sara Pichelli’s pencils are a bit rougher, which suits the darker tone of the story. Aided by Dave Stewart’s colors, I found the art utilized splashes of color effectively. Cadaverous and his soldiers are creepy as hell with their techno-Alien look. A standout element of the issue is the weathered faces. Mary Jane, Aunt May, and Peter all look realistic after what has happened to them. Aunt May, in particular, looks her age, for instance. The world looks lived-in and natural. This isn’t a superhero story with shiny costumes, but a story of tragedy and rebuilding.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
Aside from a clue or two mixing things up, this story feels a bit redundant. It’s unclear if this is in continuity, but given the Spider-Verse it’s likely that doesn’t matter. In a book that should have punched you in the face with curiosities and hints at something more, it only gives you scraps. I was left wondering only because I looked closely and hoped for the best, but I wager most will read this and not yet be hooked.
Is it good?
I kept this review shorter than most since I can’t spoil a thing until issue #2. I will say this left me wanting, but it also got me jazzed to see what is in store for Peter Parker and this mysterious villain. This book has all the trappings of a contemplative, dark, and relatable tale. It has everything in a Spidey story from the action, dire stakes, and most importantly it’s empathic.