The Marvel Rundown: Chip Zdarsky Draws the Final Curtain on his SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN Run!

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It’s Spider-Man fever in this week’s Marvel Rundown as the crew reviews two huge wall-crawling issues. First, writer Chip Zdarsky concludes his run on Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man with this week’s #310, pulling double-duty as writer and artist for a special issue! Then, Spider-Geddon #0 features the comic book debut of Insomniac’s smash-hit video game version of everyone’s favorite web-slinger, and helps set the stage for the next Spider-Event! Find out if these issues do whatever a comic can in The Marvel Rundown!


Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #310

Written and Illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham

Alexander Jones: Gentlemen, Chip Zdarsky’s Spider-Man run is coming to an end. What did you think of his final statement on the wall-crawler?

AJ Frost: It was a pitch-perfect epitaph for this run and a thoroughly humane reading of the Spider-Man mythos. I think if the Spider-Geddon book we are reviewing this week represents the convoluted and ever-expanding saga of Spider-Man, then this more reserved take on the character displays his timelessness and his ability to inspire (and charm and repulse) people of all types. It was a masterful take on the character from Zdarsky and one that resonated with me quite deeply.

Jones: I definitely liked aspects of the issue and some of the dramatic work with the character, but I don’t think this issue ultimately worked for me from start-to-finish.

Joe Grunenwald: Chip Zdarsky has grown a lot as a writer over the course of his brief run on Spider-Man, and his final issue on the title perfectly encapsulates all of his strengths. Spidey is at his best when he’s a ground-level character, in my opinion, and even with time travel and alternate realities thrown into the mix, ground-level is how Zdarsky has ultimately played him throughout his run. This issue spotlights that aspect of the character, and Zdarsky hit it out of the park for me.

Frost: I’d be interested to learn more about why this issue didn’t work for you, Alex. I think in the brief amount of time he has, Zdarksy highlighted every positive aspect of Spider-Man and why he’s remained so popular over the decades. And I will say, he did it without delving into alternate Spider-universes. It was just straight-up and to the point.

Jones: I think some of the random characters acknowledging their feelings about Spider-Man started feeling a little sappy and redundant after a while. I enjoyed when the story was more ambitious like with the emotional scenes. Also, after reflecting back on Zdarksy’s run on Peter Parker, for me his run has always been about the wildly complicated relationship between J. Jonah Jameson and Peter. I would have loved this issue to feature a coda on that relationship.

Grunenwald: I actually really liked all of the random talking heads presenting different perspectives on Spider-Man. It worked well for me as a framing device for the story. I agree that it would have been nice to see Jameson somewhere in this issue, but I also think the Spectacular Spider-Man annual works well as Zdarsky’s ‘final statement’ on their relationship, even if it did come out a few months ago.

Frost: See, I thought the talking head technique was an interesting mechanic to tell the story not from the hero’s perspective, but from the people under his charge. And it’s a diverse mix of people loving and loathing Spider-Man, asking about his right to do hero work in the first place. The point and counterpoint, the Sturm und Drang, of the issue made it that much more moving. Add in the masterful use of dialogue-free pages to tell a particularly harrowing scene and this really has the making of a classic Spider-Man book.

Grunenwald: That silent sequence was spectacular.

Jones: I like sappy stories like that but this one felt a bit underwhelming for me. What I did like a lot was the artwork. I feel like Zdarsky’s unconventional artwork and approach to the pencils was particularly impressive. He captures some odd facial expressions and great movement.

Frost: Totally fair. The artwork worked fine, but it was the story that grabbed my attention throughout. Though, maybe “sappy” isn’t the right term. ‘Wholesome,’ perhaps? It has the feel of an older Spider-Man tale. It’s a warm-hearted book that shuns the nihilistic approach that a lot of other books are taking at the moment.

Grunenwald: I really like Zdarsky’s artwork, and this issue is no exception. His facial expressions are always great, and definitely helped sell the talking head shots. And I’ll mention it again: the silent sequence is fantastic. And I don’t know if I would use the word ‘sappy’, either. There’s pathos to spare in this issue, but ultimately it felt like a love letter to the character. I get how that wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but I found it really affecting.

Frost: Even if you’ve never read a Spider-Man issue in your life, and this was the only issue you had as a reference, you would get the character and why he has meant so much to people over the years.

Jones: I feel like a lot of people in the issue didn’t have very thoughtful things to say about Spider-Man which was disappointing. I’m not sure there was a monologue in this book that really got me thinking either. That being said, the last sequence was emotional. I appreciate the ambition Zdarsky brought here. I thought this was a much more emotional send-off than Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man finale.

Frost: We can agree on that one. I’ll just go back to the point that this is a Spider-Man story at its purest. No dealing with clones, or multiple dimensions. Just a classic tale without ostentation.

Grunenwald: You’re right about the talking heads in the issue not having thoughtful things to say about Spidey, but also they’re presumably random people off the street asked for their opinions about him. In that respect I found those sequences very realistic, and really fun.

Frost: The vox populi isn’t always on the ball when it comes to superheroes. (*Teen Titans* cough cough)

Jones: Any final thoughts?

Frost: This is a definite BUY from me. An elegant recap of what makes Spider-Man special in the hearts of many comic book fans old and young.

Grunenwald: It’s a BUY for me as well. It may be Zdarsky’s best work to date, and it’s really a lovely comic.

Jones: i think this issue qualifies as a STRONG BORROW for me. I like Zdarsky’s art a lot and the writing is solid.

Final Verdict: AJ and Joe say BUY, while Alexander says STRONG BORROW!


Spider-Geddon #0

Written by Christos Cage and Jed MacKay
Illustrated by Clayton Crain and Javier Garrón
Colored by Israel Silver
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham

Note: This discussion contains SPOILERS for the main feature of Spider-Geddon #0.

Alexander Jones: AJ, Joe, let’s conclude our double-dose of Spider-Man this week with Spider-Geddon #0. What are everyone’s first thoughts on the title introducing Insomniac’s take on the hero?

Joe Grunenwald: As an introduction for the video game version of Spidey, I thought it did a fine job presenting the character and the world. It helps that neither of those is terribly different from the Spidey and Marvel U we already know and love. As a kick-off for the overall Spider-Geddon story, though, I’m not sure it’s as effective.

AJ Frost: Hey there, gents. Like the Playstation 4 game, which will surely be remembered as a watershed moment in comics gaming, this comic is frenetic, fun, somewhat incoherent, and a blast to look at. Being a 0 issue, we know that the story here can’t really be appreciated in isolation. But as a singular product, it accomplishes what it sets out to achieve (which is expand the video game story) and it does it well.

Jones: The biggest surprise for me was that the tone of the game was conveyed so well. I liked Clayton Crain’s more technical art and thought he brought something interesting in terms of tone to the story. There are lots of little things and Easter eggs calling out the game as well. I also love the surprise from this issue and thought Spider-Man had a good dynamic with the mysterious other lead character.

Grunenwald: I’ve not played the game, so I didn’t pick up on those Easter eggs, but not catching those didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. I don’t love Crain’s artwork, and there were times that it felt really stiff and a little too posed for my tastes, but I do appreciate how it approximated what I’ve seen of the graphics from the game.

Frost: The art and coloring work was spot-on when it comes to capturing the fell of the game. But at the same time, the book wasn’t just a quickie tie-in. It felt like its own separate thing while still recreating the aesthetic and wry sense of humor that the game conveyed. I’m sort of in the same boat as Joe, though I have played the game, but not enough to catch the little nods to it in the book. So, I think in that sense, it’s nice that there are two layers here: a Spidey book that will appeal to general fans and a book that has special treats for those who also played the game.

Jones: I like Crain’s art when he is able to let loose and define the tone of the issue. The title was full of villains and I think he lended just the right sense of awe and villainy to the Tarantula and the other lead character. I definitely see Joe’s criticisms about the art seeming a little too static, though. AJ, do you like Crain’s art?

Frost: Indeed I do. I see where there might be some criticism that the art might be too static, but the poses were so dynamically rendered that they felt true to the spirit of the game.

Grunenwald: You kids and your video games. I grew up with the Atari Spider-Man game. This art was definitely better than those graphics.

Frost: Here’s a headline: “Old Man Yells at Video Game Graphics Department.” More at 11!

Jones: Back in my day we had movie-licensed titles.

Grunenwald: Get off my lawn!

Frost: Joke’s on you! I’ll be playing my Spider-Man video game for the next 42 hours straight!

Jones: SPOILERS! How did you guys feel about The Superior Spider-Man showing up? I had a nerd fit of glee because I always loved him and he is criminally underused.

Grunenwald: I enjoyed his appearance, especially given the relationship between the video game Spidey and his world’s Octavius as it’s established here. It made for an interesting dynamic between the two characters.

Frost: A nice twist! And a great choice to launch this arc because of the contrasts between these two versions of Spider-Man.

Jones: The issue is definitely on the more simplistic side in terms of a narrative. However, there was a grounded tone from the game that carried over in this issue that made me really enjoy every page. Christos Gage did an excellent job with the script. The first scene with Mary Jane in particular was so silly and felt like it came right out of the game.

Frost: That first scene was like, verbatim, from the game! It was a nice touch. With regard to your observation that the book was “simplistic,” do you think that is by virtue of this being a 0 issue? Or do you think the series will be simplistic in general just so readers will be able to keep track of all the various Spider-people?

Grunenwald: I think the simplicity of the story comes from it being a prelude to get people in the door. This was basically another issue of Edge of Spider-Geddon introducing another alternate Spidey to the mix. If the actual event is anything like the “Spider-Verse” story it’s a sequel to, it’ll be anything but simple.

Frost: That’s my thought: Create something that is close to the tone of the game, so casual fans can get a general sense of what is going on. And once they’re hooked: go all out! It’s a winning strategy…usually.

Jones: I’m far less optimistic about the second half of the issue. I thought it really meandered and was kind of fan service for characters who aren’t well-established enough to begin with.

Frost: The main story was where the strength of this issue lay. The back half was…decent, but nowhere near as engaging as the tête-à-tête between “Insomniac” Spider-Man and Superior Spider-Man.

Grunenwald: I agree. The main feature was more of a character-driven story, while the back half is much more plot-driven. It felt more like pieces being put in place than an actual story. ‘These characters have to have this in order for Spider-Geddon to work, so let’s show how they get it.’ That said, I did appreciate how subtly the time jumps in the backup story were executed, though it took me a second to realize that’s what was happening.

Jones: Final thoughts on the issue?

Frost: Fans of the video game who want to explore more of what the Spidey universe looks like in its native habitat will definitely enjoy this issue; it’s the perfect bridge. At the same time, the story, while straightforward, is intriguing enough to make fans of the characters pick up the book and give it some attention.

Grunenwald: I found the package here to be uneven. The first story is solid and entertaining, with decent art and some nice character moments between the Spider-Men. The back-up story is okay, if a little underwhelming, setup for the main Spider-Geddon event. In all I think this is a BROWSE for me.

Frost: I should clarify: a STRONG BROWSE is my final verdict here.

Jones: I really enjoyed the first story enough to say this issue merits a BUY. I’ll admit that I’m a mark for this issue starring two characters that I really like in an interesting context. Plus, I really like Clayton Crain. I think if you are the least bit interested in the property, there is something here for you.

Final Verdict: Joe says BROWSE, AJ votes STRONG BROWSE, and Alexander says BUY!


Next week, Chris Claremont returns to the X-Men!