This week’s Marvel Rundown welcomes a pair of new creators to the Marvel U! Writer/director J.J. Abrams and his son Henry Abrams make their debut in the comics medium, taking on Marvel’s flagship character for an all-new Spider-Man miniseries drawn by superstar artist Sara Pichelli! How do they fare in their first time out?
Check out discussion of the web-slinger’s latest adventure, plus your weekly Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel books, all in this latest installment of the Marvel Rundown!
Written by J.J. Abrams & Henry Abrams
Illustrated by Sara Pichelli
Inking Assist by Elisabetta D’Amico
Colored by Dave Stewart
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Sara Pichelli & Dave Stewart
(NOTE: This discussion contains SPOILERS for major plot points in Spider-Man #1.)
Joe Grunenwald: Writers J.J. and Henry Abrams join artist Sara Pichelli in the Marvel U with this week’s Spider-Man #1! Chloe and AJ, what did you think of the duo’s comic-writing debut?
Chloe Maveal: Oh, you guys. I have a lot of mixed feelings about everything to do with this first issue. But I will go ahead and lay it out straight by mentioning that MJ is probably still warm based on how quickly they fridged her.
AJ Frost: Well, it wasn’t a disaster. I thought the whole exercise was kind of excessive. On a story level, it’s certainly an interesting begin to an arc. I don’t think it was the most impressive story, and it had a lot of problems, but it was something kinda fun to read in the moment.
Grunenwald: “It wasn’t a disaster” is going to be the pull-quote on the collected edition. There’s a few things about this book that really surprised me. The biggest thing is that it’s…not really a Spider-Man comic? There was nothing in the marketing for this book to indicate this would be non-continuity, so it took me off-guard when, as Chloe mentioned, Mary Jane died within the first few pages. I’d imagine that’ll be jarring for people coming in off the street, which may be the intended effect, but may also be off-putting.
Frost: Extremely off-putting.
Maveal: To me it felt like MJ’s death was meant to be the dramatic beat right off the bat that’s supposed to draw readers in to J.J. and Henry Abrams’ view for the story. But honestly, it read like kind of a cheap cop-out for drama, it’s rough for fridging the primary female lead, and it sort of sets up a really disheartening and nihilistic take on the integrity of Spider-Man. I can get behind Peter’s kid being the new Spider-Man, but the idea that Peter becomes a flighty emo dad who’s too in his feelings to deal with responsibility is something I can’t suspend my sense of disbelief for.
Grunenwald: J.J. needed to get an absentee father in there somehow. It’s his favorite thing that he’s picked up from Spielberg.
Frost: And Disney, too, Joe. That was the biggest problem as well for me: Who truly cares about Peter’s kid and his adolescent rage? I get that may be part of the marketing draw for this book—father and son duos—but it’s a tired beat.
Maveal: The only redeeming factor for me was Aunt May—once again—being the absolute G.O.A.T. by being completely supportive; and also calling Peter on his shit. But even that felt like another stereotypical beat that fits the J.J. Abrams comfort zone. Like, “Yeah, he has a best friend who calls him on his shit but—plot twist—it’s his Aunt!” C’mon.
Frost: Yeah, I definitely see that. It’s an Impossible Burger trying to be a steak: same flavor but transmogrified ingredients.
Grunenwald: It is absolutely bananas to me that Peter would’ve hidden that he was Spider-Man from his son. How did he explain Mary Jane’s death to the kid?
Maveal: That’s actually a really good question, Joe. I mean, wee Ben has a dream about his mom literally drowning in blood. Did it just not come up or…?
Grunenwald: I’m sure it’s something to do with Peter feeling guilty over it and burying his guilt along with the truth. Ben does basically dig up the Spider-Man costume at the end of the issue. Super healthy behavior, Pete.
Frost: Peter never had great communication skills… And yes, it was absolutely jarring how the plot moves forward. I feel that everything can be read so far in advance because none of this is that original from a storytelling perspective.
Grunenwald: On the positive side, I thought Sara Pichelli’s art on this issue was fantastic as always.
Maveal: I was just about to say that! Pichelli’s art is gorgeous. She adds a complexity that provides a lot of room for movement from the characters. Dave Stewart‘s colors are really doing it for me, too. I am, if nothing else, a sucker for really good lighting effects in coloring.
Frost: Yes, I thought the art was on point. The coloring was so vibrant.
Grunenwald: This is a comic that’s almost entirely characters sitting and talking, and Pichelli and Stewart do incredible work with it. Pichelli’s characters are expressive, which goes a long way towards conveying the strained relationship between Peter and Ben in particular—you can tell Ben doesn’t want to be there just from his body language. The whole issue is filled with stuff like that and it’s really great.
Maveal: It all kind of comes down to the fact that the visuals are fantastic and well-actualized but the substance is hollow. It’s kind of the comic version of a soufflé.
Frost: Sounds like an Abrams project to me!
Grunenwald: I wouldn’t say I found it hollow. Just kind of bland. Maybe that’s the same thing? Marvel could’ve done a much better job of marketing this book as an out-of-continuity story. Even the cover, featuring a hale and hearty Spidey and Mary Jane, is basically a lie. I’m not saying I need to know exactly what to expect from every comic I read, and I definitely am a fan of non-continuity stories, but it would’ve been nice to have a better expectation coming into this than what we were given by Marvel. At the end of the day it’s just another alternate take on Spider-Man.
Maveal: Well, even then if I wanted an alternate universe Spider-Man where MJ dies, I’d just go back and read Spider-Man: Reign. At least in that she died from radioactive sperm.
Frost: It’s a special take on Spider-Man — the one that really doesn’t have anything new or interesting to say. In that way, it’s really disappointing a team that could have had a lot of fun potential with the character ended up going in a direction that didn’t push anything forward, was a bit regressive in its characterization of certain characters, and was overall lackluster in a storytelling context.
Grunenwald: It sounds like we’re ready to render our verdicts. For me this is a pretty easy SKIP. Maybe I’ll feel differently when the whole thing is completed, but as it stands now there are other Spider-Man comics out there that are far more worth your time and money.
Frost: Oh yeah, this is definitely a SKIP from me as well.
Maveal: If it wasn’t clear enough, I agree wholeheartedly with you, Joe. This is a solid SKIP from me as well. Don’t get me wrong — when you see it in your local comic shop you should open it and go, “Man that’s some really sick dry-brushing effect and/or linework,” but otherwise you can rest easy knowing you’re not missing anything that hasn’t been done before. A good Spider-Man story is worth its weight in gold and this is worth…about as much as the cheap fridge MJ got thrown into. No, I’m not over it.
Final Verdict: Spider-Man #1 gets a resounding SKIP verdict from the Rundown team!
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Next week, meet Marvel’s newest, deadliest team in Strikeforce #1!