Spider-Man: Life Story #2
Drugs, disco, and Studio 54 are all wonderful things which can be improved by explosions when Spider-Man swings into the 70’s.
Quite a lot happens in issue two of Spider-Man: Life Story, but the issue never feels rushed or overburdened with story. We are treated to two eventful days in the life of Peter Parker – as he would have been had time been allowed to pass at a natural rate inside the marvel universe. Peter, now in his 30’s, works with Reed Richards (divorced) and a reformed, post coronary post-matrimony (in a nice nod to one of his sillier Silver Age plots) Dr. Octopus putting his degree in electrical engineering to good use. His wife, Gwen Stacy, is working for Oscorp’s bio-engineering company under a highly-regarded head scientist who seems harmless enough but who always triggers Pete’s Spidey-sense. For some reason. Norman’s in jail, Harry’s a drug-addled mess, Mary Jane’s a drunk at the end of her rope, and Flash Thompson died in Nam – one of the countless casualties of a war prolonged by Tony Stark’s not-so-altruistic military involvement – war has ever been good for business. But Peter and Gwen are doing fine. They’re in love, and happy at the tail-end of their youth. They’ve just bought a condo. But everyone who’s ever even heard of Spider-Man knows exactly what’s coming.
Gwen Stacy dies. That’s what she does. Her death propels Pete more fully into the role of ‘hero’ than any other moment save the loss of Uncle Ben. And it looks like this version of the story is set to do exactly that – albeit in a very different way.
Gwen Stacy dies at the end of this book, along with Norman Osborn, but not in the way that you might think. Context is king, and this context is so different from anything that’s happened in a Spider-Man book (despite the many familiar echoes) that the repercussions stand to be profound.
At one point in the script, Mary Jane confesses that she has known about Peter’s secret since she was fifteen. In that same scene, she calls him a holier-than-thou coward. And she isn’t wrong. Peter isn’t scared of physical action (near-invulnerability will do that to a person) but emotional intimacy, emotional truth, terrifies him. Look at how he keeps Reed at a distance, before finally totally alienating him. Reed is an ass, but he’s an honest ass. Peter hasn’t come to terms with his own nature. And that’s something that everyone should manage before their youth is spent.
Let’s hope he manages it before middle-aged bitterness sets in.
The art in this issue was intricate and expressive without ever becoming messy. The lines were clear, the colouring effective, the lettering and layout of the panels reflected the aesthetics of Marvel in the 70’s without ever veering too far into nostalgia or interfering with the narrative. This series is being produced by people at the top of their games, and it shows. I can’t wait to see what happens in the 80’s.
Reviewed by Bethany W Pope
The fascinating What-If? Narrative begun in the previous issue continues here. The script is tight, masterfully balancing the tightrope between profundity and silly fun, and the art is a beautiful fusion of the best parts of classical and contemporary form. Pick this one up.
Spider-Man Life Story #2 (of 6): Panic in the Disco
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 8.5/108.5/10
Color - 9/109/10
Cover Art - 7.5/107.5/10
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