The Amazing Spider-Man: The Short Halloween
Written by Bill Hader and Seth Myers
Art by Kevin Maguire
Color art by Dean White
From Marvel Comics
Live, from New York, it’s your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man!
There are two particular articles of note regarding this one-shot. For Saturday Night Live fans, top funnymen Bill Hader and Seth Myers give their take on the wide-webbed world of Spider-Man. For art fanatics, there is the irresistible draw of Kevin Maguire’s emotive, rubber faced take on the web-slinger.
A direct one-and-done story, The Short Halloween tells a classic tale of mistaken identity. Through a comically improbable series of coincidences, Spider-Man finds himself swapped with an intoxicated, Hallow’s Eve-costumed imposter, and hijinx ensues. There are webs, laughs, and jarringly precise facial expressions.
The most notable storytelling decision here is that this is primarily an ensemble-driven issue. Sure, Spider-Man’s the marquee star, but he’s actually not the most prominent character in the book. Fume, the unlucky, not-quite supervillain whose very first job is foiled by the web-head, is really the character whose actions drive this issue. The Spider-doppelganger (not that one) and his drinking buddies provide a lot of the situational comedy as well, along with taking up a good number of pages. Spider-Man himself is almost more of a prop, or a bit-player, than the lead in this story. Danger abounds and hilarity transpires, but with Spider-Man as more of a constant than a variable. In fact, although the writer’s resumes offer the promise of memorable Spidey one-liners, he is, in fact, relegated to something of a straight man role.
It’s not that the approach doesn’t work, it is just a noticeably outside- in way to tackle the story. It’s almost like, were this a long form SNL sketch, they cast guest-host Spider-Man as himself, and wrote farcical characters around him to contrast the nonsense of the world at large to the relative simplicity of the hero himself. The ‘mistaken identity,’ angle is significant, too, as choosing such a familiar trope is a fond embrace of some of the clichés of comics. The structural decisions made do allow for an original Spider-Man story, if only because of the original surrounding characters.
Besides the comedy veterans that make this one-shot noteworthy, there is also the matter of Kevin Maguire’s immense talents. Pairing him with the writing team was definitely the right call. His knack for specificity and range in his characters suits this story perfectly, as it instantly lends depth and credence to otherwise secondary players. Maguire’s been doing this for a lifetime, but as a fan it is still rewarding to see him do what he does so well. Every eye-roll, wince, and look of exasperation is pitch perfect in service of the story.
All in all, this is a satisfying, if somewhat inconsequential chapter of Peter Parker’s life. It is a fun aside from the ongoing mega-soap of the Amazing Spider-Man series, but it’s not clear we learned anything about who Hader and Myers think Spider-Man is, or what makes him such a resonant character. If they get another shot at Marvel’s flagship character, it will be interesting to see if they feel they have a better handle after having familiarized themselves with the character, and dig a little deeper.
All in all, enjoyable, a few laughs, and some great art- but it is fair to say The Short Halloween is more of a story with Spider-Man than it is one about him.