Spidey: School’s Out #3
Written by John Barber
Art by Todd Nauck and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettering by Jimmy Betancourt
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Younger readers and fans of Spider-Man: Homecoming will find a lot to like about Spidey: School’s Out, which borrows a lot of elements from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a way that feels additive rather than beholden to movie continuity. Writer John Barber and artist Todd Nauck feel like the perfect team to tap into this demographic gold mine, bringing a youthful (and somehow timeless) energy to this series, as we see a framed Spider-Man forced to bat out of his league when he crosses paths with the Black Panther.
With an Arc reactor gone missing from Tony Stark’s camp for gifted students, the main suspect is Spider-Man — which has put the screws on Peter Parker’s personal life in a big way. Evoking the classic Lee/Ditko stories nicely, Barber uses the soap operatics of Peter and his supporting cast to make us feel invested for the superhero fisticuffs. Additionally, it feels like a win-win to have Spider-Man meet the Black Panther, both in terms of Hollywood synergy as well as seeing the cool and collected T’Challa be largely matched against the impulsive and hot-headed Spidey. (There’s a particularly cool beat where Barber tweaks T’Challa’s power set to stack the deck against Peter’s Spider-Sense and enhanced agility, making the physical stakes feel real.)
Todd Nauck, meanwhile, is pulling off some of the best work I’ve seen from him in years — maybe it’s nostalgia over his work on Young Justice, but Nauck makes these kids look convincing with their youth, with his cartoony style nicely playing up with expressiveness. (He also gets points for making Peter’s physique look different in his muscular Spidey outfit, but not in a way that makes him look like a grown man rather than a 16-year-old kid.) While Nauck’s adults sometimes look a little thin, his take on the Black Panther in costume also looks great, providing an energetic rooftop battle that will thrill plenty of readers. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg also deserves some major credit for establishing such a strong mood with this book, giving Nauck’s work a brightness and energy that’s never weighed down by overrendering.
That said, while Barber handicaps Peter a bit with his lost webshooters and his growing tensions over the wrongfully accused Spider-Man with his classmates, admittedly the resolution to this plot comes a little easy — it’s great to see Peter recognizing his own impetuousness as a teenage superhero, but we lose the tension of Spidey legitimately earning the Black Panther’s ire. To be fair, though, this will not trip up younger readers, but they may get listless with some of the talkier backstory involving Ganke, GG, and some of the other Stark Camp students.
Yet in many ways, Spidey: School’s Out feels like the kind of book that should be the Big Two’s bread and butter right now: it’s all ages, easy to jump into, and leverages all the astronomical good will built up by Marvel’s superhero film universe. Barber, Nauck and Rosenberg are firing on all cylinders with this book, and while it doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of high concept, the execution is so good that they really don’t have to.