Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1
Written by Tom Taylor
Art by Juann Cabal, Nolan Woodard, Marcelo Ferreira, Roberto Poggi and Jim Campbell
Lettering by Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Spider-Man gets the “Hawkguy” treatment in the debut of Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. Written by All-New Wolverine and Injustice scribe Tom Taylor and given a humanist, grounded look by artists Juann Cabal and Nolan Woodard, this new Spider-title is a refreshingly low-key story of Peter Parker, quite literally, being a super-neighbor, protecting his community in his mask and looking out for his fellow building tenants as good ol’ Peter Parker. While some might be turned off by the lack of a costumed villain in this series for the time being, this new series brings Peter back down to Earth with a contained, but engaging street-level story.
Aiming for a more Spectacular or Peter Parker, Spider-Man vibe, writer Tom Taylor neatly lives up to the new title by focusing on Peter’s new building and surrounding block. While this focus isn’t exactly the most ambitious of settings nor the most exciting, Taylor brings humor and heart to his story, making him a perfect fit for Peter’s slightly awkward everyman sensibilities. I mentioned before, but it really bears repeating that this could end up being Peter’s Hawkeye moment. The cliffhanger suggests that it might be going a bit stranger than the Matt Fraction and David Aja run ever dared to go, but this debut is filled with grounded moments of heroism and just plain personality from Peter Parker and Tom Taylor, making it a more charming than action-heavy Spider-Man title.
But, while Taylor adapts well to the humor of Peter Parker and his return to being mostly broke, I fear that certain directions he is taking with the supporting cast might push the title into maudlin territory. This isn’t to say Spider-Man stories haven’t worked without a touch of tragedy - quite the opposite! But I fear that Taylor planting these seeds in back-up stories might undercut the fun of the main story, which really is a lot of fun. While this is the guy who turned the grim festivities of the fighting game Injustice into one of the low-key great superhero epics of our time, that felt like making lemonade out of some corporate-mandated lemons - here’s hoping that with Taylor’s latest swerve, it doesn’t flirt with the same sort of tragedy porn that made Injustice initially such a tough sell.
And while this title isn’t action heavy, that isn’t to say that it isn’t gorgeous, because the artwork of Juann Cabal and Nolan Woodard is straight-up wonderful throughout this debut issue. Harkening back to a time where Spidey’s mask never moved, Cabal’s pencils are realistic but still capture the powerful movement of Spider-Man in scenes like him swinging through a double-page splash of his “Greatest Hits” reflected in the window panes of skyscrapers or his balletic rescue of a family after they crashed their moving van on the bridge. But while the pair nail the rewarding action of Spider-Man’s life, they also depict Taylor’s endearing sense of humor just as well. For example, after the aforementioned rescue sequence, Spidey deposits the family on the ground. Seeing a spider on his costume, the little girl gives him a smack with a frightened yelp. It is a really funny scene just on the script level, but the plaintive, almost deadpan way Cabal and Woodard depict it makes it even funnier and so very on-brand for Spider-Man’s brand of person-to-person heroics.
Not all of Spidey’s adventures have to be sprawling epics or have world-ending stakes. And it is that understanding that makes Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man #1 such a charming read. Tom Taylor, Juann Cabal, and Nolan Woodard zoom in on Peter’s new building and the (relatively) normal people living there to show how Peter keeps being a hero even when Thanos or the Green Goblin isn’t around. A welcome change of pace from the faster-paced, more theatrical main title.