Written by J.J. Abrams and Henry Abrams
Art by Sara Pichelli and Dave Stewart
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Hollywood powerhouse J.J. Abrams teams up with his son Henry and seminal Spider-Man artist Sara Pichelli for a Spider-Man limited series that feels like the Abrams’ cover version of Ultimate Spider-Man, with added notes from Spider-Girl and Spider-Man: Reign for good measure. And to some extent, this is a solid debut - the Abramses have a nice command of the comics form, and Pichelli’s artwork elevates everything nicely. But in other ways, despite the technical proficiency brought to this series, this story of the friendly neighborhood webslinger can’t help but feel a little too familiar for its own good.
Given the father-son dynamic of J.J. and Henry Abrams, it’s perhaps not surprising that Spider-Man tackles Peter Parker’s relationship with a new character - one who will ultimately look up to ol’ Webhead in a deep and personal way. Unfortunately, this is the kind of angle that might have been revolutionary a decade or two ago - but in a world where we’ve already met Mayday Parker, Miles Morales, and even Ultimate Peter Parker, the Abrams bet so heavily on their new protagonist that Spider-Man himself feels almost incidental. Without spoiling too much, I wouldn’t take too much stock in what you see on the cover - in certain ways, this Spider-Man story doesn’t just feel divorced from main Marvel continuity, but essentially exists in an entirely different world than what you’re used to seeing.
That said, if you can get over that bit of culture shock, there’s some cool stuff that J.J. and Henry have up their sleeves, and I have the feeling that in time we’ll see them flex their not-inconsiderable creative muscles with greater balance in future issues. Because continuity wonkiness aside, the ingredients for success are here - the Abramses channel a lot of classic Brian Michael Bendis through the eyes of their young POV character, and while their voice doesn’t sound quite as deliberate or as hyper-specific as Bendis’ breakout hit, the pacing feels solid. And in particular, while this debut doesn’t have a ton of action to it, the fight scenes we get in the opening pages feel especially intense and high-stakes.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Marvel has also thrown some big artistic names to work alongside the Star Wars and Star Trek mastermind, and having Sara Pichelli and Dave Stewart means you’re in for a visual treat, regardless. Pichelli is channeling Olivier Coipel’s style a lot in this book, and it honestly looks terrific - particularly with the opening scene of Spider-Man battling Cadaverous, you can see the downright terror in the wallcrawler’s eyes. With the down-to-Earth nature of the rest of the issue, Pichelli also feels right at home conveying the emotion and expressiveness that comes with being a teenage boy thrust into a world he doesn’t quite understand - when I say it feels similar to Mark Bagley’s work in Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s not an insult, but a solid benchmark for the team to hit, even when they’re working off a script that isn’t necessarily as visual as you might expect.
There was plenty of teeth-gnashing when Spider-Man was first announced, as people either decried a Hollywood invasion or a comic book that would clearly arrive dead on arrival. Thankfully, the rumors of the comic industry’s demise have been exaggerated - as have the naysayers about this book. It’s not to say Spider-Man is perfect by any means - it’s got just enough narrative drag to remind you that this will probably read stronger in trade format - but there’s plenty of production value to go along with J.J. Abrams’ star-studded credentials. This might not be the story that revolutionizes Spidey stories forever, but it’s solid enough that it’ll certainly keep new readers invested - and that might be victory enough for a series as high-profile as this.