Overview

Spider-Man: Fever #1

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Spider-Man: Fever #1

Credits

  • Words: Brendan McCarthy
  • Art: Brendan McCarthy
  • Colors: Steve Cook
  • Story Title: Part One: Insecticide
  • Publisher: Marvel Comics
  • Price: $3.99
  • Release Date: Apr 7, 2010

Wow. Now, that was a trip! At the risk of self-incrimination, I haven’t felt this groovy since my more experimental days as a teenager.

When I first discovered the psychedelic pop-fantasy imagery of Brendan McCarthy’s Shade, the Changing Man covers, I don’t know that I possessed the necessary emotional maturity or life experience to completely grasp his artistic vision. His covers were like my dad’s original vinyl double-LP of Cream’s Wheels of Fire. When you cracked that baby open, your senses were short-circuited by the double-page spread of an immense face composed entirely out of fluorescent yellow, orange, and pink stickers. I used to stare at that image for hours, not really understanding it. All I knew was that I dug its intricacy, balance, and intensity. I felt the same about McCarthy’s Shade covers. I wasn’t really sure what I was looking at but damn, were they ever freakin’ cool!

In Spider-Man: Fever, McCarthy focuses his sprawling, eclectic vision through the lens of his love of Marvel’s Silver Age. At times, I felt as if I had entered a time warp and was reading a lost issue of Amazing Fantasy or Strange Tales drawn by the legendary Steve Ditko, himself. In fact, I think I’m still readjusting to the present.

A self-proclaimed Ditko-phile, McCarthy’s work here is nothing short of brilliant. His comic is more than just a simple homage to a reclusive artistic genius, though. It’s an exploration of the themes, conventions, and styles of an entire era heralded for its fearless experimentation in a medium written off as childish by the artistic establishment. McCarthy’s pages abound with challenging layouts, psychedelic effects, and metaphysical imagery. He plunges headlong down the creative trails blazed by Ditko, Jim Steranko, and Jack Kirby, pushing the boundaries of exaggeration, perspective, and the meta-panel to their extremes. This is sensory overload at its most exquisite. You can almost taste the artwork.

McCarthy keeps his plot simple, tailoring his script to fit the tone and style of the art: The Vulture suddenly appears without any real explanation beyond vengeance, for an impromptu battle with Spider-Man. Dr. Strange takes the time to explain his every move, even though the accompanying panels clearly depict the actions described. The nearly extinct thought balloon enjoys a rebirth, once again giving the audience direct insight into our heroes’ motivations. On the surface, the writing may appear simplistic and maybe even patronizing to younger readers but it harkens back to a time of less sophisticated audiences and recreates that feeling of discovery and innocence lacking in so many of today’s modern comics.

It’s sad then, that Spider-Man: Fever will likely garner only critical acclaim. Despite the recent popularity of nostalgic books like Darwyn Cooke’s The New Frontier, I’m not certain that today’s modern comics audience is capable of moving past their appetite for huge crossover events to make McCarthy’s book a financial success. Ditko’s work has always challenged the audience, often in uncomfortable ways and McCarthy’s modern extrapolation of the master’s technique, themes, and style require an even larger investment of their time and effort.

Spider-Man: Fever is well worth the price of admission, though. It reminds us of what truly great comics should always challenge us to do: escape from the everyday, abandon our mundane, real-time biases, and embark on a journey into the fantastic realms of our imaginations.

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Comments

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Apr 7, 2010 at 8:39am

    Oh I am so looking forward to this one ... McCarthy's superhero work is always more below the surface than straight up in your face, storywise ...

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Apr 7, 2010 at 8:40am

    oh and hey pssst http://www.brokenfrontier.com/lowdown/p/detail/brendan-mccarthy-talks-spider-man-fever

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Apr 7, 2010 at 1:50pm

    I'll wait for the collection for this one but, yes, a definite buy.

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Apr 8, 2010 at 4:05am

    I find myself on the road to buying more and more paperbacks instead of the singles but the wait for this one would be too much for my frail nervous system! And there's something pulpy and immediate about buying McCarthy in singles that feels more in line with his art ... purely a feeling of mine though.

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