Overview

The Spider #1

Review

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The Spider #1

Credits

  • Words: Martin Powell; Gary Phillips
  • Art: Pablo Marcos; Roberto Castro
  • Colors: Jay Piscopo
  • Story Title: he Spider: Death Siege of the Frankenstein Legion; Operator 5: The Faithful
  • Publisher: Moonstone Books
  • Price: $2.99
  • Release Date: Feb 16, 2011

There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything. This has become particularly evident in the past few years as the comic book industry has rediscovered (once again) a sense of its own rich history. Exploiting a re-emerging sense of nostalgia inspired by the relatively recent onset of the new millennium, comic book publishers and indeed all levels of society have struggled to find their place in our ever-changing, fast-paced world. Often we look to the past for guidance and sometimes, when we’re at our most cynical, we strip mine our histories with selfish, wild abandon.

Just look at the number of high-profile reboots of classic Golden Age and pulp characters over the past few of years and it’s easy to see how utterly and completely nostalgia permeates the comic book industry. From The Phantom to Doc Savage to The Green Hornet, the shelves at your neighborhood LCS offer a veritable history lesson on North American genre fiction.

Or do they?

Some publishers feel the need to re-imagine, revitalize, revise, or otherwise reboot classic properties to suit modern sensibilities. Both Dynamite and DC are good examples of high profile publishers who took this route with varying degrees of success. The danger lies in deviating too far away from the core values of the source material and offending the longstanding, hardcore fans who can make or break a book. What the practitioners of this method fail to realize is that if something isn’t broken to begin with, then leave it the hell alone.

Thankfully, there are a few classy publishers like Moonstone Books out there, who treat their licensed characters and public domain properties with the respect and love they deserve.

The Spider #1 harkens back to what many of us mistakenly believe to be a simpler time. I’ve always thought hard times are relative, depending on when and where you live but one thing I believe was much simpler during the Golden Age of the pulps was the perception of justice.

Most often compared to the Punisher due to his ultra-violent modus operandi and adherence to a rigid moral code, the Spider is the alter ego of amateur playboy detective Richard Wentworth, who returned from war a changed man, determined to protect his city from a bizarre array of supernatural threats. The Spider was a little different from many of the traditional pulp heroes. For one thing, he makes the aforementioned Punisher look tame, usually eclipsing Frank Castle’s career body count in a story or two. For another, he’s involved in a very adult relationship with his more-than-capable love interest Nita Van Sloan. Every inch the fighter the Spider is, Ms. Van Sloan is a strong, complex female protagonist a little ahead of the curve for her time.

It’s this unique aspect of the Spider that writer Martin Powell chooses to focus on in this introductory first issue. Turning in a tight eleven page story, Powell manages to introduce all of his major players and supporting cast succinctly and organically, keeping the pace driving ever towards his conclusion with spikes of action and intense emotional beats. He splits his time evenly between the Spider and his lover, showcasing their strengths, while revealing how completely they complement one another. Powell’s love for the Spider and his native era injects his story with a very real pulpiness. There’s weight and texture here, as Powell infuses his dialogue with period vocabulary and euphemisms.

This depth and attention to detail is also well-realized in the gorgeous art of veteran comic book artist Pablo Marcos. A brilliant visual storyteller, Marcos takes the time to think the plot through and put himself in the shoes of his characters. His maturity and experience are displayed in his clear, logical storytelling choices, as he expertly takes into account both the physical and emotional aspects of his craft. His figures are exquisitely rendered with a natural expressiveness and fluidity that helps translate the simmering emotion always threatening to bubble over in the prose.

Colorist Jay Piscopo also deserves special mention for his beautifully restrained approach to this book. Utilizing a limited palette, Piscopo uses contrasting reds and grey-blacks to accentuate Marcos’ visual storytelling instead of overwhelming it. The simplicity of this technique speaks to the Spider’s pulp roots, while the artistic sensibilities are of a more modern mindset.

Also featuring an excellent second feature starring the mysterious Operator 5 by Gary Phillips and Roberto Castro, The Spider #1 is a sterling example of how to add depth and maturity to the extensive mythology of the pulps without cutting away everything we loved about them in the first place. The care and craftsmanship invested in both stories is evident in every panel and word balloon, something that can’t always be said of competitors more interested in being the first to hit the shelves than in respecting their source material.

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