If there is any superhero more polarizing in regards to his fanbase than Spider-Man, I don’t know who it is. Over the past few years, this single hero’s stories have personally caused me more headaches than any other comic title I have read. Yet I persist to read his stories. When they are good, they are DAMN well written and enjoyable, which easily balances out the less than tolerable behavior writers mostly tend to give Peter Parker.
However, what happens when someone is given a completely clean slate to work with? What happens when you take a character and are able to completely rewrite his back-story to your own desires? What I am speaking of is parallel versions of your favorite characters from alternate dimensions or timelines. And THIS is what Marvel’s newest Spider-Man event is all about! Both introducing new and celebrating previous alternate takes on New York’s web-slinger. And as we approach the “EDGE OF SPIDER-VERSE” we have to get in touch with some of the power players of the upcoming event. The first issue introduces us to a more serious version of the web head from the 1930’s and 40’s. This is SPIDER-MAN NOIR.
Spider-Man Noir is one of my personal favorite takes on the Web-head, as it takes a mystical, yet still somewhat serious approach to Spider-Man mythos. Set in the 1930’s and 40’s, this Spider-Man is a Pulp Noir hero with no qualms in getting his hands dirty. He dressed head to toe in black, sporting a trench coat and goggles, and is never seen without his trademark revolver which he has no issues using if necessary. This Spider-Man is a more brass-tacks serious hero who very RARELY if at all spouts one-liners. Cause back in the 30’s you didn’t bullshit around, you got shit DONE!
Anyway, our story begins with Peter Parker being joined by his Aunt May and Mary Jane for a night at the New York World’s Fair, where they see a magic show conducted by “The Magnificent Mysterio!” During the show, Peter feels his spider-sense kick in but is unsure why. He would later find out it was because Mysterio used several hallucinogens to cause the audience to see exactly what he wanted them to see in order to believe his magic tricks were real. However, one man who knows the truth behind his “magic” yet still recquires the help of Mysterio, is the famous KINGPIN. Kingpin wants to use Mysterio to find the elusive Spider-Man which has been a thorn in his side for some time, disrupting his crime business.
But in order to find Spider-Man the pair decide to take a hostage, the mysterious cat lady known as Felicia Hardy. In this continuity, Felicia was an old accomplice of Spider-Man’s, but no longer works closely with him. Still, many a criminal or crime boss have come to her seeking answers, coming back with nothing. Mysterio seeks not answers, but BAIT to draw Spider-Man out.
With the use of Felicia as bait, Spider-Man is easily drawn into their trap, and used as part of Mysterio’s stage show, making it all look like part of a performance. Spider-Man is trapped inside of a Bond-esque Houdini escape-act prison, doomed to drown to death before a crowd. But before his lungs fill with water, he uses his webbing to seal a cocoon of air around his mouth, keeping him alive for another 10 minutes whilst submerged. When Mysterio and his assistant pull back the curtain expecting to find him dead, Spider-Man has instead escaped his prison, easily managing to knock out the hack magicians, humiliating them on stage.
This is not the end of the act, however, as a steam-punk looking soldier, brandishing a re-laser spear arrives from a flash of light with his sights set on Spider-Man. Readers of Superior Spider-Man will recognize this man as the soldier traveling between realities, hunting down all alternate versions of Spider-Man and killing them. But before he has a chance to do in the weakened Spider-Man Noir, they are joined by Otto Octavius, the SUPERIOR Spider-Man. With his help, The pair of Spider-Men escape and join with Otto’s quickly growing army of Spider-Men where he explains just how screwed every reality’s Spider-Men may soon be.
Perhaps i am just a sucker for the 1940’s, but this book REALLY connected with me. I enjoyed reading the story of a serious Spider-Man, who seemed a fair bit more RESPONSIBLE than the Spider-Man I have grown accustomed to. The story itself is nothing to sneeze at either. Mysterio’s re-envisioning as a stage magician works well for the pulp setting and helps to really bring the reader int the mindset that this IS the 1940’s.
Another great aspect to this book, is how it gets one interested in the back story of this “new” Spider-Man. Spider-Man Noir currently has 2 collected mini series which were released over the past 5 years, and makes mention to events which took place during those series. It also makes mention of details regarding the strained relationship between Peter and Mary-Jane. And while it is more of a personal blessing, I just enjoy seeing Peter and MJ together again, even if it is only in this alternate reality. Overall, this is a fun read, and I cannot wait to see the next installment in this series.
-A fun pulp noir setting
-A gritty and dark art style, prefect for the story
-The beginning of a fun anthology series
-Nods to the original Spider-Noir stories
-Little to any advancement on the story of the steam-punk pike-man
-Who the hell is Morlun??????