Review: ‘Marvel Action: Spider-Man: A New Beginning’
Marvel Action: Spider-Man: A New Beginning (Book One)
Writer: Delilah S. Dawson
Artist: Fico Ossio
IDW Publishing; $9.99
Let’s ignore the surreality of Marvel, a comic book company, licensing its characters to another comic book company in order to produce all-ages Marvel comics. As strange as the very existence of IDW’s Marvel Action line might be, one can’t argue with the results: Thus far, the ongoing Marvel Action: Avengers and Marvel Action: Spider-Man have been just as good as the best current Marvel-published comics featuring those characters, with the added bonus of being all-ages friendly and easily accessible to anyone who has seen Marvel movies or cartoons, even if they haven’t been keeping up with the monthly comics for years.
Delilah S. Dawson, a prose novelist with a steadily increasing number of comics credits to her name, takes advantage of the opportunity offered by a brand-new, continuity-free Spider-Man comic to have original Spider-Man Peter Parker share the spotlight with fellow spider-people Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy.
This isn’t the first Spider-Man adventure in which the trio were part of an ensemble, of course—there’s the matter of that wildly successful Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse movie, for example—but Dawson comes up with a rather clever solution to make them co-stars without resorting to anything as dramatic as different dimensions and alternate realities. Rather, in Dawson’s Spider-Man, Peter Parker, Miles Morales and Gwen Stacy are all teenage peers and also all spider-powered heroes with similar costumes.
Peter Parker is still the original and thus most experienced Spider, but here only by a little bit. He might be the only Spider-Man at the beginning of the first issue, but by the end of this collection of the series’ first three issues, Miles and Gwen have also debuted in their own costumes and also revealed their secret identities to one another, making them something of a Spider-Man team.
The three first meet as part of a Daily Bugle intern contest sponsored by Stark Industries, where the prize is to interview Tony Stark, the billionaire genius celebrity alter ego of Iron Man, one of the only superheroes whose identity is publicly known. That appeals to Peter, Miles, and Gwen, as each of them feel pretty alone and have lots of questions about this whole superhero thing they’d love to talk to Stark about, but billionaire genius celebrities aren’t all that easy for high schoolers to get hold of.
Meanwhile rats, dogs, and other common New York City fauna are appearing in aggressive mutant forms, and it will take the combined efforts of all three spider-heroes to put a stop to the mad scientist/classic Spider-Man villain behind the chaos.
Pretty perfectly structured as a three-part story arc, New Beginning has each character narrate each successive issue, so that the book begins mostly as a Spider-Man solo book, then in the second issue the just-slightly-newer-at-this Miles Morales looks to Spidey as a sort of mentor, and in the third, Gwen suits up to follow her fellow interns only to discover not Peter and Miles but a pair of Spider-Men.
All in all, it’s a pretty simple, elegant way of keeping the characters “themselves” while also letting them coexist in the same Spider-Man comic, and it’s a premise that just plain wouldn’t have worked without the excuse of a brand-new comic in a brand-new version of the Marvel Universe.
Dawson’s partner is artist Fico Ossio. He excels at drawing Spider-Man, particularly this young version of Spider-Man (and friends), with a particularly big, bulbous head and bug-like eyes atop a skinny, somewhat spindly frame. All three spiders are instantly recognizable, but there seems to have been the slightest bit of tinkering done with the costumes, like Peter’s suit having blue soles, for example, or prominently displayed web-shooters.
While Ossio’s work is at its most impressive when he’s depicting Spider-Man doing the more dynamic Spider-Man things, he’s also pretty strong at the out-of-costume character bits, and his work somewhat evokes that of Mark Bagley, the long-time artist of Ultimate Spider-Man, the series that similarly restarted Spider-Man for newer readers (and, eventually, introduced Miles Morales).
So great art, sharp writing, and a clever premise offering a new take on one of the world’s most popular superheroes—this is more than just a new beginning, it’s a promising one.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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