Spinning new webs

By David Kenney

Look out. Here comes the Spider Man. With Tobey Maguire slipping on the web slinger’s tights for the live action Spider Man movie, old web-head looks primed for a comeback. Finally, Spidey might recover from years of bad storylines.

Not that they’ve all been bad. Marvel’s recent update of Spider Man’s origin in Ultimate Spider Man retains Peter Parker’s geek-hero persona without skewing the original model. That means no blasted Spider Man clones. Whew!

In this origin tale, young Peter Parker gets bitten by a radioactive spider on a high school trip to Osborn Industries’ labs. The bite is an accident but the culprit behind the spider is none other than the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn. Experimenting with a mysterious new drug called Oz, Osborn hopes to hit a cash cow.

Before any windfall, the infamous bite occurs with wall-climbing results. Parker’s gradually heightened senses and abilities begin appearing along with increased self-confidence. Aware of Parker’s possibilities, Osborn keeps a careful eye on the string-bean brainiac.

Besides the inclusion of the elder Osborn, the webslinger’s so-called best friend, Harry Osborn, is also involved. A gang-leader-like figure, Harry uses Parker to do his homework in return for minor harassment protection. Oddly, Harry is one of the few who sees Parker’s hidden promise.

The Osborns aren’t the only ones interested in Spidey. A young Mary Jane is seen ogling the meek geek. Her concern and care for her future husband make for some fun and humorous scenes. The feisty redhead is little more than a cute tag-along, though.

Complimenting the well fleshed out characters is artwork that is part show, part tell. Rich use of colour and zoomed-in images highlight the characters’ telling body language. The bite scene is sudden and surprising with each action-filled frame taking Peter Parker from supergeek to superhero. As well, it foreshadows Mary Jane and Parker’s burgeoning relationship.

Ultimate Spider Man lies somewhere between the cartoon version and mid-’80s Spider Man. While somewhat serious, the comic holds drama from front to back even though no web is slung. Anyone unfamiliar with our friendly neighbourhood Spider Man can read the story and understand just who the web-head is.

And understanding Spidey’s character has not been easy. The clone saga virtually buried our hero and other storylines haven’t fared well. But for anyone disenchanted with Marvel’s deconstruction of the web-head, Ultimate Spider Man arrives just in time.

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