So Halloween is normally a time for scares, candy and running around dressed in costumes, but for comic fans it’s something even better – the time for Free Comic Book Day number two! I hope you all had an excellent Halloween and picked up some great comics – I’ll talk about what I picked up next issue. Now, onto the main event!
I think it’s fair to say that Spider-Man is one of, if not the, most popular hero in the Marvel roster. In my eyes, Spidey is up there with the comic heavyweights – the ever popular Batman and Superman – and no comic hero is quite as relatable as the nerd-turned-superhero who swings his way around Manhattan fighting crime and cracking jokes. He’s got a great rogues gallery, too; he’s got everyone from the maniacal Green Goblin, to sultry femme fatales like Black Cat and tragic villains like the Lizard. Sure, they tend to be animal themed and can be a bit goofy at times (I’m looking at you, Rhino!), but Spider-Man and his rogues have been centre stage in some of the best Marvel stories to date.
This week I picked up a copy of Spider-Man: Blue, written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale. Part of a wider “Marvel colours” series (including Daredevil: Yellow and Hulk: Grey), Spider-Man: Blue is an excellent look at Spider-Man, his villains and most importantly, his love for Gwen Stacy. Loeb and Sale have an excellent track record, both together and separately: Loeb has written some classic Batman stories like my person favourite, Batman: Hush, and Sale has drawn everything from classics like Batman: The Long Halloween (written by Loeb) to Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics.
For a lot of comic fans, Mary Jane Watson is Peter Parker’s one true love – they were married once, after all – but casual readers may not be aware of his first love, Gwen Stacy. Spider-Man: Blue is a melancholy recollection of Peter’s life with Gwen – how he met Gwen Stacy, her rivalry with Mary Jane, his battles with villains in between, how they fell in love and how he dealt with her untimely death. While there are plenty of villains in the book, they’re not really the focus of the story – it’s more of a Peter Parker story than a Spider-Man one, and I think that’s its greatest strength. Spider-Man stories have dealt with this sort of thing in the past, but Spider-Man: Blue is probably the best I’ve read to date. There are plenty of ups and downs – much like any adolescent relationship, and it’s got a touch of soap opera-esque drama mixed in – whether it’s the rivalry between MJ and Gwen, or the tension that brews between Peter and his new buddy/roommate Harry Osborn, there’s plenty of tension in the air.
Sale’s artwork accompanies Loeb’s story perfectly – he recreates MJ’s famous first appearance perfectly, reinventing her style to maintain that classic femme fatale tone while updating her look to a more modern style. Loeb and Sale are clearly an artistic team that work well together, and have definitely made their mark on the comic industry with their work. If you haven’t had a chance to pick up this classic story – or others like the Long Halloween – I definitely recommend reading them!
By Alastair McGibbon