When Spidey was announced, I was admittedly rather critical. As an avid Spider-Man fan, I always want the character to grow, to be pushed into new territory. Going back to his roots felt like wasted navel gazing. But I was wrong: in a world where Peter Parker is a “Poor Tony Stark,” Spidey is a breath of fresh air.
Spoilers ahead for Spidey #1, by Robbie Thompson, Nick Bradshaw, and Travis Lanham.
In the current ongoing Amazing Spider-Man comic, Peter Parker is the head of Parker Industries, a huge company raking in billions of dollars every day that works for humanitarian causes. He shares a few similarities with the teen Peter of Spidey of course—the same capacity to crack wise in the face of bad guys, the same struggle to balance a public life with a secret identity—but this young Peter is back to the roots of the original time and place Spider-Man was made for.
It’s Peter in high school, Peter the nerd being bullied by Flash Thompson. It’s the Peter who went around pining after Gwen Stacy and being best friends with Harry Osborn—the Peter who has to sneak into the bathroom to change into his Spider-suit when trouble’s afoot. It’s all transplanted into the modern day (one of the first things we see is Spider-Man webbing up a bank robber and then taking a #nofilter selfie with them) rather than the 1960s, but it’s that same old Peter Parker, regardless of the time period.
The story itself is likewise kept simple—a day trip to Oscorp for Peter’s class is interrupted by an attack from Doc Ock, requiring Peter to suit up and save his schoolmates while keeping his absence hidden. And of course, the seeds are slowly being sown for the appearance of Norman Osborn and the Green Goblin. It’s the same balance between the social life of Peter Parker and the superhero life of Spider-Man that played a part of Spider-Man comics for years since he first appeared, but instead of feeling like it’s just a re-hash of Spider-tales past, it makes for strangely comforting reading.
It helps that Thompson nails the dialogue for both the quippy Spider-Man and the teen Peter, and Nick Bradshaw’s art is dynamic and exciting regardless of whether he’s drawing acrobatic fight sequences or a class of high school kids. But I think it feels refreshing to read Spidey because the need for something new can be satiated elsewhere among Marvel’s Spider-Comics. You’ve got the adult Peter of Amazing Spider-Man, the multiversal shenanigans of Web Warriors, and hell, if you don’t want Peter Parker as Spider-Man at all, you’ve got Spider-Gwen and the upcoming Miles Morales series Spider-Man.
It’s not frustrating to retread this familiar ground because it’s not the only option for new Spider-Man storytelling around at the moment—so instead, it feels like an earnest throwback, the Saturday-morning-cartoon version of a Spider-Man comic. The sort of thing you actually think is the usual Spider-Man comic, if you don’t currently read comics. This interpretation is still the iconic Spider-Man for so many people, and it’s nice that there’s an option for that in the “All-New All-Different” lineup.
There’s room in Marvel’s new universe for more than one interpretation of Peter Parker. It’s great to have the current Peter being pushed in new directions, but Spidey proves that there will always be space for a familiar, almost comfort-food-style take on Spider-Man as well. It’s the best of both worlds—and I guess you don’t really realize how much you miss something until it’s gone.