Spider-Man: Life Story #1 (of 6) (Marvel)
Unlike other Spider-Man events, Spider-Man: Life Story is telling the tale of Peter Parker in real time, allowing the character to grow and evolve over the decades. This gives writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Mark Bagley the chance to show readers something that rarely happens in comics: a character that grows and changes as the years go on. While Life Story #1 only touches on Peter Parker as a teenager in the 60’s, it paints a much different picture on the wall-crawler than the ones we read from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.
The year is 1966, and Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for four years. Four years without Uncle Ben. Four years smacking criminals upside the head. Four years of balancing life as a superhero with schoolwork. It’s been years of a lot of changes for Peter Parker, and it’s only getting more difficult with the ongoing draft concerns that many Americans are facing with the Vietnam War. With pressure mounting everyday in the country, Peter Parker needs to decide: are his powers put to use best at home, or overseas?
Chip Zdarsky is more known for his humorous books like Howard The Duck and his art in Sex Criminals, but he has a surprisingly heartfelt approach to Life Story. While this miniseries could just be the gimmick of “what if Peter Parker aged in real time?”, Zdarsky instead injects this debut issue with a lot of heart. He expertly hones in on what made the Lee/Ditko Spidey stories work, but doesn’t shy away from the very real-world issues that were occurring in the 1960’s. Under any other writer, this miniseries wouldn’t be very important, but with Zdarsky, it actually means something.
Arguably no other artist has drawn more Spider-Man stories than Mark Bagley, and his style is very well-known. So well-known, in fact, that I really think that he shouldn’t have been the artist for this entire miniseries, and instead being whatever issue will focus on the 1990’s. But, Bagley drawing Spidey is always a good thing, and it’s always good to see that even this far down the line in his career, he’s not cutting any corners. While it would have been cool to see a retro-styled artist on this installment of the story, Bagley is still a keeper, and always welcome to the world of Spidey.
Life Story is definitely an interesting miniseries, but it has the potential to be something truly unique. It’s not often that we get to see what it would be like if the publishing world allowed their properties to age, so it’s really a treat that we get to experience that with a character as iconic as Spider-Man. The fact that both Zdarsky and Bagley seem to understand that importance is just icing on the cake.