By J.J. Abrams, Henry Abrams & Sara Pichelli
Spider-Man #1 is the start of a new high profile event series from creator J.J. Abrams and his son, Henry Abrams. J.J. Abrams of course is no stranger to genre fare, being the man behind the revitalization of Mission Impossible, Star Trek and Star Wars, but unfortunately his collaboration with Henry Abrams – his son – is one of the more disappointing starts to a comic in the year, starting out with the a significant death that lacks the emotional impact that it should have done, played largely for shock value that lacks the staying power.
The book juggles plenty of basic storytelling that we’ve seen before in the past, with thinly written characters and stereotypical conversations that we’ve seen countless of other times before. Whilst Spider-Man #1 is certainly ambitious, it lacks the follow through. After a flashforward, we find ourselves introduced to Ben Parker, the son of Peter and MJ in school, where it’s quickly established that the similarities to his father seeing him get into trouble with authority figures, and he’s lashing out in the pursuit of justice. At home, nightmares are haunting his sleep, and as Ben is about to discover there is more to his father’s life than what meets the eye.
Unfortunately, the work from J.J. Abrams and Henry Abrams often feels like the series is re-treading common ground, going over what has been done before and often, done better. The series resorts to nothing more but tropes for introductions of new characters, who at this stage in proceedings are thinly characterised. That said; given that there is a significant amount of set-up required in Spider-Man #1 to the larger narrative arc, it’s understandable that audiences won’t be too familiar with every new character just yet, and this is often a common problem for ambitious first issues like this one.
Sara Pichelli’s artwork is the main draw of the book as it is played to perfection, helping make even the most uninteresting of scenes feel alive, fascinating to read and lived in. The tone of the book is distinctive and stands out in comparison to every other Spider-Man book on shelves, with Pichelli able to demonstrate depth in the characters through their facial expressions that make the most out of their weak characterisations, and the more emotional scenes have the impact that they deserve thanks to the incredible artwork, which captures the high stakes of the early beginning. Dave Stewart’s colours too, are fresh, dynamic and capable of standing out from the crowd, bringing the classroom interiors and the characters who inhabit them to life with as much vibrancy as that of the outside world.
The most promising aspect about Spider-Man #1 in addition to its art is its potential to explore a world fresh from the continuity of the Marvel Universe, it can go in any sort of direction and anything could happen next. With Ben about to begin his path to become Spider-Man now that Peter is retired and working as a journalist, the book paves way for a typical Abrams mystery box that promises big things. It is a bit too early to tell perhaps whether the book will deliver on the expectations that come with an Abrams production and perhaps the high expectations counted against Spider-Man going in; but there is plenty of time for an improvement with all the groundwork in place.